Searching for Speed in Val d’Isere and Val Gardena
The FIS Alpine Ski World Cup “White Circus” speeds on to the second leg of its tour this weekend in Val d’Isere, France for the women and Val Gardena, Italy for the men. Though weather has presented a challenge on both sides, let’s hope things calm a bit for the weekend so the athletes can show what they’ve been working on all prep period. Now’s the time. We’re on the #RoadToPyeongChang after all.
Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colo.) arrived in Val d’Isere feeling and looking like an entirely new woman after suffering from a back injury during the super-G at St. Moritz, Switzerland last weekend. In an interview with NBCSN, she said, “I know my skiing is solid and I'm looking forward to putting it all together on race day.” She’s not thinking about the pain, but rather noted she just needs to keep her back loose and prepare for race day. Along with Vonn, Laurenne Ross (Bend, Ore.) looks to progress in her return from a knee injury at the end of last season and find the confidence to “send it” this weekend in Val d’Isere. She’ll be doing it in front of her father, who came to watch her race. Vonn’s father, Alan Kildow, also came to cheer on his daughter.
The women’s speed squad is deep and on any given day, any of these women are podium potential athletes. Watch them do something special this weekend—that is, if the weather gods are watching over them. Cross your fingers and hope these athletes can win a Val d'Isere cow and some local Beaufort cheese.
From volleyball to dance shenanigans, and shopping to the annual White Elephant gift exchange—a tradition started long ago by head coach and resident Santa Claus Chip White—the week has been full of holiday cheer and good vibes. And on Thursday, Vonn took time to wish one of her biggest fans, named Hedda, a very happy birthday. Hedda has been battling cancer for the past few years and is one of the biggest fighters the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team has ever encountered. We hope you join us in wishing Hedda a happy 15th birthday.
Over in Italy, the men are enjoying the most white and wintry Saslong classic downhill in years. It’s a vision of angelic epic proportions in the Dolomites at the moments. And even that seems to be an understatement. With the Saslong towering over the track, it offers some of the most surreal views on tour…and the American Downhillers simply love it.
Earlier in the week, the American Downhillers attended a cooking class at the team hotel on their day off, learning the secrets to their lasagna. It must have helped, seeing as though the first training run saw Jared Goldberg (Holladay, Utah) setting the pace, followed by Wiley Maple (Aspen, Colo.) in second and Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, Calif.) in ninth. The second training run wasn’t much different, with Maple in 10th and Bennett in 13th. They’re feeling good and ready to rock.
Much of that confidence comes from the man at the helm, John “Johno” McBride, who also hails from Aspen and was a longtime coach of the U.S. Ski Team in the Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves era. No doubt his renegade style has made a difference with the team this season. Is he surprised about the downhill training results? Nope.
“I think we’re good,” he said on Thursday. “It was kind of a funky day today. But I think everyone is in a good place. Conditions on the track are good—fog was in and out today, which made for a long day of training. But overall, the track is good.” The boys are ready. And the American Downhillers will be led by veteran and three-time Olympian Steven Nyman (Sundance, Utah). For the first time since he blew his knee last January, he’ll be racing. He’s been missed, and no doubt his leadership will lift the rest of the crew. He has that special kind of effect. It also helps that Nyman has snagged his three World Cup victories on the Saslong, earning him the much-deserved title of “King of the Saslong.” Welcome back, Steven. #BelieveInSteven, right?!
From there, Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) will lead the tech men into battle at Alta Badia, where Ligety has won twice and Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.) and Tim Jitloff (Reno, Nev.) have also grabbed some of their best results.
Steve Schlanger and U.S. Ski Team alumni Steve Porino and Doug Lewis will call the action in the coming days. See who to watch and where to catch all the action below.
Val d’Isere (downhill and super-G)
Val Gardena (downhill and super-G)
Alta Badia (giant slalom)
HOW TO WATCH (times ET)
Friday, December 15
6:00 a.m. – Men’s super-G; Val Gardena – Olympic Channel TV
Saturday, December 16
4:30 a.m. – Women’s downhill; Val d’Isere – Olympic Channel TV
6:00 a.m. – Men’s downhill; Val Gardena – Olympic Channel TV
5:00 p.m. – Women’s downhill; Val d’Isere – NBCSN (same day delay)
6:00 p.m. – Men’s downhill; Val Gardena – NBCSN (same day delay)
Sunday, December 17
3:30 a.m. – Men’s giant slalom run 1; Alta Badia – olympicchannel.com
3:30 a.m. – Women’s super-G; Val d’Isere – Olympic Channel TV
6:00 a.m. – Men’s giant slalom run 2; Alta Badia – Olympic Channel TV
3:30 a.m. – Women’s super-G; Val d’Isere – NBCSN (same day delay)