Birds of Prey flashback: Ted Ligety finally wins at Beaver Creek, and so does Vonn
VAIL — He finally won at Beaver Creek on Dec. 5, 2010.
American giant slalom stud Ted Ligety won six times at Birds of Prey, be it five World Cups and/or gold in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, but we have to remember what a struggle it was for him to get there.
After Daron Rahlves retired and Bode Miller was on the downside of his career — by 2010, Bode had last won there in 2006 with an out-of-nowhere win coming in 2011 — the focus of the partisan fans at Birds of Prey was Ligety.
Is this the year he finally wins at Beaver Creek?
Ligety had been close in the preceding years — third in 2006; fourth in 2007; second in 2008; and only 1-hundredth of a second behind Austria Benni Raich and fourth again in 2009.
Ligety won both runs in 2010, beating Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud by 0.82 seconds and Austria’s Marcel Hirscher by 1.24 ticks.
The victory was the start of one trend, the Ligety-Hirscher rivalry, and a continuation of another Birds of Prey tradition, looking north.
Ostensibly, the World Cup comes to North America in November and early December because there’s better snow (and snow-making capabilities) in the Rockies — be they here or up north in Lake Louise, Alberta.
Snow is nice, but the added benefit of North America is TV scheduling. If a race starts at 11 a.m. here in the Rockies, it’s 7 p.m. in central Europe (i.e. Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany and Norway.) It’s prime-time racing, great for the ratings in Europe.
Birds of Prey, however, is also just part of the picture. The men race here at Beaver Creek, and then European TV goes to Lake Louise to air the women racing in Canada immediately following.
For most of the 2000s, that meant covering Birds of Prey and then watching Lake Louise afterward. Perhaps, that should be Lake Lindsey.
So an hour after Ligety finally broke through at Beaver Creek, there was another eruption at Birds of Prey. Lindsey Vonn won at Lake Louise … again.
Yes, on Dec. 5, 2010, Americans won both races … a GS in Beaver Creek and downhill in Lake Louise. The last time that happened? Dec. 2, 2006, when Miller won the downhill here and, yep, Vonn did the same in Lake Louise.
Vonn won at Lake Louise a whopping 18 times. She kinda knew that course. Happily, Vonn would get a chance to race at Birds of Prey in 2011 when FIS extended the tour’s Beaver Creek stay by adding events from Val d’Isere, which had no snow.
Vonn won the super-G on Dec. 7, 2011, there, likely one of her more memorable World Cup victories.
Speaking of those extra races from Val d’Isere, they likely stoked the Ligety-Hirscher rivalry. After the 2011 Birds of Prey giant slalom, Hirscher called Ligety, “Mr. GS,” praising him as the best in the discipline.
The only thing was that Hirscher beat Ligety that day to win the GS race. This was typical Hirscher. In every news conference, he proclaimed that he had no chance in an upcoming race. After every win in his career — and there were 67 of them — he would proclaim that it was a miracle he won that day. If you heard him tell it, for a guy with a record eight consecutive World Cup championships, Hirscher couldn’t ski very well.
Because of those rescheduled Val d’Isere races, Hirscher and Ligety raced another GS — probably the coldest Birds of Prey ever; minus-6 degrees for the first run and a balmy 3 for the flip — the next week and Ted won and kept winning there through the 2015 championships.
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