Kilde goes back-to-back, wins World Cup super-G at Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK — At this point, maybe Aleksander Aamodt Kilde ought to consider taking up permanent residency in the Vail Valley.
After winning the super-G and downhill on Saturday and Sunday in 2021, Kilde repeated the feat Sunday at Beaver Creek. The 30-year-old’s dominant start to 2022-2023 continued on the Birds of Prey course, where he cruised to a comfortable super-G win under Sunday’s sunny blue skies with aggressive skiing throughout the 1,879-meter course, gesturing to the crowd of his “second home” in Red Tail Stadium afterward.
The Norwegian finished the 40-gate course in 1 minute, 10.73 seconds for his 16th-career World Cup win, one day after crushing North America’s downhill for win No. 15.
“Had to fight to be on the top of the podium yesterday,” he said, referring to his fighting through a recent bout with the flu. He said he woke up feeling it in his system after a long day yesterday. His performance on the course, which he described as “tricky,” made it seem like the illness was well behind him, though.
“It was quite dark and it was also a tricky course — and a good one,” he said. “I just tried to keep it going, keep it smart, and also charge down the pitch; try to go clean and ski what I can.”
When asked if he is receiving any insider information on the terrain, Kilde — the boyfriend of Edwards’ own Mikaela Shiffrin — chuckled and replied, “You probably think so, but I actually I don’t.”
“I love to be here,” he continued. “I love the atmosphere, I love the people and I also love just skiing here on this snow.”
Also for the second straight day, Kilde got the best of the Swiss great Marco Odermatt (1:10.93), who was second. Odermatt (2) and Kilde (3) have won all five World Cup events contested so far this season, and both athletes have been on the podium in four of those (Kilde was a DNF in the season-opening giant slalom, which is Odermatt’s specialty event). The combined margin of victory over both races was 0.26 seconds.
Odermatt, the defending overall globe and giant slalom discipline champion, still holds the overall lead going into next weekend’s giant slalom and slalom in Val d’Isere, France. Kilde, the overall runner-up and defending downhill and super-G disciplines champion, will have to wait until Dec. 16-17 for another set of speed events in Groden, Italy.
France’s Alexis Pinturault (1:11.03) finished third, earning his 75th career World Cup podium, tying him with Stephan Eberharter for 10th on the all-time men’s list. The 2021 overall globe winner set an early mark from bib No. 3 largely on the strength of his strong opening segment. But Kilde’s ability to navigate the steep and straight final pitch at the bottom of the hill — his fourth sector was the fastest on the day by 0.15 seconds — proved decisive.
“Conditions were much better than yesterday,” Pinturault said. “I tried to push really hard in the pitch, because that’s always a part where I can make a difference. I skied really well the whole way down, didn’t make huge mistakes, and I would say that’s the reason it was pretty close.”
The veteran said the slope’s technical nature lends him an advantage.
“I think it’s always a slope where I can always achieve good results,” he said. “For me, Beaver Creek is one of the nicest weekends that we can have. There is not a lot of slopes which can be so nice on both disciplines.”
Several of the Americans struggled with the steep course and direct gate setup. Olympic super-G silver medalist Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Travis Ganong, who was third in the super-G at Birds of Prey last year, both registered DNFs on Sunday, as did Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alumnus Kyle Negomir.
Fellow Americans Bryce Bennett (1:14.55) finished in 45th place and Jared Goldberg (1:14.77) was 46th.
River Radamus leads U.S. skiers with 16th-place finish
A significant bright spot and exciting moment for local fans, however, came at the end of the day, courtesy of local star River Radamus. Wearing bib No. 57, the Edwards skier clocked in at 1:12.24 to lead the U.S. with a 16th-place finish.
“Feeling pretty electric right now,” he said. “One thing I always say when I come here — I grew up watching Andrew Weibrecht’s famous run from back of the pack to 10th and Ted Ligety’s amazing runs here — and all the Americans consistently over-perform at this hill because I think the crowd just brings it alive.”
The 24-year-old, who finished 15th in the super-G and fourth in the giant slalom at the Beijing Olympics, had never finished higher than 19th in a World Cup super-G before Sunday. His Birds of Prey resume, up to that point, had included a 54th in 2018, 55th in 2019 and two DNFs in 2021. He was also a DNF in his only super-G of this season, in Lake Louise on Nov. 27.
“You want to perform for the home crowd so much and that’s something I always think about. It’s just escaped me until today and finally I was able to put one together. I think it was pretty exciting and interesting the whole way and able to come home with some World Cup points,” he continued. “Knowing that your friends and family and neighbors are all in the crowd, it just makes it a special moment.”
Radamus won’t have much time to celebrate as he flies out to Europe on Monday to continue the World Cup tour. He juxtaposed the “literal army” of workers at those overseas stops with the hardworking, passionate local volunteers who made the hill fast after significant recent snowfall — and give him a fair fight — even from the late position.
“The hill prep rivals anywhere in the world,” he said after specifically giving praise to the Talon crew. “It makes a consistent slope where you can perform from anywhere. You could have won the race from any position, so huge shoutout to them.”
Kilde echoed the sentiment, providing a worthy summary of what the event means for the entire Vail Valley ski community.
“Unbelievable,” he said of the volunteers’ efforts. “We got a half a meter of snow, but it’s still fantastic to ski. It says a lot about this place.”
Mikaela Shiffrin did a lot of soul searching after she didn’t win a medal and didn’t finish three of her five individual races at last year’s Beijing Olympics after entering the games amid enormous expectations.