Carnes: Birds of Prey need to be prayin’
The Lake Louise men’s downhill and super-G got canceled because of warm temperatures and too much snow.
The 2021 Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup Downhill race (quite the mouthful) is now two downhills because of warm temperatures and too little snow.
This winter is already extremely weird.
What we need is an inside track to the outside gods responsible for determining temperatures and snow totals each season. Sure, just like all deities, the snow gods are mankind constructs incapable of anything, much less something tangible, but the superstitious act of prayer itself does indeed help a few around here sleep a little better at night.
Happy sleep makes for happy people in Happy Valley, so although prayers, Ute tribe snow dances or even putting on studded snow tires will not help our snowfall totals, it can’t hurt either.
Before the next snowflake falls (sadly at least a week or two away) racers of mainly European descent with names like Beat, Kjetil, Aleksander and Smiseth Sejersted (try to pronounce that in front of a mirror) will be propelling themselves at velocities worthy of a speeding ticket on I-70 down a giant icicle marked with five to six dozen gates.
Although it comes in short anticipatory spurts akin to pushing the refresh button on election night, the incremental excitement is hard to match as racers — especially those with green numbers up on the screen — become airborne over Harrier Jump followed by the Red Tail Jump where they immediately come into direct view of a few thousand screaming and waving cowbells.
And it’s worth seeing live every single time.
I anticipate the crowd to be filled with the usual gangs of shirtless goofballs (regardless of the temperatures) with spray painted letters on their chests, hopefully standing in proper horizontal order to correctly spell words for TV cameras and the throngs of giant waving international flags of pride that helps us stupid Americans understand the superficial differences between Liechtenstein and Slovakia.
Canceled in 2001, 2016 and 2020 for multiple reasons (politics, lack of snow, more politics), we should thank our collective lucky stars that we can have fans in the stands and, although we can’t ski to the race course this year, at least the proverbial powers that be finally decided to open part of the mountain.
A small part, sure, but to paraphrase the late Donald Rumsfeld, you ski on the snow you have, not the snow you wish you had.
I don’t know of any other multiday sporting events that can simply add an extra day up front with barely a few days’ notice, and although it does make the pre-printed programs a tad less relevant, a round of applause for the Vail Valley Foundation and all of the workers and over 500 volunteers who were just asked, “Um, hey, would you mind doing it all for one extra day … please?”
After watching Michaela Shiffrin – the Kween of Killington — kicking some booty last weekend and in anticipation of the Olympics in barely two months, this week’s four races should be more than enough to hopefully sway the snow gods our direction soon.
But if not, well, there’s always Saturday’s “Beers of Prey” after the race, where we can all pray and commiserate together.
It can’t hurt.
Richard Carnes of Avon writes weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.