Birds of Prey claims a fifth of the field at Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK — Aggressive was the word of the day at Sunday’s Birds of Prey giant slalom.
“The hill’s in good shape,” American Ted Ligety, who won six of his last seven races at Beaver Creek, said after he crashed and finished with a rare DNF. “The snow’s just super aggressive — more aggressive than yesterday. So we had some guys with some issues.”
The first two World Cup skiers made it down the Birds of Prey successfully, and then France’s Thomas Fanara, Ligety and Alexis Pinturault, of France, all DNF-d in a row.
“The snow was really aggressive,” Fanara said. “I was a little surprised by that. I did a mistake two gates before I went out.”
The fresh snow that fell Saturday mixed with below-freezing temperatures overnight created a nightmare of a racecourse for the best skiers in the world.
“The snow was super, super aggressive,” American Tim Jitloff said. “I’m a guy that likes to push real hard on the skis, so it’s not necessarily my forte.”
Jitloff stuck to his game plan and made the split, finishing the day with the 14th fastest time.
“It is what it is,” he said. “You’ve got to adapt. You’ve got to accept that and move on.”
Pinturault, who finished second last season in the World Cup GS rankings, was transported to Vail Valley Medical Center after his spill as a precaution after hitting his head on the ice.
“Those guys are going for the win and that happens,” said American David Chodounsky, somehow not using the word “aggressive.” “They all wanted to be really fast. I just stuck to my game plan. I knew I had to go fast, too, just to make a second run.”
Chodounsky, as well as the rest of the field, took advantage of some of the favorites going down and finished with the 16th fastest time on the day, despite wearing bib No. 51.
The course was presenting troubles throughout the day. But the bottom seemed to wreak the most havoc.
“It’s a tricky course. It’s a combination of very tight turns in a few sections and then very open, straight, speedy turns through those other sections,” said Taylor Shiffrin, who was forerunning the course. “So coming into that you have a lot of speed and a lot of intensity, and the snow is really aggressive. You just have to put it in the back of your mind. You have to stick to your game plan.”
German Stefan Luitz was one of the last one’s to take his second and final run. He was in the green at every time check, laying down a podium-hopeful run. But he slipped up at the bottom in front of the packed grandstands at Beaver Creek and ended up finished 23rd. In all, 14 racers did not complete the first run. But that is quintessential ski racing. Greatness comes from pushing the limits, and falls are a part of it.
“They’re attacking it pretty hard,” Jitloff said. “So they’re risking it with their line and their tactics.”
“To win, you have to accept to lose,” Fanara said.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at rleonhart@vail daily.com.