We were told to party with the Austrians.
And while there are Austrians everywhere in Vail and Beaver Creek right now, the first two we met were all business.
Waiting in a short lift line during the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, we were joined by Otte and Matthias.
Bundled up in bright blue and green uniforms (why a country with a red and white flag wears Easter egg colors is another question), these two are rock stars in Europe. Fans might even maul them.
Getting on a lift with us, two North Americans whose most recent race experience includes gate keeping for 12 year-olds, they were safe – or so they thought.
“Your skis are quite different from mine,” I tried by way of an icebreaker.
“Yes,” Otte replied, ice intact, now rimed with awkwardness.
“Is the men’s downhill training still scheduled for 1:30?” my husband tried a few minutes later.
“It’s at 2:00,” replied Matthias. End of conversation.
Finally, with only a few lift poles to go, I jumped in. “Since we’ve shared a chair with you,” I blurted, “we’re going to cheer for you. What are your names and bib numbers?”
When they made the mistake of answering, I asked if I could take their photo. I like to think we parted as friends, although there would be no partying, at least not with us.
Later, during training we discovered we’d shared a lift with Matthias Mayer, the downhill gold medalist from Sochi and Otmar Striedinger, himself no stranger to the World Cup podium.
A Good Week for Austrians
The first week of the Vail Beaver Creek 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships has a been good one for Austrians, with Anna Fenninger winning the Women’s Super G and Hannes Reichelt winning the Men’s Super G (while U.S. favorite Bode Miller crashed, requiring surgery to repair a severed hamstring tendon).
For a while during the Women’s Downhill on Friday, the top three spots were held by Fenninger and two teammates. The final result kept Fenninger in Silver, while Tina Maze of Slovenia took Gold and Lara Gut of Switzerland won Bronze.
American fans turned out big time, cheering loudly for the U.S. Ski Team.
But for those loyal to red, white and blue, the skiing was more satisfying than the racing, while the Austrian parties, complete with countless steins of beer and oompah music, were closed.
We had to make do drinking beers in the hot tub with Argentines (actually, that’s a good combination).
A Good Week for Everyone
While the Austrians exhibited the most dominance and the highest profile in Beaver Creek during the first week, there were other notable triumphs.
Coming out of nowhere in the Men’s Super G, Canadian Dustin Cook passed higher seeds to secure a silver medal.
Slovenia’s Tina Maze won two medals taking 1st in the Downhill and second in Super G, while the Swiss team won a gold and bronze in Men’s Downhill and a bronze in Ladies’ Downhill.
Stacey Cook, a strong U.S. contender in the speed events, crashed in training, plowing through the B-net only to come back less than 24 hours later and compete with an injured arm and hand. Skiing through pain, she placed 19th out of 39 racers.
And while the Vail Valley crowd that turned out big time for Lindsey Vonn on Friday were hoping for a downhill medal, her 5th (just 1.05 second behind Maze) along with a bronze in Super G, keeps her squarely on track for a run at another overall World Cup title, despite recent injury and surgery.
Week Two Preview
With seven days remaining, the U.S. team is coming into some strong events, led by two popular skiers, Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety. The technical events begin on Thursday, February 12 with the Ladies’ Giant Slalom and Men’s GS Qualifier, continuing through the weekend, before closing with the Men’s Slalom on Sunday.
Shiffrin, who at 19 holds two World Cup Slalom titles and won her first World Cup Giant Slalom this season, is in the unique position of staying with her parents during the Championships.
When asked about the pressure of being a hometown favorite, Shiffrin admitted that she prefers to be an underdog, and as a favorite would have to “put my best skiing out there.”
“The past two weeks of training have been spectacular,” she added. “I like to think I have the capability to win two golds.”
When You Go…
If you can get to Beaver Creek this week, go. With new snow last week, the skiing is fantastic.
The weather across Colorado remains oddly spring-like, making for good spectating and there’s good energy everywhere, whether in Red Tail Finish Stadium or at the free concerts in Vail.
If you go, go early. The parking lots and free busses fill up fast and the stadium fills up faster (but you can always watch course-side).
Best of all the events are free, unlike in Europe where each event requires a ticket costing between 40-50 Euros.
And even if you can’t party with the Austrians, you can watch them party – for free.
More Ski Racing:
- The Ski Racing World is Coming to Vail. You Should Come, Too. January 14, 2015.
- How to Find a Junior Ski Racing Program, November 15, 2011.
- A Passion for Speed: Two Family Ski Racing Success Stories, November 9, 2010.
- Colorado’s Morris Sisters Reach for the Top in Ski Racing and Cycling, April 19, 2012.
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