Birds of Prey is officially a go in December
BEAVER CREEK — Call this the no drama edition of Birds of Prey.
Snow dances, constant checking of weather forecasts and reading assorted almanacs were not necessary this year.
The Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup races are a go after the International Ski Federation gave Beaver Creek positive snow control on Friday, Nov. 16.
In English, the resort has snow and it’s been cold enough during the last month to make snow to complement the natural stuff and so World Cup racing is on for the week after Thanksgiving.
After 2016 was scrubbed because it was too warm and the 2017 edition was an iffy proposition because of similar conditions, there was much happiness for all involved.
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“Early season conditions have been excellent, and we are excited to host the best men’s racers in the world once again at Beaver Creek,” said Mike Imhof, president of the Vail Valley Foundation.
Last year …
When last Birds of Prey touched down in December, Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr became the sixth first-time World Cup winner at Beaver Creek’s super-G. That proved to be a breakout moment for him as Kriechmayr won three times on tour last season, finishing second in the super-G points and seventh overall.
Beaver Creek podium regular Kjetil Jansurd was second, followed by Austria’s Hannes Reichelt.
Ironically, Reichelt is also one of the six to get his first win at Birds of Prey way back in 2005.
While Austrian legend Hermann Maier holds the record for wins at Birds of Prey with eight, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal pulled into a tie for second with American Ted Ligety with his sixth win here last season in the downhill.
Running out of the first bib, the Norwegian started the day on the hot seat and watched as everyone tried unsuccessfully to bounce him off the chair. We’ll see if Svindal is up for another campaign. At the end of last season, he was leaning toward retirement, but he has been training back in Europe.
Switzerland’s Beat Feuz and Germany’s Thomas Dressen rounded out the downhill podium.
In the giant slalom, to the surprise of no one, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher won. Perhaps, it was a surprise to him as he had broken his ankle during the offseason, but that win started his march to a seventh consecutive World Cup championship, so the skiing world knows he’s dominant in the tech events.
That was Hirscher’s sixth win here, making it a three-way tie among racers not named Hermann Maier for victories at Birds of Prey, while Henrik Kristoffersen and Germany’s Stefan Luitz were second and third, respectively.
Racing across the globe
Birds of Prey week starts with downhill training runs from Tuesday, Nov. 28, though Thursday, Nov. 30. The general idea is to get in two runs of training during the three days, allowing one day for weather, which in this case could be snow as opposed to the warm temperatures that have plagued the event the last two years.
The super-G is on Friday, Nov. 30, followed by the downhill on Saturday, Dec. 1, and GS on Sunday, Dec. 2.
Meanwhile, the World Cup starts up earnest this weekend in Levi, Finland. Eagle-Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin is the favorite in Saturday, Nov. 17’s first slalom of the season. She won seven of nine in that discipline last year. On Sunday, Nov. 18, the men get their first crack at racing — also a slalom — after their stop in Soelden, Austria, back in October was scrubbed.
While everyone celebrates Thanksgiving and prepares for Birds of Prey, the women are in Killington, Vermont, for GS and slalom, while the men head to Lake Louise, Alberta, for speed events before heading to Beaver Creek.