Vail Daily column: Valley is center of racing universe this week
The Vail Valley is the center of the ski racing universe this time of year with the men’s and women’s World Cups taking place just up the road at Beaver Creek, the only World Cups on American soil. Many of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Golden Peak National Team World Cup visitors have finished their preparations on Golden Peak and moved to Beaver Creek in preparation for these competitions taking place now through Sunday. How exciting it’s been watching Vail’s own Mikaela Shiffrin training GS on Golden Peak this past week and then standing on her first World Cup GS podium only 0.09 seconds from the win on Sunday!
Also making the move to Beaver Creek from Vail have been Ski & Snowboard Club Vail staff and athletes. It takes a small army to staff a World Cup competition, let alone two. Ranging anywhere from the greeters and traffic controllers at Beaver Creek’s U.S. Highway 6 entrances, to the gate judges, timers and referees, to the specialized race and course competition crews manning the race from start to finish, each person plays a critical role in making these World Cup races the best possible experience for spectators and world-class athletes alike.
When it comes to the race course itself, this is where Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s experience is needed most. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail provides 40-plus highly skilled volunteers per day from Nov. 22 through Sunday to create a safe competition venue for World Cup racers ahead of the events and providing slipping and gate repair during the competitions. This volunteer team includes Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coaches, alumni, alpine racers ages 14 and older, and current and past parents, many of whom are former ski racers.
This team of professionals provides a unique level of expertise given their own experiences as alpine racers and coaches. This group sets, repairs and pulls the netting which lines the competition runs to prevent racers going 80-plus mph down a steep, icy pitch from catapulting into the woods. This group also slips steep, watered, icy courses throughout training and race runs to provide optimal surface conditions for the competitors. They also repair broken gates in the few seconds between racers, a frequent occurrence caused by world-class racers taking as tight a line as possible to shave off precious hundredths of a second. Each of these positions requires an extremely high level of skiing ability, physical strength and a keen awareness of what is happening in the race venue to enable them to accomplish their tasks without putting the racers, themselves or the race in jeopardy.
I am most grateful for the enormous efforts of Vail Resorts, Beaver Creek, the Vail Valley Foundation, the Talon Team and all of the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail staff and volunteers who make these World Cup races possible. These competitions are a great opportunity for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail to be a part of bringing the best of alpine racing to our valley, serve the community and provide a huge inspiration to all of our young athletes.
The level of commitment and grueling physical labor from dawn until dusk displayed by our alpine coaching staff, our racers, our alumni and our current and past parents to make this World Cup competition environment possible is mindboggling. It is this same team that will be making the 2015 World Championships possible, and I am so thankful for all that they do amid their daily responsibilities as coaches, athletes and parents.