Vail High Altitude Society column: Birds of Prey World Cup social scene
BEAVER CREEK — It is safe to say that after last weekend’s Audi FIS World Cup races and the festivities at EverBank America’s Winter Opening at Beaver Creek Resort, the 750 race volunteers and 8,000 spectators will be a bit less busy this weekend. After the snow sprayed off of the last racer’s skis in the finish area on Sunday, Dec. 6, and the spectators got their last photos and rang their cowbells for the last time, we had wrapped up another amazing long weekend of World Cup racing in beautiful Beaver Creek.
Truly, this year’s Birds of Prey event was one was one of positive energy, happy volunteers and hard workers. My new favorite is Tom Boyd, who is the media expert and director of communications at the Vail Valley Foundation. Boyd sent out inspiring news briefs that got us media people all fired up.
“It is Day 1 of racing, and it has already been a weekend of superlatives at the Audi Birds of Prey World Cup race week at the EverBank America’s Opening,” Boyd shared. “The best racers in the world have come to the best resort in North America to race on one of the best courses on the World Cup tour. Conditions are historically good. Beaver Creek has received more than 6 feet of snowfall so far this season, which is the most snow received this early since 1992.”
I could quote him all day long: “Ten new trails open today at 9 a.m., which means skiers can ride up Centennial lift and ski to the races. On Saturday, Beaver Creek expects to open Larkspur Bowl, which means we will already be in mid-winter form by the time the racers line up in the start shack for super-G racing starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.”
Boyd continued that racer Aksel Lund Svindal, of Norway, loves Beaver Creek. And why wouldn’t he?
“The man has claimed 10 podiums here since 2008, including a victory in the Audi Birds of Prey downhill race held here yesterday,” Boyd wrote. “His teammate Kjetil Jansrud is developing similar sentiments. Last year’s Birds of Prey downhill champ placed second, and he and Svindal were able to toast each other on the awards podium as they continued a run of recent Norwegian dominance on the course. Our iconic course will now also have a nice little corner in the heart of Guillermo Fayed. The 30-year-old Frenchman earned the third podium of his career yesterday.”
And then it got super interesting with some of the U.S. Ski Team favorites.
“American Andrew Weibrecht had a stellar performance in the downhill, charging out of the gate with bib 34 and yet marking fifth place in the race — a nice boost to his World Cup standing as he finished as the top American. Travis Ganong (USA) was 12th and Steven Nyman (USA) was 15th,” Boyd shared.
The U.S. Ski Team’s Ted Ligety and Weibrecht took second and third places, respectively, in the super-G on Saturday.
Truly, it is all about the volunteerism and the reach that this community has during the World Cup that makes this so exciting. I even heard event announcer Uncle E. ask Hirscher, Lund-Svindal and Weibrecht if they had anything to say to the volunteers. And, of course, they all thanked all the volunteers for their hard work.
It is not hard to appreciate the hard-driving professionalism of an Austrian ski racer.
“Hirscher, the once-in-a-generation talent who has taken the past four overall World Cup titles, is coming off his first-ever FIS World Cup super-G victory here yesterday on the Birds of Prey course. A tech expert, Hirscher avoids downhill racing, rarely competes in super-G and has won his overall titles with record-setting slalom and GS results,” Boyd, the aficionado, presented.
Some of the most fun of the weekend can be found riding down the hill from the race venue on the bus. On one trip, I sat between U.S. Ski Team’s Nyman and Tommy Ford. We talked about our large families, Utah, National Parks and life. Cameras and phones were off.
“The Birds of Prey is one of my favorite places to race,” Ford said.
Chris Anthony was standing at the front of the bus heading to the Vilar Performing Arts Center to promote the film “Streif: One Hell of a Ride,” which is an incredible, must-see ski race film.
“I watched the film in Europe before a race day, and it shows a lot of big crashes. Probably, not a good idea,” Nyman told me.
Until next year’s Birds of Prey World Cup event, we wish all of the racers a safe year with many personal successes.
Betty Ann Woodland is a longtime local who covers social events, soirees and local happenings in the Vail Valley. She can be reached at email@example.com.