U.S. Ski Team makes the most of low snow for early training at Copper Speed Center | SummitDaily.com

U.S. Ski Team makes the most of low snow for early training at Copper Speed Center

U.S. Ski Team autographs

What: A free and public autograph session with members of the U.S. Ski Team, including Mikaela Shiffrin, Julia Mancuso, Ted Ligety, Steve Nyman and more

When: Saturday, Nov. 19 from 4-5 p.m.

Where: JJ’s Restaurant and Tavern, 102 Wheeler Circle in Copper

Cost: Free

The autograph event is free and open to the public. Remember to bring gear, posters or anything else you want to get signed. The lineup of athletes might change before the event. For more information about the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center or Copper Mountain, see coppercolorado.com.

You can’t keep a ski racer down.

Despite the fact that Mother Nature has been quite moody this fall, the snowmaking team at Copper Mountain Resort has been working around the clock prepping the east end of the resort for the opening of the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center. Now in its seventh year of operation, the world-class training venue has helped propel U.S. Ski Team athletes to domination on the early season Audi FIS Ski World Cup circuit, including regular wins at Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada for Lindsey Vonn and podiums for Ted Ligety, Bode Miller and more at the Birds of Prey races in Beaver Creek. When fully operational, the speed center is the only full-length downhill training facility open anywhere in the world this time of year.

This season, “fully operational” has been elusive. As of Nov. 4, the Speed Center was open for U.S. and international pro team training on the top portion of the trail Andy’s Encore. Since then, the center has been just 40 percent open, with no top-to-bottom skiing.

Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, the Speed Center is still a hub of preseason training for the U.S. squad and nearly a half-dozen international teams, including Germany, Italy, Norway and Switzerland.

For the past two weeks, just about every major player on the U.S. team has been training at the Speed Center. There was gold medalist Lindsey Vonn (Vail) — she broke her arm in a crash on Nov. 11 — and fellow Olympians Mikaela Shiffrin (EagleVail) and Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, California). The women were joined by downhillers Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah), Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, New York) and Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, California), along with nearly 50 teammates. Ligety, who’s recovering from knee and back issues, was also on-hand for light gate training.

Little pomp and circumstance

For the first time in several seasons, the U.S. team won’t host a formal team presentation before their final days at the center. It has nothing to do with conditions, officials said, but rather logistics. Coaches didn’t expect top performers like Ligety and members of the speed team to be in Colorado during Copper’s opening weekend, but just about every racer is now training at Copper after FIS canceled or rescheduled a slate of early season World Cup races.

While the team presentation still isn’t happening, several U.S. team members will still be at Copper on Saturday, Nov. 19, for the NASTAR Pacesetting event on the Speed Center Course, followed by free poster and gear signing in the East Village. The pacesetting event runs from 9 a.m. to about 2 p.m., followed by the team autographs in JJ’s Restaurant from 4-5 p.m.

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