How wonderful it is to be back in the mode of early-morning wake-up calls to check
in on racing in Europe? With results from Soelden and Levi in the record book, two U.S.
athletes are more than on track for a stellar season, though each would say they are not
happy with the other’s best discipline. Ted Ligety took the open GS in style, but was disappointed with his first slalom outing. While 11th was respectable, it was not good enough.
The same was true of Mikaela Shiffrin. She crushed the women’s slalom field in Levi, but
was not really happy with her sixth place in Soelden’s GS. Those two are on their way to
a winning winter.
After that, well, no one stepped up in either Levi or Soelden. In fact, from this perspective, things look not overly encouraging. On the men’s side, the “younger” athletes who
started in Levi have managed three scoring slalom runs in 20 World Cup outings combined with the other 17 results evenly split between DNFs and DNQs. The talent is there,
or so it seems, but are the results? On the women’s side, results are a bit stronger, though
the tech team, too, suffers from no depth. The oft-injured Resi Stiegler has posted some
solid slalom results, but not in Levi. Only one other U.S. youngster started in Levi: Paula
Moltzan. It was her second World Cup start. And she did qualify, in stark contrast to yet
another Austrian rookie, Christina Ager, like Mikaela, a ’95, who streaked to fourth from
the back of the pack.
As everyone in Park City knows, there are great expectations for results in February at
the Olympic Winter Games. But Sochi is far from Vancouver, where the Americans were
competing in their back yard, in familiar territory. It is going to be very, very different in
Russia despite all of the hard prep work USSA management has put in to smooth the
differences and provide a platform for athletes to produce at their best. Despite the effort,
being a front-runner is never as easy as being a challenger. Just ask the NFL’s Baltimore
In this issue, Ski Racing editors preview the alpine men and women of the U.S. Ski
Team, providing insight into who the team members are and what you might expect from
them this season. The alpine women’s speed team finished best in the world last season
and they should only get better based on their experience and knowledge. Having Vonn
back in the start house won’t hurt either. And don’t lose sight of Julia Mancuso, arguably
the best big-event racer the U.S. has ever had. On the men’s side, besides Ligety, we
have Bode Miller back and skiing really well, according to coaches. Still, the reality is,
save the women’s speed team, the U.S. alpine squad is, in actual fact, much more thin
than it is thought to be or perhaps ought to be.
Andrew Gardner writes about six of the key coaches who have made the U.S. a factor in
nordic competition. Long an also-ran nation — save for the legendary Bill Koch’s heroics
in the 1976 Olympic Winter Games and World Cup run in the early 1980s — the nordic
team is making itself known in world competition, due in no small part to the efforts of
these trainers and program directors.
We also look ahead to Lake Louise and the brand-new Raptor course in Beaver Creek,
while our columnists Edie Morgan, Warner Nickerson and Laura Kildow will keep you
interested, entertained and thinking. In this issue, you’ll also find our annual ski-academy
round-up, with plenty of information on a slew of schools.
One final thought. If you travel to race or train more than 160 miles from home and you
and or your club have not become members of Global Rescue, take another look. It is a
service that, if called upon, will be among the best dollars you ever spent. These folks are
pros and know their stuff. Don’t get caught without their services.
We are just days away from hosting the first-ever women’s downhill on Raptor in Beaver
Creek. The men will be at Lake Louise for their first speed event. The FIS has given its
snow control the OK that the tracks are ready. The alpine World Cup is really beginning.
Bring it on! — G.B. Jr.
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Mikaela Shiffrin crushed the
women’s slalom field in Levi.