World Cup skiers descend on Beaver Creek |

World Cup skiers descend on Beaver Creek

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
SPT BOP team arrival 1 KA 12-01-08

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” There was a buzz at Beaver Creek on Monday and it didn’t have to do with all the new snow on the mountain.

Birds of Prey is back.

Athletes, coaches and fans alike made it through dicey road conditions to get ready for the 10th running of the race. It’s the only set of men’s World Cup races on American snow.

“It’s awesome to be back home at Beaver Creek,” U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick said. “We love it here. It’s great to be back in the U.S.A. This is a special place for us.”

Despite a heavy snowstorm that pushed through the area last weekend, equipment started arriving from Lake Louise, Alberta ” the site of last weekend’s races ” during the late-morning hours. That’s a good start to a hectic week. In 2003, a snafu with customs delayed the skis and caused more than a few headaches.

With the skis arriving in time for today’s downhill training at 1 p.m., the teams can now turn their attention to reaching the podium. Traditionally, Americans have fared well in the race. In the past five years, Americans have stood on the podium 14 times, with wins coming from Bode Miller (three) and now-retired Daron Rahlves (two).

“When you race at home, you have a little extra punch because you want to do well,” Rearick said.

Fifteen Americans were listed among the 96 entrants in Wednesday’s downhill training.

Race officials told team captains to expect difficult course conditions. Crews were still working on the course on Monday evening, and were likely continue throughout the night. Downhill training was originally scheduled to start at 11 a.m., but it was pushed back to accommodate the extra preparation.

Fans get ready

The athletes and coaches aren’t the only ones who have been preparing for Birds of Prey this week. Chris Loftis traveled with his wife and 2-year old son from the Washington D.C. area to watch this week’s races. This is the second year in a row Loftis and his family have come to Beaver Creek for the event.

“It’s something you don’t get to do that often,” Loftis said. “We were here last year, and we came again this year for it. It’s something different. You can go to a football game, but you can’t always do something like this.”

Loftis didn’t pick any favorites for this week, instead he just likes taking in the action.

“I enjoy watching world-class skiing ” someone who knows what they are doing better than me,” Loftis said.

Mark Baldwin, in the area until Thursday from Canada, wants to check out the downhill training on Tuesday and Wednesday. Last year, Baldwin was in Whistler, British Columbia, when the World Cup circuit rolled through town. Baldwin is excited to get another glimpse at the best skiers in the world.

“The downhill is just out of this world ” how fast these guys are going,” Baldwin said. “The sound of it is just amazing. When I was at Whistler, you could hear them coming before you could actually see them. It sounded like a train coming.”

Despite Baldwin’s eagerness to see the skiers fly down the course, he has no plans on trying it himself. The Birds of Prey course is groomed and iced down to make it as fast as possible for the skiers.

“Never in my lifetime (would I ski the course),” Baldwin said. “I’d actually like to see it, but I wouldn’t ski on it. I like skiing, just not that much.”

Loftis said he’d take a turn on the 2,632-meter long course, although he wasn’t sure of his success.

“I’d absolutely do it,” he said. “I’d give it a shot. I might slide down on my butt.”

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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