Slalom race’s difficulty is all in locations of course gates |

Slalom race’s difficulty is all in locations of course gates

When the world’s best women skiers hit the slopes for a slalom Saturday, it’s the course-setter rather than Ajax itself that will determine just how difficult the race will be.

Unlike the terrain for Friday’s super-G, the topography for the slalom isn’t a natural hazard for the skiers.

The super-G course, which starts above Snow Bowl on the Ruthie’s side of the mountain and drops to a finish by lift 1-A, has the “absolute maximum of length and vertical drop allowed for women,” said Jim Hancock, chief of race for Aspen’s World Cup events. “It’s going to be a hard and long course for them.”

The slalom course, on the other hand, “is not a particularly steep course,” Hancock said. “The course itself isn’t that difficult. It’s how they set the gates.”

The slalom course starts about two-thirds of the way down Strawpile. The course won’t be set until Saturday morning, before the 10 a.m. start, so little is known about it except that it could have as many as 65 gates.

Although temperatures are expected to warm up by the end of the week, the course is in solid shape. Officials with the International Ski Federation liked what they saw last week in a standard inspection held 10 days before the races begin, said Hancock.

Cold temperatures this month have allowed crews to make plenty of snow on both the super-G and slalom courses. Snowmaking was coming to a close at the end of last week on Strawpile.

In the slalom, racers will likely whip through the course in 50 to 60 seconds. The top 30 finishers in the first run will take another crack.

Janica Kostelic of Croatia established herself as a favorite by winning the only other World Cup slalom held so far this year, at Park City, Utah, last weekend.

She was followed by Martina Ertl of Germany and Christel Saioni of France.

Kristina Koznick of the United States is expected to have a breakout season this winter. She finished in a tie for 12th last weekend in the slalom. Koznick, a winner of a World Cup slalom race each of the last two seasons, split from the U.S. Ski Team this year and is racing independently.

U.S. Ski Team members Sarah Schleper of Vail and Caroline Lalive of Steamboat Springs posted strong first runs in Park City but disqualified during their second attempts. Lindsey Kildow, a 16-year-old from Ski Club Vail, impressed U.S. Ski Team officials by nearly skiing fast enough to qualify for a second run.

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