US Ski Team Alpine News
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U.S. Men’s Team Scores Ideal NZ Training at Ohau
There hasn’t been much that could be categorized as “normal” at the first summer on-snow camps for the U.S. men’s alpine team. Much work has gone down at new sites, notably a small family-run ski area called Ohau, which drew high praise from head coach Sasha Rearick for catering to every need of the team.
“Mike and Louise were terrific,” said Rearick, referring to Mike and Louise Neilson, the husband/wife owners of the Ohau Snow Fields and Lake Ohau Lodge.
Ohau is a unique ski area even for New Zealand. It is remote and it is the smallest commercial ski area in the country, according to Mike Neilson. “We have good snow. We lay in the south island MacKenzie Basin, a particularly dry area. Several years ago (2008) we made the decision to develop snowmaking, targeting – in our minds – race training groups. We didn’t chase teams in the first years but continued to develop so we would be suitable. Three years ago Sasha came by on a scouting trip and checked it out.”
It is the lodge – a 72 room series of wings just off Lake Ohau – that separates the resort from others in the area.
“New Zealand is in the middle of the ocean,” said Neilson, to no one’s surprise. “It really is a mountain range that pops out of the sea and rises right up. All of the snowfields have access roads 12 to 15 kilometers long. We are reasonably unique (to have a lodge on site). There is a great view of the main divide, some great lakes. On a clear day it is a sight to behold.”
Read more at SkiRacing.com.
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:29:07 +0000
Ted Shred Calls the 2015 Slalom Podium
While he may be Mr. GS, the back-to-back World Champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist knows a thing or two about the men’s slalom scene too. Here’s Shred’s call on who to watch next February.
Felix Neureuther (GER) – He wins a lot of slaloms, is an all around good guy and can flat out turn it on when it’s big. He’s bound to be world champ.
Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – He is the Olympic gold medalist from Sochi and basically a slalom podium guarantee every race.
Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – He’s super young and has already won an Olympic medal in slalom (bronze). He’s young and should only get better.
Mario Matt (AUT) – Plain and simply, he seems to get better with age.
Andre Myhre (SWE) – Andre is super fun to watch ski. He has amazing speed and versatility.
But don’t count out Ted. He’s been slapping the plastic all month in New Zealand and word on the street is “fast feet.”
Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:49:18 +0000
Athlete Q&A with Slalom Specialist Nolan Kasper
You were sick the last time you raced on Birds of Prey and finished just off the podium in fourth. What is it about racing on home snow that brings out great performances?
The best part about racing in the U.S. is being in a comfortable environment. The crowd there is always incredible too and that helps get you amped up to go fast.
Describe the Birds of Prey track as it relates to some of the other classic venues?
We haven't raced slalom at BOP besides a makeup race a few years ago so it's hard to compare it to other venues. It's probably most similar to Zagreb in difficulty. But it's not very hard after the first few gates, which means you have to attack the whole way.
You were top 15 at the Olympics, but know you have a lot more speed. Is there a specific peaking strategy you're using to prepare for 2015?
Nope, I go about my season the same way as usual. Work hard, stay focused and try not to let disappointing results change that.
New boards, how are they running?
I switched to Volkl skis and Lange boots this past spring. I'm really excited about being back in the Lange boots and have been very happy with the ski/boot combination so far.
It's been a rough road health wise the last few years, how are you feeling at this point in the prep period?
My body is feeling good right now. I just have to stay on top of the little injuries that pop up throughout the year so they don't turn into something bigger.
Any other thoughts racing the World Championships on home snow?
It's really exciting that a championship ski racing event is coming back to the U.S. Look out for Team USA in 2015
Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:39:29 +0000
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Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:46:35 +0000
1989 Gold Caps McKinney Career
It seems ironic that a ski racer who won 18 slalom and giant slalom World Cups in her career would reach a penultimate gold medal by virtue of a single downhill finish. That was the story of Tamara McKinney’s brilliant World Championship title in 1989 at Vail.
Throughout the ‘80s, McKinney stood out as one of ski racing’s biggest stars. After a podium finish in her very first World Cup in 1978 at the age of 17, she went on to win 18 World Cups – all slalom and giant slalom – and claimed three crystal globes. Her historic overall title in 1983 was the first for an American woman.
The drama of that 1983 World Cup overall crown played out in Vail. Earlier in the week, GS wins by teammate Phil Mahre in Aspen and then Vail had given him a third consecutive overall World Cup crown. Then, in a hard fought battle with her own teammate Cindy Nelson, McKinney claimed a GS win of her own in Vail and seemingly the title. But upon further review, it wasn’t quite enough to clinch. She would have to travel to Furano, Japan to seal the mathematics and take the overall title over Swiss Erika Hess, including a win in the final race of the season.
But her career had also been marked by injuries and tragedies, and just plain bad luck. Coming into the 1989 World Championships at Vail, in the twilight of her career, she was still looking for her first major Olympic or World Championship event win.
