Organizers work overtime to get course ready |

Organizers work overtime to get course ready

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
The Birds of Prey training race was cancelled this morning.
Photo by Dominique Taylor

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” Athetes and coaches breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday when downhill training went off without a hitch. They should probably send a thank you card to Greg Johnson and his crew.

Johnson, the chief of course, and his crew worked throughout Monday night to get the course ready for Tuesday’s training. On Sunday, there was nearly two and half feet of snow that needed to be cleared to get the course in shape.

“They did an amazing job of getting all the snow off the track,” American Marco Sullivan said. “I think they been have out there the last two days consecutively with the snow cats. It was great. It should just get better and better as the week goes on and the snow gets harder.”

Despite solid course conditions, one problem on Tuesday were high winds that greeted racers. American Ted Ligety was one of the skiers flagged to slow down before the Golden Eagle Jump because of strong winds.

“(The course) is in great shape, but it was just touchy with the winds,” Ligety said. “It was windy the whole way down. They had to flag me before Golden Eagle, so I wouldn’t go launching down that. There was a big head wind there. It was sketchy the whole way down.”

Another aspect of Tuesday’s downhill training that received extra attention were the jumps. The skiers went airborne for longer than expected, and one racer even complained to event officials after the training session that the jumps were too big.

“Beaver Creek is full-on,” Sullivan said. “There are multiple jumps where you are flying over 100 hundred feet. You have to definitely be on the front of your boots, charging, looking for speed, and have your full concentration.”

They’re back

Fifteen American skiers took on the Birds of Prey course during Tuesday’s downhill training. It was clear the red, white and blue clad bunch had a little extra hop in their step. Birds of Prey is the only World Cup race on American snow.

The Americans aren’t just excited to be in Beaver Creek. They are looking to be on the medal stand.

“It’s one of the top three races Americans want to win,” Sullivan said. “The whole team prepares for this.”

“There is always a good crowd that comes out here ever year,” Ligety added. “That’s always a lot more fun. It definitely motivates you more when there is a crowd out here with an American bias.”

Team Canada gets ready

It’s hard to blame team Canada from looking ahead just a little bit. In only 14 short months, Vancouver, British Columbia, will host the 2010 Winter Olympics. Eric Guay is excited for the event, but he is doing his best to stay focused on the next task.

“We want, for sure, to keep progressing toward the Olympics, but I’m just trying to keep that out of my mind now, work on the things at hand,” Guay said. “Obviously, I’ve got this run down. I’m working on the little things I talked about just now, and try to be competitive on race day. Hopefully, if I do that every training, I’ll be ready on race day and then the Olympics.”

Winter weather approaches

Balmy weather greeted the skiers for Tuesday’s downhill training, but race officials warned team captains of a snowstorm predicted to hit the area with as much as five inches of snow overnight. More snow flurries are expected throughout the day on Wednesday, with the possibility of canceling today’s training at 11 a.m. if the course isn’t in race condition.

Bode talks

Bode Miller, notoriously fickle with the media, spent a good 5-10 minutes speaking with about a dozen reporters after his training run. The crowd surrounding Miller continued to push toward a security fence to hear him speak, nearly crushing one poor reporter trapped in the center of the commotion.

When Miller left the media area, one reporter guessed it was the most time he’s spent talking to the media in more than three years.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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