When Olympic medalist Bode Miller took to the giant slalom course at Loveland Ski Area Saturday, it was more for training than anything, he said after completing his run. Miller hit the slope ahead of the weekend’s Nor-Am Cup races, starting with the first men’s GS race of the season.
There were no TV cameras, no media masses, only a few Loveland Ski Club members on hand waiting to catch a glimpse of the alpine star. For Miller — returning to competition this season after taking last year off to fully recover from previous injuries — it was business, just another day at the office. He clicked out of his skis, answered a few questions, assessed his performance with a coach and took a few minutes to sign a quick autograph for a girl eager to meet her role model.
“He’s been my idol since I was a little kid,” Loveland U16 racer Abby Durrell said, wearing the helmet she’d just had signed. “This is just so inspiring to be able to meet him and see him in person. I can’t stop smiling.”
Durrell said she was planning on retiring the helmet at the end of the day, and will find a spot for it on her bookshelf.
While it was a training run for Miller before heading to Lake Louise, Canada, later this week for the next World Cup alpine races, for those aspiring to be the next Bode Miller or Ted Ligety, this weekend’s races are an opportunity to go head to head with some of the world’s best.
“These early-season Nor-Ams, there’s a bunch of World Cup guys here. It’s a good opportunity for the young American guys to get a great start position against good World Cup racers in an environment where they’re more comfortable,” Miller said.
For Loveland it was a christening of its FIS-sanctioned GS course.
“We’re really excited to bring a continental cup GS,” Loveland Ski Club director and former U.S. Ski Team coach John Hale said of the event. “It’s something pretty special.”
Ski area director of business operations Rob Goodell observed the competition with a smile. “We’re excited to have some of the top men racing today. A lot of world-class athletes are racing.”
While Miller did not compete, fellow U.S. A Team member David Chodounsky was among the racers in a competitive field of U.S. and international athletes.
Chodounsky finished 28th with a total course time of 1:48.91.
Austrian Philipp Schoerghofer topped the podium on the day with a time of 1:46.46. Brennan Rubie was the highest American finisher, taking fourth in 1:46.72.
Nor-Am competition is the North American continental series below World Cup level, equivalent to the Europa Cup abroad.
Goodell described the competition as “a great developmental race for people trying to break into the World Cup echelon.”
The top two finishers in the Nor-Am Cup series earn World Cup spots the following season.
Men’s Nor-Am racing continues at Loveland through Tueday with a GS race and two days of slalom. Women’s Nor-Am Cup competitors will compete in slalom and GS the following week, Dec. 1-4.