Beaver Creek skiers win U.S. Powder 8 champs
ASPEN – If you see pairs of skiers, men or women, cruising down a groomer early morning on Beaver Creek in prefect synchronicity, chances are, they are the best in the United States.Recently, Beaver Creek teams won the U.S. Powder 8 Championships in Aspen. Nina Oqvist and Shelly Giles took home the women’s title, while follow ski instructors Willi Glanznig and Dieter Frank won the men’s side.”This was the first time two Beaver Creek teams came home with the trophy,” said Oqvist, who is from Sweden. Also, other Vail and Beaver Creek men’s and women’s teams finished in the top five.Unlike most skiing events, synchronized powder skiing is the ultimate team sport that requires both skiers to be on the same beat for an entire run.”We decided (to be partners) at the start of the season,” said Giles, who is from Australia. “I’ve always wanted to do it, but I wanted the right partner. When Nina asked it was like, “Yes, hello. Absolutely.”Oqvist won Worlds in 2000 and 2001 (her partner at the time, Katherine Fortier, was five-and-a-half months pregnant) and both she and Giles have extensive experience skiing for their national exhibition teams.Frank and Glanznig have a bit in common that makes them great partners.”We are both Austrians so we went through the same teaching procedure in Austria and we are the same height,” Glanznig said.
Groomers and bowlsAmid their busy instruction schedules, the skiers honed their skills – timing, speed, spacing and turning – on the varied terrain of Vail and Beaver Creek.”We practice anywhere really. Groomers to get the fine details, and in Back Bowls, even if the powder isn’t good,” Oqvist said. “We ski the crud to get as hard conditions as possible. It gets you right balance and suited for any kind of condition. The harder, the better I think.”On days when only a few mornings runs before lessons possible, groomers are the best option for practice.”Groomed isn’t really what you want because when you go to the World Championships, the snow is heavy,” Glanznig said.Leading up to the national championship, both teams practiced three to four days per week. And when they weren’t on the hill, the skiers analyzed their runs from a different perspective.”We do video filming all,” Oqvist said. “We watch our run and see what’s going on.”And sometimes on the slopes, the skiers change up the pace.”We don’t always follow each other. Sometimes we follow side-by-side. The goal is to get a feeling for how the other person skis, that way you don’t have to look as hard.”
Most of the time the skiers are practicing and whenever they are competing, the front skier tries to hold consistent turn shape, speed and fall line so it’s easier for the skier in back to copy that, Glanznig said.”The guy in back should almost be able to predict what the guy in front does,” Glanznig said.The raceUnlike most alpine races, the criteria for synchronized skiing are more than just time.In the final rounds of competition, two teams ski head-to-head and are judged on speed, dynamic skiing and synchronicity.”The judges want to see lateral movement and see skis coming out from the body,” Oqvist said. “You need constant movement through turns and never stall in the turn.”The line of descent is also an important factor.Frank and Glanznig started out the competition in Aspen focusing on clean skiing during the seeding runs.
“Maybe in the first round, you don’t ski too fast because you don’t have competition next to you. You’re focused more on synchronicity. If you seed well, you ski against a weaker team. In the finals, the competition gets harder and you need to ski faster and still hold it together,” Glanznig said.When Oqvist and Giles made it to the final day of four teams, they also knew they had to step their skiing up a notch.”You just have to go for it,” Oqvist said. “It’s like a race, you get a couple of fast pushes. We look at is as a GS race.”With their victories, both pairs are now headed to Blue River, British Columbia, April 8-11 for the World Championships.As part of their victories, the teams received a three-day helisking package and a free entrance for competition at Worlds. Where at nationals the first two days are on tracked snow and the finals are Snowcat skiing, all skiing at Worlds is helisking.”We’ll be one of the favorites, as a team that’s won nationals,” Giles said. “There is some steep competition from the Austrians.”The guys’ team will also come in as one of the favorites, facing some of their countrymen, as well.So if you see the best synchronized skiers in the U.S. making perfect eights on a groomer or the Back Bowls, you may want to watch. They could be the best in the world.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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