Click your boots: No place like home
KEYSTONE – Ted Ligety, Tom Rothrock and Jimmy Cochran acted like any other skiers would on opening day. “The guys skied 10 or more laps, ripping around, big smiles on their faces,” said U.S. Ski Team men’s head coach Phil McNichol.Thursday, the three U.S. skiers spent a few hours zooming around Keystone before it opened to the public Friday.”It was one of my top-five all-time days freeskiing,” Cochran said. “That was sweet – having the mountain to ourselves,” Ligety said.
OK, so it wasn’t exactly opening day for the guys, as they have been on skissince the late days of summer, but these were their first turns in America. “It’s nice to get out of Europe and get back here to Colorado and get good training in,” Rothrock said. “It’s winter snow and it’s the first of November.”Friday, after the skiers officially opened Keystone by taking up the first chair with Team Summit racers, they headed over to North Peak’s Starfire for giant slalom training. And even though it was opening day, the guys didn’t have much trouble getting in a day’s worth of runs by 11 a.m.Recently, Keystone and the U.S. Ski Team worked out a deal that gives the squad exclusive rights to train on Starfire.”The quality (of snow) we need at this time of year has always been the biggest thing in terms of our needs list,” McNichol said. “I can’t express the lack of anxiety this brings. Planning every year, we can’t guarantee how many days we’ll get on the snow, or when we’ll get on the snow.”
After the skiers flew down the hill Friday, cutting their way through the tightly packed snow, they jumped right back on the Santiago Express Lift and were ready for another run in no time. “This is therapy after being on glaciers (in Europe),” McNichol said. “There were a lot of people over there on the days we trained. It was an hour turnaround time, waiting, getting through the crowds. It’s an aggressive environment. Everyone is pushing and shoving.”The only pushing Friday was from the powerful legs of the skiers. After the first World Cup event in Solden, Austria, was canceled, the guys are getting ready for the slalom races in Levi, Finland, Nov. 11-12. “This gives us an opportunity to train on the same type of snow in Finland,” McNichol said.Ligety ducked in and out of the gates without poles Friday due to a broken hand he sustained earlier this year on a gate.”I had a brace made but my thumb isn’t strong enough to grip the pole,” Ligety said. “On the first run (Friday), I was wrestling it around, and then decided not to use the poles. It’s good for my balance – I did it a few years ago when I broke my hand.”Today, when the team trains for slalom, Ligety plans on using poles.
After a great summer camp, the team is primed to start off the year on the right foot.”Bode (Miller) is skiing fast. Ted is skiing fast. Jimmy’s coming on strong and Tom is back on his game,” McNichol said.
Miller will be joining the team before it heads to Finland. The rest of the U.S. team should show up at Keystone by early next week.Ligety, who changed skis from Volkl to Rossignol this summer, feels confident coming off a breakout year.”I’m super psyched with the way things are going so far, other than breaking my hand,” Ligety said.In addition to his skiing, Ligety looks forward to seeing his goggle company, Shred, take off. “We’re talking to distributors now,” Ligety said, donning a blue pair after his training Friday. The goggles will be available in Ligety’s trademark colors, blue, hot pink, electric green and white.
Although this year’s team looks pretty similar to last year’s, there is one glaring difference: The absence of Daron Rahlves.”We’ll miss Daron’s in places like Beaver Creek, Kitzbuhel, Bormio and Wengen. Those were his stomping grounds,” McNichol said.But Rahlves will be there to watch some races and interact with the team, starting with Beaver Creek later this month.As excited as the guys are to get things started, they have Birds of Prey in the back of their mind.”It’s one of my favorite races,” Ligety said. “It’s so cool to be in America racing. We rarely get to do it. I have all my family and friends there. It’s always a good atmosphere.”Vail Colorado