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Ligety's results today reminds me that I have not told the tale of
World Cup weekend December 3/4 in Vail/Beaver Creek.

Highlights:

* Saturday morning, we gave up seeing the first run of the GS for 11
inches of Pow-pow (tm) at Vail.  Only part of the back bowls were open
- so liftlines were unbearable - but the snow was fun.

* Watching the second run GS at Beaver Creek from beside the finish
corral... where beginning when Herminator ran the course until Bode
finished (final 7 racers or so), the crowd was roaring.  Bode thrashed
his way off the last pitch to get the win.  Great to see Daron finish
second and how psyched the coaching staff was in finish area... some
of whom I raced with years ago.  Funny, that traveling all over the
world half the year and being outside every day has done well by them.
 That's right - I gave Daron a "high five" on his way to the podium
for the award ceremony.

* The Saturday podium/awards scene at the finish area was great, too. 
Bode looked genuinely happy to be up there, rather than surly about
the constant World Cup attention.  He even gave a cool, short, little
speech to a raging crowd in the middle of a dumping semi-extended
squall... mentioning how it was an unmatched feeling to have the
support of, and then win in front of, the home country fans.

* Seeing friends, acquaintences and people I knew from the ski racing
community I grew up with as a kid, and then later as a coach.

* Vail and Beaver Creek really know how to put on big ski racing
events.  The races and course preparation went like clockwork.  It was
great to see Vail Associates' support of US Skiing (the organization)
in person - and it probably doesn't come cheap.  I think I remember
that when Waterville hosted some World Cups in 1990 it cost around
$250K.  I can imagine that Beaver Creek spent up to 10x that on the
four days of racing, plus training days and preparation.  I believe
they are also responsible for feeding and housing athletes, ancillary
support and race officials.  The whole thing was very well done.

* One free lift ticket and free lodging at the Lodge at Vail courtesy
of an acquaintence who may rival barrister Leigh Daboll in the ski
trip "make deal / get a deal" category.

* The rental, a Subaru Outback, was a champ on Friday night while
white-knucklin'-it from the Tunnel down into Dillon and Silverthorne,
and on up to Copper and over Vail Pass and into Vail.  Same story in
the reverse direction on Sunday on down into Georgetown or so.

* With my knee OK for groomers, making some phat arcs off the Birds of
Prey chair on Sunday morning (low single digits F with wind) when
nobody but course workers and racers seemed to be out.  I traded turns
with JP Vidal and Ivica Kostelic on separate runs as they were headed
down to the SL course.

* Friday night at Vendetta's for pizza and reeb when the Jagermeister
ladies stopped by.

Lowlights:

* Slipping and saving myself, in my partially buckled boots (had not
even skied yet), while walking on the wet half-cleared snow covered
tile in the "streets" of Vail just below the Vista Bahn.  Tweaked my
left knee in an instant without even falling - I couldn't believe how
much it hurt.  Thought PCL would be the problem, but now think
meniscus/cartilage are the real issue; this was the same knee I
tweaked last year in deep wet snow on the Palisades at Sugar Bowl and
had felt kinda weird/loose late this fall as I began transitioning
away from riding my bike regularly (after PDT ends every year I start
going to the gym more often).  After about five minutes, with the
liftline growing and no one loading yet, I decided that I was not
going to miss a powder day on Day One (had not skied since July 4th at
Mammoth).  Skiing felt better than walking, especially on stairs. 
This whole experience was frustrating, as I think the next time
something like this occurs, I'm not going to resist gravity and just
fall flat on my face and see how that works out.

* I-70 traffic from the airport Friday night (Geoff D's route sounded
intriguing, but in the end I decided that my inexperience on the route
would not be a plus with the changes/turns involved).

* Parking and shuttle at Beaver Creek.  The system works, just glad
I'm not a local.

Comments:

* Ski racing is ski racing - yeah, no kidding.  But I guess it was
just interesting to see that World Cup skiing (fans, athletes,
everything) is still just ski racing.  I had the same feeling in Salt
Lake after the Olympics - the equipment and the names of the athletes
have changed, but it's the same as it was when I was kid, essentially
(except for the TV timeouts for live TV in Europe); just try to get to
the bottom as fast as you can and faster than anyone else. There's
something pure in that.  Another "tie back" to the past were all the
people I knew, or knew of, who are still involved in ski racing at the
highest levels in the US.  Kind of a cool thing to see.

* Bode does actually ski the same way as he did when I saw him when he
was a teenager, and how he appears to ski on TV in recent years: like
his brain is turned off.  Which, in ski racing, sometimes is the thing
to do.  However, not all the time...

* I remembered that average Colorado drivers are only marginally
better than "never seen snow" Californians with their chains on (when
the latter are on I-80).  Some of the ridiculous "stunt driving" by
several Audi drivers on Sunday were the worse I'd seen on
snow-covered, slippery, crowded interstates (I had thought driving
like asses in snow were mostly the domain of BMW SUV owners).  Amazing
- just change the license plates and I thought I was back in CA on a
weekend driving to/from Tahoe.

* I've been there before, not in years, but I had forgotten what it's
like to be at places like Vail and Beaver Creek.  They are not for
your "average income Joe", nor even for your "above average income
Joe."  They are about service (theirs) and money (yours).  I suppose
if you've got a lot of the latter and you have a family and aren't
into super steeps, these places are for you.  The last couple times I
was there, as part of cross-country multi-month spring skiing road
trips, I had free places to stay with ex-Vermonters and days and days
of free tickets to Vail, A-Basin and Beaver Creek.

* Partly to that point about terrain, I was disappointed to see the
Grouse chair at Beaver Creek was not yet open, as the last time I was
there I recall good tree skiing off the west side.  There was likely
same off the Birds o' Prey chair in the same general direction (there
was a gate), but I was interested in seeing the race and taking better
care of my knee (by that point).

* IMHO - final thoughts - if you have an opportunity to have your kids
enter an organized racing (or really any other kind of competition)
program - I'd highly recommend it.  They will make friends, have great
memories and really learn a lot about themselves and the sport of
skiing.  Secondarily, especially if they continue on for a while, they
will enter a community (fellow competitors, parents, coaches,
officials) that they will remain a part of for the rest of their
lives.

And besides, you never know what can happen - just look at Bode.


On 12/12/05, Matthew Kulas <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> http://www.skiracing.com/news/news_display.php/2886/ALPINE
>
> Ligety sure is skiing well at the moment--this was his first race in
> the top seed (top 15).
>
> Jimmy once again narrowly missed a second run.
>
> --Matt K.
>
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