AVSC prepares for ’17 World Cup Finals
As anticipation for the 2017 FIS Alpine World Cup Finals continues to build, preparation for the big show begins — using the NorAm Finals as a test event for next year’s races.
“It is always good to return to Aspen for downhill and super-G events, as the mountain challenges the athletes,” said Karen Korfanta, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association NorAm and Junior Nationals coordinator. “All the scoring for the NorAm titles, except alpine combined, are very tight, and we should see some great ski racing from the NorAm athletes.”
The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club is working in collaboration with Aspen Skiing Co. and USSA to produce the NorAm Finals.
“USSA is very confident in (Skico) and AVSC’s ability to host this world-class event. By hosting the NorAm Finals, USSA is reassuring the International Ski Federation that (Skico) and AVSC are ready, willing and able,” Korfanta said. “AVSC is an integral part of World Cup, NorAm races and the upcoming World Cup Finals. The staff, volunteers and expertise of AVSC provide the Aspen race organization with strong support at all levels of their events.”
AVSC’s Pat Callahan will be serving as chief of course for the NorAm Finals and looks forward to executing a top-notch event.
“Our goal is to run a good, fair race — a safe event,” Callahan said. “We are trying to see how things work for the World Cup Finals. We are testing some different course sets, safety netting and other items to see how they work for next year.”
Tom Johnston, one of the top snow experts in the world specializing in slope preparation, has been brought on to the team, as well.
“He was in charge of the Sochi Olympics, he’ll be in charge of the upcoming 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and he’s out here right now helping us prepare our trail for this race,” Callahan said.
The first- and second-place winners of the NorAm races earn a spot on next season’s World Cup circuit.
“It’s a huge thing for us to run quality events for these athletes,” Callahan said. “It will be a very exciting event because it is quick and it keeps moving.”
U.S. Ski Team athlete and AVSC alumnus Wiley Maple will be making an appearance to defend his title as U.S. alpine national downhill champion. After overcoming knee and back surgery last summer, Maple is excited to be back on skis and racing fast.
“It was a good season, well salvaged, I’d say,” he said, reflecting on his time spent competing in Europe this winter.
As an Aspen local, Maple looks forward to battling it out on familiar territory.
“I haven’t raced here in three or four years,” he said. “I love coming home to race; I won my first NorAm title in Aspen several years ago, which was pretty special to do.”
Having home-field advantage, Maple has been scoping out the track during its construction phase.
“For the last couple of days, I’ve cruised where I thought the gates should be. It’s what we always do when nobody is over at 1A. We just throw some GS skis on and rip the downhill track,” he said.
The NorAm Finals, consisting of two downhill races, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and a team event, will take place on Aspen Mountain from March 10 through 18, with formal racing beginning Sunday.
• The IPC World Cup Finals speed races took place last week at Buttermilk Mountain. AVSC’s Laurie Stephens came away with podium finishes in all four races. The U.S. adaptive alpine women had a strong finish, bringing home the coveted Nations Cup.
“It’s exciting to be skiing with a country that is dominating the world right now in women’s (adaptive alpine) skiing,” said AVSC athlete Melanie Schwartz.
• The seventh annual PreDevo Triple Crown Challenge was held at Aspen Highlands on Saturday. Forty-nine local athletes ages 6 to 9 participated in the multidiscipline event, which combined moguls, big-mountain and GS racing. Overall, athletes stepped up to the end-of-the-year challenge with great focus and determination. The PreDevo program provides young athletes with an introduction to both racing and freestyle skiing.
“The Triple Crown Challenge, as designed, is truly a culminating event where athletes can apply the multiple skills they have worked on all season long. As a coach it is inspiring to watch these athletes give it their all,” said Amy Beresford, AVSC PreDevo head coach.
• The Council Cup was held at Ski Cooper and hosted nearly 200 athletes this year. This championship event, consisting of two super-G, two GS and two slalom races, was a last-chance qualifier. The overall winner earned a spot to attend the upcoming Junior Championships in Vail.
“AVSC U16s had a presence on the podium every day, which is a huge accomplishment — bringing a team of only five athletes. Reed Beidleman had a great week, finishing top five in almost every race and taking third place overall,” said AVSC alpine U16 lead coach Lisa Perricone.
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Buttermilk Ski Area already is scheduled to host the world’s best at ESPN’s X Games this coming week, while it was recently announced Aspen Highlands will host alpine skiing’s NorAm finals later this spring.