Ski race training begins at Golden Peak
VAIL — There’s just something special about the snow on the Golden Peak Race Arena.
Those are the words of several professional ski racers who trained there on Monday, the international training center’s first day of operation for the 2014-15 season.
Among the nations represented were Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Italy, Sweden and Finland, which just hosted the first World Cup slalom race of the season over the weekend.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail worked tirelessly to get the race facility in Vail ready for the best in the world to ski. On Monday, the course preparation started before sunrise and work continued well past nightfall.
“We installed all the B-netting this morning,” said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Erik Steinberg from the Riva Bahn lift on Monday morning. “It was all hands on deck — we had 75 coaches out here drilling holes in the dark this morning to get the fence up.”
What they accomplished — creating full-length giant slalom and slalom courses that were ready for race training — was much appreciated by the athletes, who have been sharing lanes with throngs of pros and amateurs alike in Summit County for the past few weeks.
“Today was awesome, very good slope and perfect training,” said Marc Berthod, of the Swiss Ski Team. “The snow was very hard, very aggressive, but that’s every year the same here.”
‘YOU WATCH THEM ON TV’
But not all the ski racers on the snow Monday were professionals. Stratton Mountain Winter Sports Club had a few athletes at the Golden Peak Race Arena, running gates and also studying the off-snow routine of the professionals.
“It’s cool to see the warm-up routine they do, see them doing drills and see the process on and off the hill,” said Emily Fryer, of New York, a junior at Stratton Mountain School.
“You watch them on TV, but actually seeing them in person and seeing how fast they go is pretty cool,” said Annabel Mahon, of Australia, also a junior at Stratton Mountain School.
Although the racecourse opened late this year, the Manor Vail hotel has been fully prepared to handle Golden Peak’s opening day for months. In July, the hotel completed $750,000 in renovations to its conference centers, allowing the rooms to be transformed into elite-level ski-tuning workshops.
The formal conference rooms, which are normally used for corporate meetings during the off-season, are nearly unrecognizable, as they are now lined with plywood walls, hundreds of skis, and busy team staff members sharpening skis.
Leading up to Monday’s opening, Manor Vail staff members were busy, as well.
“The actual work work probably takes six days; the planning takes six weeks,” said Bob McCleary, general manager at Manor Vail. “We try to stage it so that one team comes in and uses it, they leave, the next team comes in and they can use it.”
On Monday, members of the Austrian Ski Team were among the many racers and staff making use of McCleary’s conference rooms.
Waiting for a tune, Bernadette Schild said she was looking forward to her first day on snow at the Golden Peak Race Arena today.
“We arrived yesterday, pretty late,” Schild said Monday. “We just flew over from Finland.”
Schild, a technical skier specializing in slalom and giant slalom, said it was mostly speed skiers from her team training on Monday, as most of the tech skiers competed in the World Cup slalom opener in Levi, Finland, on Saturday.
While speed skiers would usually be training at Copper Mountain this time of year, Schild’s teammate downhill and super-G specialist Nicole Schmidhofer was among the speed skiers training at Golden Peak on Monday.
“We need the (technical training) to make us faster in the downhill, and it definitely creates that,” Schmidhofer said.
Pros from nations all over the world will continue to train throughout November at Golden Peak.
Elizabeth W. Roberts contributed to this report.