Blizzard, changing conditions mark wild day
BEAVER CREEK — The fat, fluffy snow that fell on Beaver Creek all Saturday was a boon for skiers and snowboarders at the resort, but a mixed bag of conditions for super-G racers at the Birds of Prey World Cup.
Several inches of new snow on Saturday morning prompted race organizers to shorten the course — instead of starting above Talons, it started lower with the Peregrine Jump, right above the Pumphouse section. The result was a slower, turning course that favored technical racers such as giant-slalom champs Ted Ligety and Marcel Hirscher.
As the race progressed, the snow came heavier, clouds hung lower and visibility became poorer. Snow was still light for the first handful of racers, but began to pound down on the course as some of the favorites, such as defending champ Austria’s Hannes Riechelt, or downhill winner Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, took their turns. The conditions weren’t looking positive for the later crop of racers — which included Americans Ted Ligety, Tommy Biesemeyer and Jared Goldberg. However, mid-race, the snowfall lightened and some rays of sunshine began to poke through the clouds.
It’s safe to say that deteriorating conditions didn’t help the top ranked skiers, many of whom made major mistakes around the Screech Owl section of the course. Jansrud veered wildly off course, barely looping back in time to make the next gate, but losing entire seconds in the process. Svindal and Reichelt both nearly lost their footing on the same turn.
“It’s tough conditions for sure today, but it’s part of the game,” said Svindal, who finished the day 21st. “In the flats, the snow is really breaking up, and when you can’t see, it’s hard to arc through the rough parts. The guys who were top three at Lake Louise (Alberta) aren’t even top 20 today, so that was probably not the best start point for us. It’s not the typical race when the top guys aren’t at the front.”
However, he stopped short of blaming the weather for his performance, and even Jansrud, who took second at the downhill on Friday and came in second at the super-G, wasn’t complaining.
“It was the same for everybody. The light was flat for sure, and it was hard to see the ruts and everything. There’s an advantage to skiing early, of course, but I felt like I was skiing good, except for that mistake,” he said.
‘Part of ski racing’
Both Hirscher and Andrew Weibrecht, who took first and third, respectively, on Saturday, were among the first 10 skiers to race. Carnage ensued mid-race, but abated with the snow, just in time for Ligety to take his first run.
“I think the first couple guys had a little bit of an advantage, and after bib 26 we had an advantage because of light, but that’s part of ski racing,” said Ligety, who came in second. “Sometimes you need a little luck on your side and that definitely was the case for me today.”
Most racers agreed that while the weather and course was variable, there were no flukes among the racers who came out on top.
“I did get lucky a little bit with the conditions. The flats weren’t getting any faster. I was actually happy that the course was shorter because those first few turns can be so stressful sometimes,” said Weibrecht. “But it’s an outdoor sport. I try not to complain when I get hosed at the start, and I don’t apologize if the start is on my side.”
Svindal agreed, shrugging off suggestions that the timing wasn’t fair.
“As ski racers, we’re used to it, that this can happen. It sucks if it happens at the Olympics and World Championships, but at World Cup races, if you race long enough, it’s going to happen,” he said.
Assistant Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.