Women take the stage at Beaver Creek’s new Raptor course
Welcome to Raptor Week.
Well, this is fun. We finally get to see how the other half lives with the Women’s World Cup finally making a full stop here for the Nature Valley Raptor Ladies’ World Cup Week.
How do you christen a new ski run? Breaking a bottle of champagne on it seems to just create yellow snow.
Training, three days’ worth, starts today with downhill on Friday, followed by Saturday super-G and giant slalom to cap it off on Sunday.
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OK, let’s address the 800-pound gorilla in the room, or the one who isn’t — Lindsey Vonn. To Lindsey, please rest. I know you want to come back for Lake Lindsey, er, Lake Louise, Alberta, next weekend. Yes, you can probably ski on one leg there and win because you own the place. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Let’s look at the calendar after Raptor:
Lake Louise: You’ve won 11 times there. Nothing more to prove.
St. Moritz, Switzerland: Five wins. Nothing more to prove.
Val d’Isere, France: Seven wins, and that does not include the “Val d’Isere” win here. Nothing more to prove.
Lienz, Austria: They’re tech events. Nothing to see here.
Altenmark-Zauchensee, Austria: No wins, but it’s only been a tour stop three times. Keep resting.
That gives you until Jan. 16, the start of Cortina, Italy, site of seven wins, and Garmisch, Germany, five more wins, to serve as tune-ups for Sochi and the Olympics. You have 17 World Cup globes, including four overalls. Go get a few more Olympic medals, Lindsey.
Oh, yes, the ‘rest’
It isn’t like the U.S. Ski Team rises and sets with Vonn. The “rest” of the speed team is pretty spectacular. Five speedsters not named Vonn made the podium last year — Stacey Cook, Julia Mancuso, Alice McKennis, Laurenne Ross and Leanne Smith.
The depth is ridiculous here, and it would not be a surprise to hear “The Star Spangled Banner” played after Friday’s downhill or Saturday’s super-G.
McKennis, who’s from Glenwood Springs, will not be racing this weekend. She’s recovering from a broken leg — she’s done both in a short career. McKennis did have her first day on snow Monday at Copper.
Mancuso had four World Cup podiums, as well as Worlds bronze (super-G) last season. She’s always a threat and has a penchant for big races.
Cook finished second twice up in Lake Louise, and was fourth in downhill points, last year. Ross took second in downhill during the World Cup finals in March. Smith punched in a second-place finish in Val d’Isere and a third at Cortina, both in downhills, last winter.
You have been warned.
Alas, there is no slalom this week. Mikaela Shiffrin has won five out of her last eight slalom starts, including the season opener in Levi, Finland, two weeks ago. Perhaps a more intriguing result was sixth in Soelden, Austria, in the giant slalom. Can she start to post consistent results in this discipline? It’s a lot to ask. Let us remind you that the Eagle-Vail native is all of 18.
Tina not tiny
Even if Vonn hadn’t gone down at Worlds in Schladming, Austria, she’d have been hard-pressed to catch Slovenia’s Tina Maze. She put together about as good of a year as anyone could. Maze, pronounced Mah-zay, had 2,414 points last season, which was just silly in a good way. That would be second in downhill, first in super-G, first in GS and second in slalom.
Maze had 11 World Cup wins and a super-G gold at Worlds. (For the statistically-inclined, wins at the World Alpine Ski Championships do not count as World Cup wins.)
Maze is a threat this weekend, all season and at the Olympics.
Keep on the radar
Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch was No. 2 in the overall chase last season. She was second at the Soelden GS. Switzerland’s Lara Gut won that race, and she could be the breakout star this weekend. She’s only 22 and already has wins in all three of the disciplines to be contested this weekend. Austria’s Anna Fenninger falls into that category as well.
Come Sunday, Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg and Austria’s Kathrin Zettel slide into the favorite category.
Having said all this, trying to forecast what happens during any given weekend on the World Cup is an imprecise science. Whatever unfolds, don’t miss it.
Sports editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.