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Stay the course

Ian CroppDaily Sports Writer

BEAVER CREEK While the fans at The Finish Stadium of Birds of Prey had their eyes glued on the big screen Friday, the race officials were watching something else.Almost 10 spotters throughout the course keep their eyes peeled for pockets of fog. On seven separate occasions, the race was delayed, six of which were due to poor visibility.It was very serious, said Chief of Course Greg Johnson, who was stationed at The Pumphouse. I had one gate visibility usually, but when the holds were called, it was before it got that bad. I called them once I saw the clouds moving towards the course.International Ski Federation Chief of Race Director Gunter Hujara is the only one who can officially call for a delay or restart racing to start referee Bear Bryant. But Hujara, who was situated at the Golden Eagle Jump, relied on the spotters to provide him with the information.I think I called all of those holds except for a broken gate, Johnson said. Other officials were stationed at the starting gate, the super-G starting gate, near the GS gate, Screech Owl, midway through Golden Eagle, Harrier Jump and Red Tail Jump.Unlike Thursdays race, in which many racers had complaints about course conditions, very few had complaints about the course.The course was well prepared, said American Steve Nyman. They did a good job to make it fair for everyone.Some of the earlier draws had heavier fog before a cold air front moved in that helped to dissipate the fog.It was fortunate for Bode (Miller) and Daron (Rahlves) that they were at the end of the seed, said Scott Toepfer of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, whom Hujara has lauded for his up to the second weather consulting.For the middle racers, from 10 to about 35, it was good, fast conditions with good visibility.

SuitableThe closest finish may not have been on the course Friday. Hujara mentioned that for the second year in a row, several race suits came close to missing the regulation weight of 30 liters.We had a case (Thursday and Friday) where we tested a suit and it was so close to being below (the regulation) 30 liters that we had to recalibrate the machine and test it again, Hujara said. This shows to us that the development has not improved from last year, with one supplier in specific.While Hujara would not say which race suit supplier had suit that almost was disqualified, he did mention that one of Fridays suits came from the Austrian team. The Austrian team, as well as the American team, use Spyder race suits.If you are so close, and are playing this game on purpose, you might be checked and could be disqualified, Hujara said. I hate to disqualify racers, but its up to them. We have no choice.

The weathermanFor Fridays downhill, Toepher said Beaver Creek just missed being hit by a big storm.This might be the only time I say that, but thankfully, the storm never hit Beaver Creek, said Toepher, who noted that Summit County received a foot of snow.During the race, Toepher was working with Hujara, while Spencer Logan of the CAIC fed them satellite and radar readings. Toepher credited FIS Race Director Helmut Schmalzl with making the course raceable.He works 24-7, Toepher said. There is nobody that puts in more effort into this race than Helmut, which considering all the local people who are volunteering, says a lot.Still, at Fridays news conference, Toepher was the all-star. Hujara jokingly told Toepher that he is now officially his full-time assistant.Toepher was happy that the popular downhill race went off, but noted the difficulty of his position.Anyone thats involved with mountain weather knows that you can eat humble pie, Toepher said. But today it was champagne.ForecastToepher said they with a cold front coming in from Alaska, they expect six to seven inches to fall Friday night, and only a minimal amount today.Hujara said that racers can expect a hard, solid racecourse. Still, he was optimistic about conditions.But like you saw at the end of (Friday), there was not one rut in the course, Hujara said.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or icropp@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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