Snow at Beaver Creek shuffles Birds of Prey racing schedule
Welcome to the “irony can be ironic” edition of the Birds of Prey.
After two years of little or no snow — 2016 was scrubbed and 2017 was touch-and-go —there’s almost too much snow for the 2018 Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup.
Thursday, Nov. 29’s training session was snowed out and the downhill, now on Friday, Nov. 30 at 10:45 a.m., and super-G, on Saturday, Dec. 1, have switched days.
As John Dakin, Birds of Prey’s former longtime spokesman, always said, “If you want a snowstorm, just hold a World Cup downhill.”
On a serious note, the basic thinking is two-fold:
• Downhill races are harder to reschedule, so the International Ski Federation (FIS) wants to get the marquee event run. And, while weather forecasting is an imprecise science, FIS and the Vail Valley Foundation think they have a window to run the downhill on Friday.
• Super-G is on a shorter course than downhill, so, again, fingers crossed, the Talons Crew and the cast of thousands at Beaver Creek can clear a more compact piste for Saturday.
So, without further ado, happy downhill day.
• It’s a one-run race with the fastest time winning. Look for the athletes to speed through 1.62 miles in roughly 1 minute, 40 seconds. American Daron Rahlves holds the record at 1:39.59.
The course drops 2,470 feet and its average slope is 31 percent. It makes for quite the ride.
While the Birds of Prey downhill is always considered Austria’s Hermann Maier’s track — he and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal are tied with four downhill victories at Beaver Creek — he was not the first winner of this race.
Feel free to impress your friends and colleagues by noting that Kristian Ghedina, of Italy, was actually the first winner of a Birds of Prey downhill in 1997. That was the first of two test events at the brand-new track ahead of the 1999 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek and Vail.
Austria’s Andreas Shifferer took the second downhill in 1997 before the Herminator began his reign.
Maier won the official Birds of Prey for the final time in 2003, but Beaver Creek also picked up a downhill from Val d’Isere, France, which had no snow. Rahlves won the “Val d’Isere” downhill and he and Bode Miller combined for four straight American wins on home snow. (Bode also won in 2011.)
The Norwegians have had their way of late, not a surprising development, as Norway has emerged as a world skiing power.
While Switzerland’s Patrick Kueng won at Worlds here in 2015, Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud won it in 2014, while teammate Svindal hit the top of the podium in 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2017.
Can Svindal surpass Maier on Friday? Stay tuned.
Last year’s downhill podium was Svindal, Switzerland’s Beat Feuz and Germany’s Thomas Dressen. Last week in Lake Louise, Alberta, Austria’s Max Franz won the first downhill of the season with Italy’s Christof Innerhofer and Domink Paris in tow.
Looking at the points list from the 2017-18 season, Feuz won the World Cup downhill title followed by Svindal, Dressen, Paris and Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr.
Last year’s top American was Bryce Bennett, 20th in DH standings, with Jared Goldberg 26th. Do note that both Travis Ganong and Steve Nyman were out for most of the season with ACL injuries and are back in action.
This is folly, but it’s fun to make fools of ourselves.
Chris Freud, Vail Daily … Svindal makes Birds of Prey history.
Shauna Farnell, ski-writing goddess …Nyman makes a triumphant return.
Ross Leonhart, Vail Daily … Although he wants to go with Johan Clarey, he’s taking Franz.
Pat Graham, Associated Press, Denver … Going with Kriechmayr.
John LaConte, Vail Daily … Good sleeper pick of Innerhofer.