Racers say downhill course resembles boardercross
San Sicario, Italy ” The course description of the women’s Olympic downhill race reads like anything but terrain designed for an alpine skiing event.
“It kind of feels like they mixed up the boardercross and downhill,” joked U.S. skier Stacey Cook, one of four Americans on the start list for Wednesday’s Olympic downhill race. “There’s a lot of built terrain in it. It’s definitely bumpy, and you have to be on top of it the whole way down.”
The course in San Sicario, Italy, is the world’s longest for a women’s downhill, at 3,058 meters.
Some modifications were made to the course after last year’s World Cup event, when several racers complained that the course was too easy.
The course’s main challenges begin at the top with a section called the “halfpipe.” It’s a U-shaped passage with high-banked walls. The first jump is the Round Rock jump, which was heightened since last year to make the landing steeper.
Racers then go into an S turn with two banked curves leading into a flat section, followed by a steep section called Muro (Wall) Colombiere featuring technical undulations, followed by a flat area and another jump. Next is the Salto Marmotta (Marmot Jump) ” the largest jump at 30 meters long, at which point racers are reaching speeds at around 60 mph.
A chance to drop speed follows on the Piano Selette, a wide, gliding area that racers enter after a big left swing followed by a turn to the right. Then comes the Salto Soleil Boeuf, where athletes reach top speeds exceeding 70 mph.
A technical section, where Lindsey Kildow crashed on Monday, comes next ” Muro Roccia Fous ” which weaves through a wooded area. This area is followed by a flat section that carries racers into the final jump ” Salto Clos de las Mais, another that has been built up to be much larger since last year and off of which racers are airborne just before they cross the finish line.
Despite speculation that course conditions and difficulty accounted for Kildow’s crash Monday, as well as that of three other racers, U.S. Alpine Director Jesse Hunt said the course is in fantastic shape ” it’s the consistency of the snow that is tricky.
“I think the course is an excellent course. It’s prepared well,” Hunt said. “The snow is very grippy, which makes it easier to catch an edge. But the course is in great shape.”
American skier Kirsten Clark, who placed 20th in Tuesday’s final training day in San Sicario, said the course has changed significantly since last year.
“There’s a lot more terrain up there,” she said. “It’s definitely a great hill. It’s a lot of fun.”
The course, while long, has been classified as much flatter than the faster courses on the World Cup circuit. This, racers say, is just fine with them.
“It’s always coming at you,” Clark said. “I don’t know if we’d want to be going a lot faster through all of that terrain. You still get rattled around quite a bit as it is.”