Entering Birds of Prey, American forecast isn’t great

Can Ted Ligety turn back the hands of time at this year's Birds of Prey? The American team arrives with a lot of question marks.
Alessandro Trovati / AP | AP

XFinity Birds of Prey AUDI FIS WORLD CUP


Downhill training, 11 a.m.


Super-G, 10:45 a.m.


Downhill, 11 a.m.


Giant slalom, 9:45 a.m., and 12:45 p.m.

There were 36 World Cup alpine events last season. Add the 2018 Olympics and there were 41 total podiums.

In 41 tries during the 2017–18 season, a member of the U.S. Men’s Ski Team was on the steps once — Ted Ligety was third in a giant slalom in Garmisch, Germany, in January. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but three races into the 2018-19 season — a slalom in Levi, Finland, and two speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta — and still no red, white and blue on the steps.

As the Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS World Cup races come to Beaver Creek this week, there should be some concern for the American men.

Are we going to see Americans on the podium at Beaver Creek? I root for it, but I doubt it.

Is all lost for Team USA? No. Let’s not go crazy.

The American men seem to be in a transitional period. Ligety, 34, and Steve Nyman, 36, are likely toward the end of their careers. Travis Ganong, 30, has shown flashes of brilliance in his speed career.

The B-Team has some familiar names like Bryce Bennett, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, Jared Goldberg, Tommy Biesemeyer and Tommy Ford and rookies to this level like Luke Winters and River Radamus.

More youngsters dot the C- and D-Teams.

The trick is figuring out who might be the future?

Been there, done that

The good news is that we’ve been here before. Like 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the U.S. men were skunked in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. The FIS Alpine World Ski Championships came here in 1999, and things remained rather dismal with Vail’s own Chad Fleischer finishing sixth in the super-G, the best result by an American in the Worlds.

While everyone remembers Fleischer finishing seventh, a guy named Daron Rahlves was 13th in the super-G at Vail ’99. No one also made much of Bode Miller recording a top-10 finish in slalom as well.

While the cupboard seemed bare at 1999 Worlds, there was indeed talent in the pipeline. Rahlves and Miller eventually started swapping wins at the Birds of Prey, events so commonplace that we didn’t notice that skinny kid from Utah, Ligety, was also hitting the podium in giant slalom.

The vets

Does history repeat itself?

Whatever happens this weekend, Ligety is a legend. Twenty-five World Cup wins, five Worlds golds, two Olympic golds and six wins on Birds of Prey make it so.

He’s earned a certain amount of grace time in recovering from injury, given his resume.

The fairytale story this week would be Ligety regaining his form, and edging Austria’s Marcel Hirscher for a GS win. The story would write itself.

Likely to happen? Not really.

Speed racers get better with age. Tech racers usually don’t.

Does Nyman have the health gods on his side? If his history is any indication, he should. He has three podiums here (2007, 2008 and 2015).

If you’ve met Nyman, you root for him. That still doesn’t change the reality that he’s a long shot.

Ganong is a more realistic expectation. He joined the ACL club — it happens — last year. Last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta, he got his first races in (38th in downhill; 17th in super-G). That’s fine. It’s probably going to take a few more starts for Ganong to get his ski-racing legs.

Who’s next?

Bennett? The Squaw Valley, California, native quietly had a solid season last year, brushing up against or into the top 10.

Can Goldberg make the leap? Cochran-Siegle? Not inconceivable. Ford? He finished last year with two top 10s in GS.

Radamus? Yes, it’s probably too good to be true for him to make the flip and score his first World Cup points here this weekend. Hollywood would reject that script, right?

That’s why we watch, root and hope.

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