World Cup races return to Aspen |

World Cup races return to Aspen

Aspen Times Staff

The fastest women ski racers in the world will hit the slopes of Aspen next December, on their way to the 2006 Winter Olympics.The U.S. Ski Team announced Tuesday that Aspen will host three women’s World Cup events two months before the world’s top racers convene in Italy for the Olympic Games.The alpine World Cup tour will bring women’s super G, giant slalom and slalom to Aspen Mountain on Dec. 9-11 – two weeks later than usual. In recent years, World Cup racing has kicked off Aspen’s ski season on the Thanksgiving weekend.Also on the schedule is men’s alpine racing in Beaver Creek, Dec. 1-4. The men’s super G, downhill, giant slalom and slalom will return to the Birds of Prey course there.NBC and the Outdoor Life Network will televise the pre-Olympic races.”We expect to see everyone in Colorado who’s going to be racing in February at the Olympics in Torino [Italy],” said Annette Royle, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association vice president of events, in a statement released yesterday by the U.S. Ski Team. “Beaver Creek and Aspen will be great showcases for everyone who wants to see the world’s best as they get rolling into the continuous racing phase of the World Cup schedule.”Multi-event threats Lindsey Kildow of Vail and Julia Mancuso of Olympic Valley, Calif., are expected for the Aspen Winternational. Both racers enjoyed breakout seasons last winter – Kildow with her first World Cup win and finishing sixth overall (third in super G, fifth in downhill) while Mancuso collected two medals at Worlds. They’ll be looking to build momentum in Aspen heading into the Olympics.During the VISA Birds of Prey races at Beaver Creek last season, Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., and Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, Calif., made U.S. ski history as they became the first American men to finish 1-2 in a World Cup race in this country. It was the fourth of Miller’s seven wins during the season, en route to the men’s overall and super G World Cup titles; he also won the downhill and super G gold medals at Worlds, while Rahlves was a downhill silver medalist and giant slalom bronze medalist at Worlds.The World Cup season opens Oct. 22-23 in Soelden, Austria, before the teams cross the Atlantic for the North American swing. The 2006 Olympics will be held Feb. 10-26 in Torino, returning to Italy for the first time in winter since 1956 in Cortina d’Ampezzo.Aspen’s Winternational schedule starts with the women’s super G on Dec. 9, followed by the giant slalom on Dec. 10 and the slalom on Dec. 11.