Birds of Prey World Cup races get official go-ahead

BEAVER CREEK — The Beaver Creek Birds of Prey races received the official imprimatur of positive snow control from the International Ski Federation on Friday.

In English, that means FIS officials went to the course on Friday, saw that it was in good shape and gave the go-ahead for this year’s World Cup events in Beaver Creek, starting on Tuesday, Nov. 28, after warm weather forced a cancellation of the races last year.

“The forecast was always in our favor,” said Tom Boyd, chief of media for the Birds of Prey World Cup races. “We started making snow in October. As to the extent that one can forecast out, the weather always looked good. The question was, ‘Will that forecast hold out?’”

Different snow

It did for ski racing.

While Vail postponed its opening from Friday to Thursday, Nov. 23, because of a lack of snow, the snow used to make the Birds of Prey racecourse is different than what most skiers at Vail and Beaver Creek like to ski recreationally.

The best skiers in the world don’t like Colorado’s signature “champagne powder.” World Cup courses are designed to be icy and slick, and injected with water to amplify those effects. Natural snow isn’t required to build a course. Cold temperatures for man-made snow are.

That’s the difference between last year and this one. Cooler temperatures have allowed for snowmaking on the Birds of Prey course, where the base is roughly at 8,900 feet at Red Tail Camp.

“It’s apples and oranges,” said Boyd of the difference between racing snow and the recreational surface. “We love snow from the sky, but if you ask racers, they like snow from the (snow) gun better.”

The slate

With positive snow control, the 2017 Birds of Prey slate is set. After racing up in Lake Louise, Alberta — a downhill and super-G, during Thanksgiving weekend — the men’s circuit heads to Beaver Creek.

The racers will have two downhill training runs during a three-day period from Tuesday through Thursday, Nov. 28-30. The race weekend kicks off with super-G on Friday, Dec. 1, followed by the downhill on Saturday, Dec. 2, and giant slalom on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Vail sports editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, and @cfreud.

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