Course set for Birds of Prey |

Course set for Birds of Prey

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
Daily file photoTeam Canada technicians Eric Schnepfleitner, left, and Auer Arnaud unload bags of skis to bring to their Birds of Prey athletes at Beaver Creek last year. Both equipment trucks arrived Monday for today's downhill training.

BEAVER CREEK ” We know they can remove snow, but now we know they can create it.

As the World Cup teams arrived at Beaver Creek Monday night and sat in on the coaches and captains meeting, they were reassured that this week’s races were good to go.

After some last-minute finishing touches, The Birds of Prey course will be set this afternoon at 12:15 p.m. for the first day downhill training. Considering what the hill looked like less than a week ago, the snowmaking effort is about as impressive as the multiple-foot snow removals Beaver Creek has done in years past.

“From the Screech Owl (Jump) to the finish, we had absolutely nothing other than grass,” said Chief of Course Greg Johnson. “We literally started snowmaking six days ago so what you see (today) is pretty much what we’ve been able to pull off.”

The work, which includes some 21-hour days by crews, didn’t go unnoticed by the home team.

“They did a tremendous job to pull things off, and we’re happy to be at home,” said Jesse Hunt, U.S. Ski Team alpine director.

After a pair of speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, this past weekend, the World Cup hits its first full week of action, starting with today’s training.

“The tech group got going in Solden, (Austria), and got their first start and the speed guys were up at Lake Louise, so now everybody’s got a start under their belts and they are ready to go,” Hunt said.

With two podiums in four races ” Marco Sullivan at Lake Louise and Ted Ligety in Solden ” the U.S. Team is hoping to keep things rolling in a place where they’ve traditionally had tons of success.

While the Americans are always excited to be at home, the Canadians are feeling good about Beaver Creek yet again.

“(This) is about the same kind of snow that we had in Lake Louise,” said Lionel Finance, the Canadian speed coach.

Canada picked up a downhill win and three top-10 finishes in a super-G last weekend.

“It’s really good for the guys ” last year was a breakthrough year for them and it was not easy to start again, and especially at home with strong pressure but they did perfectly well, so I’m happy for that,” Finance said.

– Along with all the Canadian team, there will be another team from up north in town this week ” a group from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics to observe the races.

– U.S. Ski Team member Erik Fisher, who crashed in the opening downhill race at Lake Louise, won’t be participating in any events this week.

– At a giant slalom North American Cup race in Keystone on Monday, Finland’s Kalle Palander took first, more than one second ahead of second-place finisher Julien Cousineau of Canada. American youngster Will Brandenburg, 20, led the squad in ninth place. This is Brandenburg’s first year on the U.S. Ski Team.

– There are 97 racers slated for tomorrow’s downhill training. Austria tops the list with 15 racers, while the U.S. will send 11 down the hill.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or

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