World Cup skiers struggling with abundant new snow
LOVELAND – There are some skiers out there who aren’t too happy with the new snow, and they happen to be the best skiers in the world.
The United States Ski Team, the Austrian team, the Slovenian team and the British team are among those training at Loveland in preparation for the 2002 Nature Valley Alpine Cup, which kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday with women’s giant slalom.
The event will feature the best skiers in the world, including 2002 Olympic silver medalist Bode Miller and 2001 Alpine Cup champion Erik Schlopy.
“Everybody will be in there, probably 75 percent of a typical World Cup field,” said U.S. Ski Team coach Phil McNichol during a press conference at Loveland Monday. “Things have been going really well, we’ve just been struggling with Mother Nature. She’s making it extremely difficult for us. As you can see, we’ve been getting more natural snow than we’ve had in many, many years. It’s great for the skiing – people should get up there and get going – but for us, we have to wait for it to clear up (so) we can get some water in the snow and start making some ice.”
The U.S. Team was supposed to conduct a time trial Monday to determine which of its male members would race on the World Cup giant slalom team but was unable to do so on the less-than-optimum soft racing conditions at Loveland. The American World Cup GS and slalom opener takes place Nov. 21-24 in Park City, Utah. Because the time trial was cancelled, coaches determined the Park City men’s giant slalom team Monday based on training performances and past results. The team will include Miller, Schlopy, Thomas Vonn, Dane Spencer, Daron Rahlves, Jake Zamansky and T.J. Lanning.
Most of the Park City men’s slalom team will be determined by performances this weekend in Loveland.
Miller is already qualified for the slalom team, but hopes his Alpine Cup performance is better than last year’s, when he smoked the field on his first run in the qualifying race but crashed on his second.
“Obviously, it’s a goal to try to finish the race,” Miller said Monday. “More than anything, first races are important to me to see how my equipment reacts and to get some high-intensity training. There’s not a better form for that than when you’re racing against all the World Cup guys in tough conditions. I’d love to finish and win. To not ski the way I would in a World Cup would be counter productive because I need to know what my skis are going to do.
“We haven’t really had great slalom training. This prep period’s been a lot of soft snow and tough conditions.”
Miller launched his World Cup season Oct. 27 in Soelden, Austria with giant slalom. He took fifth after losing a pole on his first run and almost falling on his second.
Vail’s Sarah Schleper is an Alpine Cup favorite on the women’s side. She won the event in 2000, but didn’t fair so well last year. In past years, the women have raced slalom in Loveland Valley, but all races will be held on a new course this year at Loveland Basin, and the women will race giant slalom.
“In GS, I still feel a little inconsistent,” Schleper said Monday. “There’s times that I’m really fast. I’m trying to work on my technique. I had one good split section in Soelden, so that was a plus. (Training) has not been too bad. Once the softer stuff gets slipped off, there’s harder stuff underneath.”
Schlopy, while aiming for his third straight Alpine Cup championship, said he does not want to get over-confident early in the season.
“I’m looking forward to the race this weekend, I always look forward to it,” he said. “The one thing is, I want to keep these races in perspective. These last two years, we’ve had great results here, then I didn’t really follow up on the World Cup last year. If I do great, I don’t want it to give me too much confidence on where I am.”
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