U.S. Ski Team gets loose in Vail | VailDaily.com

U.S. Ski Team gets loose in Vail

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS Tim Jitloff DT 11-3-11

VAIL – The U.S. Ski Team is feeling strong after the first few days of United States training in Vail for the 2011-12 winter season.

Vail ski fans were standing near the Golden Peak chair lift Saturday morning trying to catch glimpses of some of the stars before tonight’s U.S. Ski Team announcement in Vail Village. Bode Miller was in and out Saturday morning, and many fans also got to see Ted Ligety, Marco Sullivan, Steven Nyman and Andrew Weibrecht as they raced down the hill during training. Lindsey Vonn wasn’t around Golden Peak Saturday morning but is scheduled to appear at the announcement at 4:30 p.m.

Being in the United States is special for these guys. They’ve spent the summer training in Portillo, Chile, and Coronet Peak, New Zealand, where It just happened to be unbelievable in terms of training conditions, Nyman said.

“It’s always kind of hit and miss with training in the summer,” he said. “Last year was just so bad, it was tough. This summer we had perfect training – epic training – all summer long.”

The perfect conditions and the way the team has been working together has just been a great confidence builder for everybody, Nyman said.

“The whole team is skiing pretty well,” Nyman said.

It’s a bright spot in the world of skiing that the International Ski Federation has made gloomy in recent months for some of these racers. The Federation announced last July that it would be changing rules regarding the minimum size and radius of skis. Nearly 80 percent of World Cup ski racers have signed a petition to protest.

In giant slalom, the minimum radius for men’s skis is now 35 meters under the new regulations. World Cup men’s giant slalom skis currently range from 27 meters to 35 meters.

Ligety and Miller have been vocal about their opposition to the rule changes, which are set to take effect next year.

“I’m living my life as if (the rule changes are) not on the horizon,” Ligety said Saturday morning at Golden Peak. “It’s such a ridiculous rule change that makes no sense safety-wise or evolution of the sport-wise that it can’t go through. It’s just not an option.”

Ligety pointed to all of the younger skiers who were training at Golden Peak Saturday morning. None of those kids wants to ski on 35-meter skis, he said.

“If it goes through it will kill the sport. Mark my words, it will kill the sport – at least GS (giant slalom),” Ligety said. “But GS is the basis for all of our events. It’s an event that’s trained by everybody. … it’s the basis for skiing.”

With the rule changes aside, Ligety is feeling strong and confident right now after winning the first World Cup race of the season in Soelden, Austria, last month. The win puts Ligety on top of the overall standings going into the next race, which will be in Lake Louise, Canada, since the Levi, Finland race was canceled due to lack of snow.

“Obviously winning the first race of the year shows things are going really well,” Ligety said. “The tough part about that race is it’s a month ahead of anything else, so there’s not a ton of momentum built from that, but yeah, it’s definitely a nice confidence booster.”

With Levi canceled, though, many guys now have some extra time to train. Ligety said it’s nice because the travel time to get to Levi is brutal, although it’s always nice to be able to race.

The cancellation will make the World Cup schedule more compact around Christmas time, when the race will be rescheduled, which is the downside to the cancellation, he said.

Another confidence booster for the men’s U.S. Ski Team this season, though, is that two strong teammates are back from injury: Marco Sullivan and Andrew Weibrecht.

Weibrecht had shoulder surgery and said he just started feeling really good again while training in Chile.

“I’ve been relatively lucky,” Weibrecht said. “Things are feeling good. I’m really excited. … I’m really happy with my fitness, I feel like maybe it’s better than it’s ever been, so I’m really excited about that.”

The entire team is skiing better, Weibrecht said. And to be home in the United States training is really a great bonus.

“When you get the long haul in Europe or New Zealand, it’s just not the same,” Weibrecht said. “I could come out here (in the U.S.) for months and train and not get sick of it.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.

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