Oceans apart: North America and Europe are
contrasting scenes in ski racing
By Shauna Farnell
When it comes to World Cup racing, North America and Europe present two different worlds for
Two years ago, when Scott Macartney was heading up the chairlift on the way to his run down Beaver
Creek’s Birds of Prey downhill course, a tourist on the chair struck up a conversation.
“He was like, ‘Why are your skis so long?’” Macartney recalls. “I told him, ‘There’s a race today. I’m
headed to the start of the World Cup.’ There are people [in Colorado] who have no idea what’s going
on. That’s in huge contrast to something like Kitzbeuhel, where 90,000 people show up. Beaver Creek
does a good job with the event, but they can only do so much to get people interested. There’s a good
fan base that shows up at Beaver Creek. The crowd at Lake Louise is kind of hit or miss. It’s not huge
but the people who are there are fired up on it. The fans that show up are hardcore racing fans.”
As far as the general American population goes, ski racing simply doesn’t rank very high in the realm
“Being in Europe is totally different than the
United States,” says Ted Ligety. “At a race like
Soelden you’re fighting your way through the
crowd trying to get to the lift. You’re dragging
people along with you. Beaver Creek is actually
pretty good — we get a fair amount of people
there — but it doesn’t really compare as far as
fan intensity to what we have especially in Austria,
where they’re fully crazy, partying all day and
For whatever reason, the sport of ski racing
is just more accessible in Europe.
“It’s just the culture,” says Lindsey Vonn,
whose fame and popularity in Europe is such
that she occasionally has to be accompanied
by bodyguards to get around. “I feel like in
Europe, everyone is either in a city, working
on a farm or ski racing. Their main sports are soccer and ski racing and they love it. They follow it
every single weekend. They make vacations to go to World Cup races. Ski racing is unfortunately not
one of the most popular sports in the U.S. — most people get really psyched to go to a football game
or a baseball game.”
Of course, Vonn is doing her part in changing that, appearing on talk shows and in non-ski-related ad
campaigns in an effort to draw more attention to her sport.
“What I’m trying to do this year and in my whole career is make ski racing more mainstream,” she
says. “Because it is extreme, it’s exciting and it’s definitely a sport worth watching.”
Celebrity that she might be, there are days like those before the World Cup in Aspen, when Vonn was
training on the hill in Vail and, save the Vonntourage (her husband, trainers and tech), there wasn’t a
soul around. That never happens in Europe.
“In Europe, there’s constantly people,” says Vonn. “They know who I am. I get stopped on the street.
It’s really difficult, actually, exiting from a World Cup race sometimes. In Bansko [Bulgaria] last year I
felt afraid. I had five people surrounding me — body guards trying to protect me. We couldn’t move.
There were so many people grabbing at me, grabbing at my hat, grabbing at my clothes … it was
pretty scary. But that’s not what normally happens. Normally I have one or two people helping me get
through the crowd and normally we’re fine. In the U.S. at the Aspen World Cup, there’s not many people
there, but at the same time, it’s more my family and friends. That’s really special. I’d say both racing in
Europe and the U.S. are unique and special.”
Ted Ligety takes on the GS course.
“Classic Bode” in the press corral as he regained position on course
after several mistakes.
“Mistakes,” he said, “are acceptable if you are pushing it.”
Again, Weibrecht skied well above his ranking, moving from the
47th start to finish 11th as the second-best American.
He said he got a great course report from teammate Marco Sul-
livan. “He said it was ripable,” Weibrecht said. “I just had a good
run, tried to ski solid, tried to ski within myself, and didn’t have any
The result moved Weibrecht into the top 15 of the World Cup over-
all standings and to 32nd on the World Cup start list, which, with the
injuries sustained by other racers, will push him into the top 30.
The downhill training run winner, Walchhofer, could do no better
It was a tough day for the Canadians with Robbie Dixon failing to
finish, Louis-Pierre Helie not starting after a Friday crash he took
mostly on the face and Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Erik Guay
finishing well down the finish order in 28th and 29th respectively.
The Cowboys suffered a noticeable slip from their promising start at
home in Lake Louise only a week prior.
Janka said he had gotten a boost of confidence from his win in the
combined on Friday. “I saw yesterday that I can be fast on the down-
hill,” he said. “I’m happy with the run and now I’m on the podium
again, on the top step and I’m really happy with that.”
Svindal said his run had been very clean, with just “a small mistake
at the bottom but it’s a tight race, so the time I lost there was too
Had he been five hundredths faster, he would have been first and
Giant Slalom, December 6
Janka claimed the first-run lead of the Sunday GS, running before
the falling snow became thick enough to cause a problem — and it
did cause problems.
Miller had his goggles freeze; this, coupled with the falling snow
and overcast skies, made visibility nearly impossible. He joined a
first run DNF list that included 1 4 others.
In the final run, Janka pulled off the three-peat, winning by nearly
GEPA (CROWDS); JULIE SHIPMAN