U.S. team hits slopes at Vail
VAIL, Colo. – Some of the best ski racers in the world are in Vail for training at Golden Peak, thanks to a nearly $3 million investment that Ski and Snowboard Club Vail made into snowmaking three years ago.
Training kicked off Wednesday in Vail with Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller and Ted Ligety among the American skiers racing down Golden Peak. Thursday’s training was even better, said Olympian Tommy Ford, because of the conditions that formed overnight.
“They got some water on the hill last night so it’s actually grippy ice,” Ford said. “It’s pretty good for training – good response; good for feeling out your skis and for skiing.”
The U.S. Ski Team is happy to have the facility at Golden Peak, said Mike Day, the men’s alpine technical head coach. To be able to train in the United States is “tremendously important,” Day said.
“The guys love being in the States – we can’t imagine doing it differently,” Day said.
The team stays just a short walk from the Golden Peak chair lift, at the Manor Vail Lodge, which Ford said is “comfortable and easy on us.”
Thursday’s conditions in Vail were just about the exact opposite of what Europe has right now. The World Cup slalom races slated for Nov. 12-13 in Levi, Finland, were canceled Thursday morning because there’s no snow.
What it means for the U.S. Ski Team is that the guys will have some extra time to prepare for the upcoming World Cup races in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek.
To have “full-on” winter conditions in Vail is a huge benefit right now, said U.S. Ski Team racer Tim Jitloff.
“Being able to get a head start here in Vail and then at Copper is a huge deal for us,” he said.
The early-season training at Golden Peak wasn’t always this good. The new snowmaking system that Ski Club Vail paid for has elevated the operation to another level.
Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot said the resort went into the partnership with the ski club because it would give local athletes great access, but it has generated exposure for the resort thanks to publicity about the best skiers in the world training at Vail.
National teams from around the world train at Golden Peak, as do ski clubs from around the United States.
“It’s been incredible the way it has helped generate excitement,” Jarnot said.
While Ski Club Vail pays for the costs of operating the chairlifts and the snowmaking equipment, Vail Resorts runs it all for the club, Jarnot said.
The investment appears to be paying off. The hill was busy Thursday with a lot of groups.
“It’s a really full hill and a really quality snow surface, which we need for racing,” said Rob Worrell, the men’s alpine director at Ski Club Vail.
Worrell is new to the program and came from Steamboat, where he remembers the struggles of trying to find conditions for training. The Steamboat athletes would have to travel to Vail and Summit County to ski this early in the year, he said.
“This is a great opportunity for the local kids from the Eagle Valley to get their training in,” he said.
Training includes everything from technique and balance to tactics. The icy conditions on the run known as Lindsey’s Lane are perfect right now for balance training, Worrell said.
“It’s an instant judge. The second you slip out on that you did something wrong with your pressure so you’ve got to adjust your balance,” he said.
Day said the U.S. Ski Team skiers will be going in a lot of different directions in the coming weeks, but the team will continue to train in Vail all the way through the Birds of Prey World Cup races in Beaver Creek in early December. That opportunity is something Day said the U.S. Ski Team can’t thank Ski Club Vail and Vail Mountain for enough.
“It’s just a really great set-up for us,” Day said.
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Tejay van Garderen has long been one of the country’s top professional cyclists, having spent 12 seasons on the World Tour with various teams. His career came to an end in June when the 32-year-old announced his retirement.