Vail welcomes home World Cup overall champion Lindsey Vonn | AspenTimes.com

Vail welcomes home World Cup overall champion Lindsey Vonn

Sarah Mausolf
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

NWS Lindsey Vonn 1 DT 8-21-09

VAIL, Colo. – As Tom Petty’s “American Girl” blasted from a set of speakers, Lindsey Vonn made her way through the crowd Friday night in Lionshead.

Ringing cowbells and waving streamers, hundreds of people turned out to wish the famous skier luck in the 2010 Olympics.

There were many dignitaries who spoke on the stage outside the Arrabelle hotel, which will be Vonn’s home for the next four years through a sponsorship deal with Vail Resorts. Mayor Dick Cleveland spoke. So did sportscaster Bob Beattie and Ski and Snowboard Club Vail executive director Aldo Radamus.

But perhaps the most touching words came from 10-year-old Nellie Talbot from Vail, an aspiring ski racer who escorted Vonn onto the stage.

“I’m really happy that you’re moving back to Vail and I’m looking forward to seeing you on the mountain and getting to know you better,” she said. “And as everyone probably knows, you’re a person I look up to so hopefully I can be as good as you someday, follow in your tracks.”

For many young girls who live in Vail, Vonn represents what a hometown girl can accomplish.

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A Ski and Snowboard Club Vail alumnus, Vonn, 24, grew up learning how to ski on Vail Mountain. Her many hometown fans have since followed Vonn as she has captured the last two World Cup overall championships and competed in the 2002 and 2006 Olympics.

Many little girls watched in awe as Vonn stood on the stage in her white zip-up thermal, jeans and sneakers, a slight wave in her long blond hair, her cheeks blushing a little as dignitaries sung her praises.

Hailey and Lily Howe, who are 10 and 9 years old, were enthusiastic fans.

“We just wanted to see Lindsey,” Hailey Howe said. “She’s kind of like a skiing role model to me. We’ve been skiing since we were 2 and I’ve always wanted to be an Olympic downhill racer.”

Just as Vonn has made an impression on Vail, Vail has made an impression on Vonn. She recalled hiking up Mushroom Bowl as a girl.

“I came from Minnesota and I was like, ‘Why are we hiking up here? What is there to hike up for?’ And we got to the top and it was definitely some of the most epic powder skiing I’ve ever had.”

She also recalled how her coach once scolded her when she ducked inside for a cup of hot chocolate during training.

“It made me a better person. I definitely never skipped a slip run after that,” she said.

As hard as she trained back then, Vonn’s going to be working even harder as she sets out to win five gold medals at the Vancouver Olympics. Vonn plans to train at Gold Peak in November. And she’s already scouted out the workout room at the Arrabelle, her swank new home.

“It was pretty funny because yesterday I got a phone call and I was like, ‘Who is calling me?’ and he was like ‘Hi, this is Matt, your butler.’ He was like ‘I can bring regular coffee to your room at 6 o’clock or I can pull your car around whenever you want.’ It was really cool. I’ve definitely never had a butler before.”

Vonn said she’s excited to return to Vail.

“I grew up here in Vail and I love Vail and I’m so happy to be back,” she said.