A day after Lanning’s airlift, Canadian John Kucera also took the mergency exit from the course.
At Beaver Creek, Frenchman Pierre-Emmanuel Dal-
cin became another victim of the season in a special
downhill training run, held before the downhill leg of
the World Cup combined on December 4. Dalcin tore
ligaments in both knees, broke his arm and sustained
numerous facial cuts.
French downhill coach Patrice Morisod said in an
emotional plea at the evening’s meeting of race orga-
nizers, coaches and race jury that the format, with the
training run being held in front of the downhill leg of
the combined, should be abandoned as the early day
light was insufficient for racers approaching 100 kilo-
meters per hour on the course.
“We are having one or two injuries every weekend,”
said FIS men’s tour director Gunter Hujara, who
asked the coaches or officials for any ideas on proce-
dures that might cut into the injury rate. “Perhaps,” he
said, “we can accelerate the process.”
Denise Karbon injured her ight knee in Aspen.
OUT OF THE GATE
Black Diamond OpEd: Ice Not Nice
Injected women’s technical courses are too slick to be safe
ASPEN — The FIS made a decision last spring to inject all women’s technical courses this season. It most
likely is a mistake.
Unfortunately for the women’s slalom here, an amalgamation of a high pressure system, cold temperatures
and injection combined to create an exceptionally slick surface. The first-run result was mayhem as 24 racers
— one third of the field — failed to make it to the finish. As athlete after athlete slid, somersaulted or just
skied off course, fans resorted to cheering racers just for finishing. It wasn’t a pretty sight for either fans or
the television audience.
First let’s set one thing straight. This was not the fault of the Aspen organizing committee. They simply
carried out the preparation as the FIS directed. What the FIS found out was the outcome of injection at 8,000
feet with low humidity is far from an exact science.
“It was too icy,” emphatically said Atle Skaardal, chief race director of the women’s circuit of the first
In defense of the decision, injection offers more flexibility and in most cases a fairer surface. It is a must
for men’s technical racing as their strength ruts a course early on, making it impossible for later starters to
have a chance at a second run. The same is not as true for women, which is why coaches and racers are
questioning the injection dictate.
On Aspen’s Ruthie’s Run, which is steep with break-overs, injecting makes an already tough course all the
“It is not the answer,” said Patrick Riml, head coach of the Canadian women’s team and former head coach
of the U.S. woman’s squad. “Look,” he added, “Today we could have raced on the pure manmade surface
Aspen put down without any
difficulty, but that is today.”
Riml pointed out that one
impediment with using non-in-jected manmade snow comes
with natural snow falling on it.
“That can be messy and make
the surface dangerous,” he
said. “If the surface is injected, it is much easier to move
the new snow off and have a
Injection has spawned other
concerns, primarily about injuries and bodily wear and tear. During the giant slalom, Denise Karbon, who won
the title last season, came up limping with a torn meniscus after a ninth-place effort on a rock-hard Ruthie’s
Run. There was no fall, no strange turn, but the damage was done. One can’t blame the injected surface
outright but it raises questions.
“You needed a serrated edge,” said Thomas Vonn, husband of superstar Lindsey, who skied out (but not because of the ice). “I think they are hurting the sport by preparing courses like this. It is not about who is skiing
fast, it is about who is screwing up the least. That is pond ice up there. This is alpine skiing, not skating.”
Vonn, too, worries about injury or nagging health difficulties. “You have to train on ice to race on ice,” she
said. “It just wears you down.”
Another factor: the skis and plate set-ups the athletes are using in slalom. The Austrians were venting
over the combination of sharp turning skis and ice, saying the combination can be terribly dangerous. The
Austrian team lost Alexandra Daum, most likely for the season, with a torn ACL after a sharp fall where ice
was a contributing factor.
Skaardal knows the concern and worries. You can see it in his face when he discusses the race conditions.
He is not ready to talk about what the next step will be, but you come away with the impression things will
change. They have too. Women’s ski racing is struggling for television time and attention. It doesn’t help
to have them looking like duffers on too slick a course. And it doesn’t help when superstars look less than
There may be places for injection, but it shouldn’t be mandatory. Women’s World Cup racing will be better
served with a flexible policy not water in the snow. Use injection as a tool where needed only. — G.B. Jr
Sandra Gini, down at Aspen.