The U.S. Ski Team came into Vail on the heels of a medal-less Olympics in Calgary. After missing a medal in 1984 at Sarajevo by a single place, McKinney’s luck went south leading into Calgary, suffering a broken leg early in the season. While she came back to make the Olympic team, she failed to finish the GS or slalom.
Now, at the age of 26, the Kentucky-born skier from Squaw Valley was motivated to give it one more try to win a Championship title.
In a bit of unusual scheduling compared to today’s standards, the 1989 World Championships opened on Jan. 29 with the first half of the women’s combined – the slalom. The downhill was four days later.
McKinney took a huge first run lead over Swiss Vreni Schneider, but gave it up in the second with Schneider leading by .12. The more important data was the spread to the top downhillers – over two seconds to Austria’s Petra Kronberger and three back to Anita Wachter. Still, it would take a career best downhill from McKinney if she hoped to win.
McKinney’s career had been etched as a technical skier. She skied downhills as a part of combined and had achieved three World Cup downhill podiums -– the most recent five years earlier – and a pair of World Championship combined bronze medals. Still, it was a daunting task.
Race day dawned cold and windy. At nearby Beaver Creek, men’s downhill training was blown out that day. But the women were ready to race for gold down International in Vail.
McKinney watched and waited. As expected, Swiss Vreni Schneider kept her slalom lead followed closely by teammate Brigitte Oertli, rocketing into second from nearly four seconds back. Starting 16th, McKinney put her downhill poles over the start wand and pushed out – the final chance in her career to win a major title.
The eyes of America were on Tamara, arcing high speed turns in a bid for glory. “She had gold in her eyes when she sped past me,” said U.S. Ski Team Women’s Coach Paul Major. In the finish, the Swiss leaders held their breath – longing for silver and gold, but also knowing what this single run meant to McKinney.
McKinney had skied with confidence in the training runs leading up to race day. And while she lacked the experience of the Swiss and Austrian downhillers she faced that day, she skied with heart and pride in a final attempt to show that she was best in the world.
All down the course, McKinney’s split times told the story – she was in it, challenging Schneider at every interval. The noise from the American crowd was deafening. “I could hear the crowd all the way down,” she said in the finish.
As she crossed the finish line the clock told the story. Tamara McKinney was a World Champion. Despite the frostbite on her left foot from the Combined Slalom, the tears began to flow.
“Oh, my God,” she exclaimed. “I’m still trying to figure out what I did.” In an act of true sportsmanship, her rivals and fellow medalists Oertli and Schneider lifted McKinney on their shoulders. And there wasn’t an athlete in the finish that wasn’t sharing in the pride of Tamara McKinney – one of the greatest ski racers of all time.
McKinney went on to win bronze in the slalom to close out the 1989 Championships and her career. Today, the Hall of Famer looks back fondly on a star-studded career from her home near Lake Tahoe. Her trophy case displays a lifetime from the faded red ribbon and medal her mother saved for her since she won it at age four, to the gold and bronze medals McKinney won in Vail.
She remains very engaged in the sport as a coach and a parent, watching young daughter Francesca make her way up the ranks. And she carries with her the memory of that day in Vail when she became a World Champion.
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 21:53:15 +0000
Athlete Spotlight: Laurenne Ross
A talented musician as well as a ski racer, Laurenne Ross is a four-discipline threat both on and off the snow with incredible talent on violin, piano, guitar and vocals. After a slower than normal start to the 2014 season, Ross picked things up in the run up to the Olympics and then posted a season-best 11th in the Sochi downhill. With a World Cup podium under her belt and Olympic experience, Ross is looking to continue her success in 2015 with the highlight being the 2015 FIS Alpine World Championships at Vail/Beaver Creek.
Name: Laurenne Ross
Sport: Alpine skiing
How/when did you decide you wanted to compete: Around age six, when I raced down my first course
Biggest accomplishment in your career so far: 2nd place at the World Cup Downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Favorite moment from Sochi: Standing in the start gate on the first race of the Olympic series
Goals for next season: To stay healthy and happy, enjoy every moment I have on the snow, and compete at the highest level in all the World Cup speed races
Favorite snow destination: Mt. Bachelor, OR
Favorite non-snow destination: Pretty much anywhere in Spain
Favorite candy: Reese's cups or Snickers
If you weren't a professional athlete what would you be: A lifelong college student
If you could have dinner with one person dead or alive, who would it be: Bill Nye the Science Guy
One thing you can’t live without: Music
Favorite USSA athlete outside your sport: Kelly Clark
Advice to others who want to follow in your footsteps: Creative imperfection, observation, imagination, and passion can together generate potential and ideas you never imagined possible
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 19:48:24 +0000
Stacey Cook Helps Promote Olympic Values at 54th IOA in Greece
Winning is important, but respect for diversity is the true meaning of the Olympic Games.
