Take two: Training set to start today
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – Once more, with feeling please.
On a perfect day for ski racing weather-wise, Tuesday’s Birds of Prey downhill training run was scrubbed because of course conditions between the super-G start and The Pumphouse section of the course on Golden Eagle in Beaver Creek. All involved will try it again today at 11 a.m.
“It was canceled because there are some concerns with some sections of the race course,” Birds of Prey media spokesman John Dakin said just after Tuesday’s cancellation. “The main area of focus will be from the super-G start to The Pumphouse.”
The area of particular concern at that time was a roller before The Pumphouse which would propel racers into A-netting, which is designed to bring competitors to a halt without much give, and thus an unsafe situation.
Originally, Tuesday’s training run was moved back from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. as Beaver Creek crews attempted to work on the roller. But bigger machinery was required to remove said obstacle, so training was officially called at 11:16 a.m.
At Tuesday night’s captain’s meeting, International Ski Federation (FIS) officials also said that there was a roll before the Golden Eagle Jump, which was a safety concern as well. Beaver Creek director of mountain operations and Birds of Prey chief of race Greg Johnson said both rolls had been fixed by the time of the captain’s meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“So after we tried to remedy the situation by hand and adjust one of the features up on the hill, it still wasn’t good enough,” Johnson said. “We allowed a second inspection. The same concerns were still expressed at which point, the only solution was to bring in a [snow]cat to solve the issue.
“The good news is that the work was completed.”
One of the important players in an inspection is the athlete representative. Just like the title sounds, this person represents the skiers and voices safety concerns as was the case Tuesday.
Ladies and gentlemen, your athlete representative for this week for the downhill and super-G events is none other than Bode Miller. Never shy in expressing his opinion or worried about ruffling the feathers of the U.S. Ski Team or FIS or anybody in the world of skiing, Miller was apparently the model of decorum when it came to discussing Tuesday’s training run, drawing praise from Vail Valley Foundation president Ceil Folz to FIS men’s race director Gunter Hujara.
“We also thank Bode, and the athletes’ commission for they way they voiced their concerns,” Folz said.
Such modifications to a course are common place. The most notable examples locally came when the Golden Eagle Jump had to be toned down in 2007 after Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal crashed off it, not to mention some work on the Screech Owl Turn in 2009.
However, this does make today’s regularly-scheduled training run particularly critical. FIS rules require that the field get a training run in on the course for a downhill race to be held. In this case, FIS added Tuesday’s training run as insurance to this week’s program, which included practice runs today and Thursday.
According to weather.com and the daily weather reports which FIS monitors scrupulously – and it does; each captain’s meeting includes a printout with hourly meteorological reports – there is a storm moving in tonight into Thursday. The front is expected to dump 4-8 inches of snow, accompanied by high wind, which makes visibility difficult, not to mention conditions rather dangerous going off jumps. With Thursday’s forecast, today is looking like the best opportunity to get in that required training run.
Last year, the Birds of Prey had two days of good weather for training, only to see high winds postpone the downhill, the signature event of the week. While weather conditions are out of control for those involved, that was a bitter blow for Beaver Creek, the Vail Valley Foundation and the U.S. Ski Team, and all parties involved want to see Friday’s downhill go off without a hitch.
“We’ll deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at us,” Dakin said.
In other housekeeping details, Hujara announced that the World Cup will not move next weekend’s scheduled races for Val d’Isere, France (men’s giant slalom and slalom and women’s super-combined and super-G) to Beaver Creek and/or Aspen because of warm weather across the Atlantic.
According to Hujara, FIS wanted to hold all four Val d’Isere races in one place if these events were relocated and that wasn’t possible in Colorado.
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UPDATE 5:27 p.m. — Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon has reopened in both directions Saturday evening after a safety closure due to a flash flood warning. There were no reported mud/debris slides.