Blustering winds ground Birds of Prey downhill |

Blustering winds ground Birds of Prey downhill

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – In a year when both Vail and Beaver Creek both have been the beneficiaries of lots of early-season snow, ironically, it wasn’t more white stuff that wiped out Friday’s Birds of Prey World Cup downhill.

High winds on the upper portion of the Birds of Prey course were the undoing of Friday’s event. The races continue with super-G today at 11 a.m., followed by giant slalom with runs at 9:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. on Sunday.

There will be no downhill at Beaver Creek this year, the first time that’s happened since 2001, when the slate of Birds of Prey events was canceled due to a lack of snow. No word came from Friday night’s captain’s meeting at Ford Hall in Beaver Creek of when the downhill will be rescheduled, but it will not be at Beaver Creek.

“Unfortunately, Mother Nature takes control,” U.S. Men’s Ski Team head coach Sasha Rearick said. “It’s a disappointment, a real big disappointment because the effort that went in to putting this race on was absolutely perfect. The work that the race crew did and the events department did to put on to do this thing – it almost makes me want to cry.”

While the 50 percent chance of snow for Friday never materialized and it was very pleasant down at the finish stadium, where a large crowd of fans were ready for racing, including several contingents from local schools, it was a completely different story at the top of the Golden Eagle run.

“The winds up top were going uphill and downhill, so it would be changing directions,” Rearick said. “… I think there were times when you could have run, but the danger was off Golden Eagle. If you were to catch a gust, that’s the danger factor. Even if there was wind, we would like to run it.

“Running wind is not a problem. It’s an outdoor sport, and safety is an important thing. Uphill gusts on a downhill are dangerous.”

Originally scheduled for 11 a.m., the downhill had a course hold with an International Ski Federation (FIS) jury meeting at 1 p.m. for a hypothetical 1:30 p.m. start. FIS then tried for 2 p.m., the latest a race with 67 athletes could run with decent light. Just before 1:30 p.m., the announcement went up on the scoreboard – the crowd and media were watching a live feed of the women’s downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta – that the race was officially off.

“We tried, we tried, we tried.” Jim Roberts, the chief of race, said at Friday’s captains’ meeting. “It just wasn’t possible due to weather conditions. We’re not proud of that, but we’ll try to do better than that down the road.”

Gunter Hujara, FIS’s chief race director, moments later said that the cancellation of alpine skiing’s premiere event at Beaver Creek was beyond the control of all involved.

“I heard coaches saying [Thursday], ‘We had best training conditions ever on a race course,'” Hujara said, “Today, this track was on the race track itself probably even better. This should be a big compliment to everybody who worked on the race course. We all tried to have this race because everybody saw how this race could have gone. I ask everyone to give all of them a big hand.

“It’s not easy to give such an event away, but we were forced [to], and the safety of our athletes is priority No. 1.”

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