Vail’s local racers thrill the hometown crowd |

Vail’s local racers thrill the hometown crowd

Vail's Sarah Schleper stops to greet visitors from Mexico between her giant slalom runs Thursday. Schleper was one of three Vail women competing in the World Championships event, along with Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin.
Randy Wyrick| |

BEAVER CREEK — The past, the present and the future went to a ski race. Only the present was tense, and not all of them.

On Thursday Vail’s Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin and Sarah Schleper skied in a FIS 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships event in their home town on the same day — Vonn and Shiffrin for the U.S., and Schleper for Mexico after skiing for the U.S. in four Olympics.

“I’m racing as a mom of two, and I’m happy I got to the finish. I’m just happy to be here,” Schleper said between runs.

She stopped and smiled, hugging dozens of people. Everyone from Mexico stopped her and wanted a photo. She was happy to oblige. She was having all kinds of fun.

Former U.S. Ski Team racers Heidi Nunnikhoven and Betsy Blandford-Walker were there. You’ll recall Heidi as Heidi Bowes, and she was really successful, right where Vonn, Schleper and Shiffrin are now.

They appreciate how Vonn is the most successful ski racer of all time, with 64 World Cup wins. Through January, she seemed invincible. No one is, of course.


“In a world championship event, almost everyone is great,” Nunnikhoven said.

Nunnikhoven recalled skiing into finish stadiums like Redtail and how exciting it is.

Blandford-Walker recalled standing in the start house, the noise of the crowd ringing in her ears.

“It really fires you up,” Blandford-Walker said.

The rock music blared into Redtail Stadium, the cheerleaders helped crank up the crowd, the cowbells, the crowd going crazy, the chants of “USA! USA!”

“Vail put everything into it,” Nunn said.

More than 160 kids from Glenwood Springs Middle School were in Redtail Stadium for Thursday’s races. Among them was Levyn Thomas, an eighth-grader and competitor with the Aspen Valley Ski Club.

As Nunnikhoven and Blandford-Walker watched with appreciation for what they had lived, Thomas had that look, the one that said she’ll do any number of pushups, sit-ups and training runs, and bang gates until the gates give in to get a spot on the U.S. team.

The crowd went ballistic when Vonn skied into Redtail Stadium with a 1.3-second lead after her second run.

“I really want to be there,” Thomas said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

Support Local Journalism