Aspen skier preps for first full World Cup season | AspenTimes.com

Aspen skier preps for first full World Cup season

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Wiley Maple

ASPEN – Not long after confronting Wengen, Switzerland’s iconic Lauberhorn downhill last January, Wiley Maple sat down and started writing.

The Aspen native set about recording every detail of his first World Cup start. He captured the spectacle – the early morning train ride with the world’s top racers, the bands playing, the flags flying, the swarms of zealous, face-painted devotees crowding seemingly every inch of the mountain.

The free-spirited 21-year-old, know as much for his untamed brown hair as his fearless skiing style, also offered a rare glimpse into his psyche. He recounted sitting near a start-house table with Didier Cuche and Bode Miller and feeling “incredibly uncomfortable.” He initially felt like he didn’t deserve to be there.

He detailed his frayed nerves: “As you think about your run, your head is spinning, your legs are shaking, your stomach clenches up. Now seems like a good time to lie down and relax.”

He described the relief of negotiating the 2.75-mile track without incident and crossing the finish line – albeit in 42nd place, more than seven seconds behind Austrian Klaus Kroell.

“I remember Wengen being harder than any race I’d ever done, just the sheer length of the course alone not to mention some of the features on the course,” Maple wrote in an email to The Aspen Times earlier this week.

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“Now that I have had a season to look back on my World Cup starts from last season, all I want to do is race them again. … All I wanted at the time and now still is another chance to prove what I can do.”

The first opportunity comes Saturday, when Maple steps into the downhill starting gate at the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup in Alberta.

“There’s definitely a little bit of [excitement and anxiety]. The first race of the year always does this,” Maple wrote. “In this level of ski racing, there is something unseen that you can lose or one day just find that can make you a second faster. … I always wonder if I’ve still got it.”

Maple turned heads after a string of stellar performances early last winter. He logged first- and fourth-place finishes in NorAm downhills in December in Lake Louise – results that helped him secure a spot in Wengen.

He made a total of five World Cup starts, finishing no better than 42nd. He’ll have multiple opportunities to attempt to better that mark this winter; by virtue of his 2010-2011 NorAm downhill championship (a win on Aspen Mountain on Valentine’s Day helped him clinch the title), Maple has earned starts in all World Cup downhills in 2011-2012.

He also was promoted from the U.S. Ski Team’s Development to B squad – a move he described as going from “Pay to play” to “Making the show.”

“As a D Team member, you pay the team directly at the beginning of the season, up to $22,000,” he wrote. “The budget is considerably smaller so the training is more limited. … You usually have one technician and two coaches for six to nine athletes, so you end up doing a lot of the tuning and waxing yourself.

“The A and B Teams are fully funded. While you are on site with the team, you will never pay for anything – food, travel, lodging.”

In addition to an upgrade in accommodations – from cramped quarters and sometimes sleeping on floors and futons to posh hotels – Maple now has his own technician. Also, he has a quiver of 20 skis that he shares with the team’s two other Atomic athletes, compared to the three pairs he was allotted for each discipline last season.

Maple is hoping these added advantages will translate into success on the hill. His goal this winter: crack the top 30 and score points.

“The World Cup is bigger, faster, gnarlier than anything I have ever raced,” he wrote. “It is a profession now, not a pastime or a distant dream. The fast guys make a very good living and the slow ones don’t. … I want to be healthy, train hard and ski like I know how.”

Do that, and he likely will have plenty more to write about.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

By Wiley Maple

This is the first of many writings as you follow me worldwide through my experiences as a World Cup downhiller. I would just like to quickly thank everyone who came out to the little fundraiser I had at the Wheeler on Nov. 4. It ended up being a huge fundraiser for me, so thank you.

Winter is finally here in North America, and if you’re anything like me it’s been a long summer of patiently waiting for the snow to fall again up in the Rockies. The mountain biking and hiking in summer is always fun, but there isn’t anything quite like the freedom of skiing. After an entire summer training for the snow it’s good to finally be on it again.

Following my event at the Wheeler, I had to quickly pack the van and hit the road to Vial – sorry, Vail – for some early morning training the next day. There’s nothing quite like waking up to the fresh smell of diesel in the morning and a beautiful view of the highway. I must say it is without a doubt the nicest truck stop I have seen. But all rivalries aside, the early season race training that Vail has set up for us is unrivaled. The hill has been injected with water, creating conditions more frequently seen in an ice rink, but which are ideal training conditions for ski racers.

We spent a week at Vail training double sessions of super G and giant slalom starting at 6:30 every morning. Laps on the injected snow start taking a toll on the body and mind – after about two runs everything starts to hurt. The amount of energy and concentration it takes to make it down the course is phenomenal, and after half a day of training conditions like this make walking up the stairs quite a chore.

After a week of brutal but good training at Vail, we moved venues to start downhill training at Copper Mountain. Copper is the new official speed training site of the U.S. Ski Team – millions were put into the hill to cut a new downhill trail and install snowmaking. Copper is the only full-length downhill track available in the world this early in the season. Other national teams have already started to flock to Colorado to see if they can get their athletes on our track.

Editor’s note: Aspen native and U.S. Ski Team member Wiley Maple will be providing The Aspen Times with semi-weekly updates on his experiences competing on the World Cup circuit this winter. Here is his first column.

Wiley Maple

Special to The Aspen Times

This is the first of many writings as you follow me worldwide through my experiences as a World Cup downhiller. I would just like to quickly thank everyone who came out to the little fundraiser I had at the Wheeler on Nov. 4. It ended up being a huge fundraiser for me, so thank you.

Winter is finally here in North America, and if you’re anything like me it’s been a long summer of patiently waiting for the snow to fall again up in the Rockies. The mountain biking and hiking in summer is always fun, but there isn’t anything quite like the freedom of skiing. After an entire summer training for the snow it’s good to finally be on it again.

Following my event at the Wheeler, I had to quickly pack the van and hit the road to Vial – sorry, Vail – for some early morning training the next day. There’s nothing quite like waking up to the fresh smell of diesel in the morning and a beautiful view of the highway. I must say it is without a doubt the nicest truck stop I have seen. But all rivalries aside, the early season race training that Vail has set up for us is unrivaled. The hill has been injected with water, creating conditions more frequently seen in an ice rink, but which are ideal training conditions for ski racers.

We spent a week at Vail training double sessions of super G and giant slalom starting at 6:30 every morning. Laps on the injected snow start taking a toll on the body and mind – after about two runs everything starts to hurt. The amount of energy and concentration it takes to make it down the course is phenomenal, and after half a day of training conditions like this make walking up the stairs quite a chore.

After a week of brutal but good training at Vail, we moved venues to start downhill training at Copper Mountain. Copper is the new official speed training site of the U.S. Ski Team – millions were put into the hill to cut a new downhill trail and install snowmaking. Copper is the only full-length downhill track available in the world this early in the season. Other national teams have already started to flock to Colorado to see if they can get their athletes on our track.

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