Birds of Prey organizers praying for good weather |

Birds of Prey organizers praying for good weather

Shauna Farnell

BEAVER CREEK – Snow is a blessing to everyone on the mountain this time of year, with the exception of 65 of the world’s top ski racers.

The Birds of Prey World Cup at Beaver Creek kicks off today with downhill training, but event organizers are starting earlier than planned with a watchful eye on the weather, the forecast for which is calling for snow throughout the week.”We get a slight chance to get a training run in, and that’s what we have to take,” said Birds of Prey Race Director Gunter Hujara from the International Ski Federation. “From (this) afternoon, the weather shows lots of snow. We cannot lose one minute.”Racing is scheduled to begin Thursday with the super-G, followed by the downhill Friday, giant slalom Saturday and slalom Sunday. Official downhill training is scheduled for Wednesday, but today might serve as the only training day should snow accumulate significantly. Training will begin on the downhill course at 10:30 a.m.

“I went on the race course this afternoon,” Hujara said at a team captains’ meeting Monday night. “I was quite surprised at how good the conditions are under the circumstances. The course is excellent.”Beaver Creek’s Greg Johnson, Chief of Course for Birds of Prey, said he and his crew have been working 12- to 18-hour days for the last two weeks preparing the race course. He said that since Saturday, crews have had to push almost 2 feet of snow off the course, which is better than last year, when a storm dropped more than 3 feet of snow two days before training was scheduled and the first day of downhill training was canceled.”Last year there was one day where we were almost up to our armpits in snow,” Johnson said. “This year it’s come a little more spread out, so it’s been easier to deal with. The goal is to try to get training done before the weather gets very bad and before there’s much snow accumulation. With any snow accumulation, it’s an awful lot of work, and a lot of it has to be done by hand.”

About 15 countries will compete in the events with various numbers of racers. Austria has the largest contingent with 19 athletes. Daron Rahlves is slated to start in the fifth position for training today, and Bode Miller will start at No. 7.Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or Colorado

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