That was the message at the 54th International Session of the International Olympic Academy (IOA) for Young Participants. In June, two hundred participants from 96 countries congregated in Ancient Olympia, Greece; among them was the U.S. Ski Team’s Stacey Cook.
The speed team veteran “took a chance,” not really knowing much about the program, hoping to take advantage of a summertime trip to Greece. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of her life, she said.
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 20:05:40 +0000
TAKE 5 with U.S. Ski Team’s Andrew Weibrecht
When our youth athletes strive to achieve their personal best, victory is won on and off the hill. Encouraging our kids to set individual goals and focus on maximum personal effort benefits both the player and the team – in a variety of ways.
Athletes who come to realize that personal development can be even more rewarding than a win are mastery-focused athletes who build the confidence and initiative needed to succeed – in sports and in life.
In our exclusive TAKE 5 interview, Andrew told us that he has always been “very aware” of personal bests and personal records.
“It is a little bit more difficult to quantify results in ski racing as you would in other sports, but I was always very focused on the quality of my performances and was definitely aware of the good versus bad,” said Andrew, who won a Silver Medal for the U.S. in Super G at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Andrew said that many of his personal records and goals have been “process-related” due to the nature of his chosen sport.
“They would often be more related to learning and becoming proficient at certain skills that then translated into better results,” said Andrew.
Coming off his success at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Andrew says his goals remain similarly structured and focused.
“My goals moving forward are very process-based,” said Andrew. “I’ve always felt that it is more important to look at the sport in this manner rather than just focus on the results, because with a sport like alpine skiing, you are not trying to necessarily “beat” another person as you would in, say, tennis.”
Andrew added that if he could encourage young skiers to focus on just one particular personal record or goal, it would be quite simple.
“I really believe that the result is generally the last thing that matters if at the end of the day you can truly feel as though you put your best effort forward,” said Andrew.
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Mon, 14 Jul 2014 15:10:31 +0000
Jules’ Women’s Downhill Gold Medal Picks
She may be one of the top contenders for gold, but four-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso knows who her top competition will be come February. Check out her top picks to contend for the Raptor downhill podium.
Lara Gut (SUI) - She is a technical risk taker and this is just her kind of hill. She proved she could ski this hill fast in last years World Cup test events and will be tough again.
Anna Fenninger (AUT) - Anna is coming off a strong season she will be gunning for medals in Beaver Creek. Her technical skills are also in the favor of this hill.
Lindsey Vonn (USA) - Lindsey will be looking for her home hill comeback after a couple of unlucky seasons off. She has the skills and the will power to leave it all on the hill.
Tina Weirather (LIE) – She skis great technically and on the gliding turns, so she will be able to pick up any time lost on the steep pitch. She also missed the Olympics so like Lindsey, will be extra motivated to lay down a fast run.
USA Girls - We will only have four starting spots, but you always have to root on your hometown heroes! We get to train on the hill before hand so all the U.S. ladies will have a good shot at doing well on the Raptor. In addition to Lindsey, Laurenne Ross, Stacey Cook, Jackie Wiles, Leanne Smith and Alice Mckennis will be in the hunt for a start.
And of course, I will be gunning for them all!!!
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 21:29:24 +0000
Raptor Downhill is the “Real Deal”
BEAVER CREEK, CO (July 7) – When Granite Stater Leanne Smith (N. Conway, NH) took her first lap on Raptor – the brand new Audi FIS Alpine World Cup women’s downhill and speed host for the 2015 World Championships – she knew right away it was the “real deal.”
“Our eyes were wide when we trained on it two years ago, but there was a lot more big eyes when we raced it last year,” said Smith. “This downhill is the real deal, but in a good way. I think it’s going to be one of the more popular downhill’s on the women’s World Cup tour.”
A perfect compliment to the men’s Birds of Prey race hill, but with it’s own unique DNA, Raptor utilized the natural terrain of Beaver Creek Resort to tap into every element of modern downhill racing.
“It starts with a cool gliding section and kinda lets you set up for what’s to come,” added Smith. “Which is to say the entire middle section where you’re basically never on a flat ski. It’s really important to know what it feels like in there because there's quick switches, off camber turns and it’s super steep in spots.”
Following the technical middle section, the course mellows out with more rhythm that allows the racer to focus on their tuck before diving over a huge jump toward the shared Red Tail finish.
“It’ll be a crowd pleaser, that’s for sure,” Smith said. “We know that when we get there for World Championships the snow is going to be firm and you have to be on top of your game. It's going to come at you quickly and you'll have to be really dynamic in your skiing.”
Smith, along teammates Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, CA), Laurenne Ross (Bend, OR) will have run the course more than a handful of times prior to the World Championships thanks to the World Cup test events and previous training camps.
But when the Champs open with women’s downhill training runs on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, it has the potential to be the first time down for Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) and St. Anton downhill winner Alice McKennis (Glenwood Springs, CO). For them, all three scheduled training runs will be critical.
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 21:14:33 +0000