Downhill training snowed out, but course cleared |

Downhill training snowed out, but course cleared

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
WC Course Crew SM 11-27-07

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Now it’s official.

If anyone wasn’t sure the Birds of Prey were here, a large amount of snow fell early Wednesday morning, canceling the second day of downhill training and marking an annual right of passage. For four years in a row, one day of downhill training has been scrapped due to heavy snowfall.

Course volunteers worked to clear about 8 inches of new snow until noon on Wednesday, when six winch cats and six snow cats took over.

“The whole run is clean now and all the new snow is pushed out,” said Gunther Hujara, the chief race director of the men’s World Cup.

While skiers got a chance to test the tricky lines on the Birds of Prey downhill course Tuesday, they would have all liked another day on the almost totally man-made piste.

“I think it’s always good to have another day of training, but I don’t think it will make a big difference,” Francois Bourque of Canada said. “It’s the same for everybody. If you do your job on race day, that’s all that matters.”

Austrian coach Toni Giger knows that not all is lost when snowfall nixes a training day.

“It’s good for the ski industry if the news goes out that it gets canceled because of too much snow,” he said. “On the other hand, we would have liked to have skied … because it’s a tough course.”

After Tuesday’s training run, race officials decided to make some changes to areas of the course that gave racers problems.

“On the Talon jump, there’s a little hump up there (we fixed), and then we tried to smooth out the compression below the Golden Eagle jump,” Hujara said.

With one fewer day of training, some teams will use today’s downhill portion of the super combined as an extra training run.

“Everyone really needs that day, as we saw a lot of guys missed gates a lot of guys didn’t finish, so it’s extremely important to train again,” said Phil McNichol, the head U.S. men’s alpine coach. “Guys like Didier Cuche are on the board, and he’s not a combined guy. Everyone knows the importance of it.”

Austrian Hermann Maier is another top racer on the start list who will likely not be skiing the slalom portion.

The Americans, who were allotted eight spots in today’s super combined heading into the weekend, will only be fielding six racers. Erik Fisher, who got injured last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta, had qualified through the North American Cup, and his spot isn’t replaceable. And Jimmy Cochrane, who had been slated to go, won’t be racing. McNichol would have liked to swap speed skier Scott Macartney for Cochrane, but because of the new start rules for super combined, the spot will remain vacant.

“The only guy I can take off the board (for Scott) is TJ Lanning, and TJ is actually one of our targeted super combined athletes,” McNichol said.

Wednesday, the Americans spent some time on the hill training.

“We were able to add a little more conditioning focus and we had a good slalom session with the guys doing super combined and some of the downhill guys trained giant slalom in the morning,” McNichol said.

At Wednesday’s team captains’ meeting, the Norwegian head alpine coach, Marius Arnesen, gave an update on Aksel Lund Svindal, who was injured during Tuesday’s training run.

“He had a tough night and a long operation for about four hours, but he’s doing OK and he’s looking forward to coming back, but it will be a while,” Arnesen said.

Svindal crashed off the Golden Eagle Jump and into The Abyss during Tuesday’s training run, breaking his nose and cheek bones in three different places as well as suffering a deep cut into his upper left leg from his ski. Svindal, who was transported to the Vail Valley Medical Center, also underwent minor abdominal surgery overnight, but is expected to make a full recovery.

According to Vail Valley Medical Center spokesman Jonathan Hoehn, Svindal will be kept at the medical center for a few more days to minimize the possibility of infection and assure that there are no further complications.

“He’s getting fantastic care,” Arnesen.

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

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