Vail skiers ready to shine on home hill
VAIL, Colorado While their idols, and potential future rivals, hit the slopes in Bormio, Italy, this week for the World Cup finals, J3 racers from the Rocky and Central divisions will have a showdown of their own in Vail.The J3 Junior Olympics, which Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is hosting Tuesday through Saturday on Golden Peak, will give the best skiers from the Rockies and Central states born in 1993 and 1994 a chance to show their worth in both speed and technical events.For a lot, its the biggest race of their life, said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach J.J. Jensen. Its the championships event you compete against the best J3s from Central and Rocky, and other than racing in an international field, which as a J3 you dont get to do, theres nowhere in the country where you get this competition.And there isnt anywhere else racers get to slip into four different sets of racing skis in one week. For many kids, this week will be the first time since the past J3 Junior Olympics, or the first time ever, that they get to compete in all four events. While ski racers compete in slalom and giant slalom from an early age and add super-G later on, most dont compete in downhill until their teenage years.Id say for about one-third of the field, this is their first downhill, Jensen said.Most of the SSCV racers competed in downhill races earlier this year in Keystone or have trained downhill on Golden Peak, although racers from the Central region havent had many opportunities to compete in alpine skiings marquee event.Its what you look forward to, said Roberto Bryer, who is from Columbus, Ohio, and has yet to race a downhill. You look at the air people get, and you think, Oh my God, how did they do that? and then you do it yourself and say, Oh, sweet. On Sunday about 70 girls and 90 boys took to Golden Peak for a training run and later slipped through the gates to inspect the course they hope to tackle Tuesday. Were looking at what line to take and where you might get thrown off and where you can run it out and where you should set up, get out of your tuck, SSCV racer Katherine Irwin said. Training runs for downhill are almost always required as a matter of safety.Since you are going so fast, you have to know whats coming. Its really hard to make a switch and get back on line, said SSCV racer Jessica Delacenserie, who had the best time Sunday among both girls and boys.For a lot of these kids its scary, Jensen said. They are running 70 mph and flying 70 to 80 feet.
The home races offer SSCV skiers a bit of an advantage; not that they need one, however. At the qualifying races, SSCV girls racers led the pack, and recently, SSCVs Greta Byrne joined two other top J3 girls in the country to compete at the famed Topolino Games in Italy.Our top girls have elevated the level of racing in the program even for the guys, Jensen said. When you have three of the fastest girls in the country, and maybe anywhere in the world, its rare and special and brings everyone to a whole new level.After Tuesdays downhill, there is a super-G on Wednesday. The girls have a giant slalom Thursday with the boys going Friday. The event closes out with the slalom races Saturday.While SSCV is happy to be hosting the event again its third time in four years it does bring about a lot more work for coaches, parents and volunteers.Everyone is here with their magnifying glass on us, Jensen said. But everyone can see what Ski Club Vail is about and what were like and look at our facility, and hopefully people find out about our school.The racers, meanwhile, are concerned with winning.Im really excited, but you get more nervous and feel a little more pressure on you because its a big race, Delacenserie said.