Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: Finally, races really worth watching
About 72 hours from now, depending upon what time you are reading this column, human beings with names like Aksel, Didier, Bode and Ligety will be propelling themselves at more than 80 miles per hour (128 kilometers, for metric lovers) down the Birds of Prey up at Beaver Creek.
In roughly two-minute spurts, a cacophony of crowd noise will slowly build as each funny-named racer comes flying high over Harrier Jump, followed in a split second straight over the Red Tail Jump, where they will quickly come into direct view of a few thousand screaming and waving cowbells below.
Nothing in this valley tops the excitement of those brief moments, and yes, although it’s certainly a tad corny, that’s saying a lot.
I’ve always thought it was interesting, and perhaps subliminal, that so many misspell the run as “Birds of Pray” on Facebook and other social networking sites, but the point is well taken either way.
It’s one helluva scary run, especially at speeds that would get you arrested on I-70, and when they fall, the term “yard sale” doesn’t come close to describing the potential carnage.
For years now the Audi Birds of Prey has existed as the only men’s World Cup race in the United States. Considering it’s free to attend, there’s no reason to not enjoy – live and in person – the downhill, super G or giant slalom this week. Even the downhill training run on Thursday is exciting for a ski-racing nerd like me.
There’s something about the alcohol-soaked traditions that remind me of NFL games and simply makes me want to be there each year. From the half-dozen shirtless goofballs, regardless of the weather conditions, with letters spray painted upon their chests, hopefully standing in proper horizontal order to spell words (in English) for TV cameras to zoom in upon, to the banners in foreign languages promoting products I have never heard of except at last year’s race, to the giant waving international flags of pride that helps us stupid Americans to understand the superficial differences between Liechtenstein and Slovakia.
And without a doubt there will be a super-cool looking Audi vehicle that most of us could never possibly hope to afford, but you can take pictures with the hot model who stands next to the car for hours on end (marketing tip: more cars would sell if the model took hints from the previously mentioned alcohol-soaked goofballs …).
Anyway, my family and I were lucky enough to attend the Olympic downhill in Sestriere, Italy, back in 2006, and although there were a few more people in the stands due to the number of nations involved, the excitement per spectator this week in Happy Valley is surpassed only by the two times we’ve held the World Championships here, and I can’t wait to do it again in 2015.
Note: Sorry this column appears like an ad for the races, but I truly do enjoy them, and promise to return to ridiculing politics and religion next week in order to not alienate my so-called fan base, such as it is.
Richard Carnes of Edwards writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.