Racers test out Raptor course at Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK — As the first few skiers tested out the newly finished Raptor course, it became very clear that this course was going to be a monster.
Some of the world’s top women skiers took their first runs on the newest addition to the women’s World Cup circuit during the first training day at Beaver Creek on Tuesday, and immediately pronounced the run, “challenging,” “intimidating” and “demanding.”
“It kind of has everything. It’s fast and quick and has a lot of technical turns and intimidating little sections,” said American Julia Mancuso after her first run. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Meet the Raptor
The course, which will also serve as the downhill in the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships, sits next to the men’s Birds of Prey downhill course. It features a vertical drop of about 2,300 feet over the course of about 1.5 miles. From the gate, the course begins with a somewhat flat start, easing into some rollers and jumps, after which it becomes decidedly steeper and more technical starting in the middle section. A portion called “The Apex” presents the steepest pitch, plunging skiers into the twisty “Gauntlet” and winding amongst some tree islands before the finish stretch.
The middle section will undoubtedly make or break a skier’s run, and its unforgiving nature requires that racers keep a good line throughout, be on their game technically and be willing to take a few risks.
“It’s really technical, and you have to be brave, which suits me really well,” Mancuso said. “You can really carve the whole thing and go really fast. There are a lot of big turns, and there are a couple really big strong left footers that weave between the trees, those are difficult. It requires some quick turns that are tough.”
However, as the U.S. Ski Team’s Stacey Cook pointed out, the course is varied enough that it doesn’t favor a particular kind of racer.
“It’s really hard. It’s relentless. It just keeps coming at you. Usually there’s a tough section and you have a little break to recuperate, but this one is challenging from the beginning. You just have to keep thinking the entire way down,” she said. “There’s a section that has some super-G turns, which will favor technical skiers, but then after that is another flat that will favor downhill skiers.”
Early season challenge
It’s still early in the winter, and racers only have a few speed races under their belts. Consequently, many racers called the Beaver Creek course a particularly challenging addition to the early season. October’s World Cup opener in Soelden, Austria, also offers a more technical course, while next week’s Lake Louise race is fast, but much more straightforward.
“Lake Louise is a pretty simple downhill, but this one you have to be very tactically strong. It’s a very challenging November race for us,” Cook said. “There are a lot of technical elements that we’ve never faced this early into the season.”
The nature of the course caught some by surprise, including defending World Cup champion Tina Maze, of Austria.
‘This is fast’
She called the first run on the course “hard” for the early season.
“It’s challenging,” she said following her first training run. “I had many troubles today because it’s my first downhill after Portillo (Chile) training, so when I got this speed, I was (thinking), ‘Oh, this is fast.’ Then, I slow down a little bit. I did two turns good and then I got to the same speed again and (thought), ‘Oh, s—.’ It was not fun. But I think it’s normal for the first day.”
Keep an eye on the top downhillers over the next couple days as the women get their bearings on the new course. By Thursday’s training run, some fast times should be posted in preparation for the race on Friday. The women’s downhill race begins on Friday at 10:45 a.m.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at email@example.com and 970-748-2927.