Times were dropping and the energy was building Thursday in Beaver Creek in anticipation of Friday's Audi Birds of Prey downhill featuring Lake Louise podium finisher Marco Sullivan and a recharged men's U.S. speed team.
Athletes and coaches across the board have lauded the Birds of Prey organizing committee and the 200-plus volunteer members prepping Talon Crew for producing what is being called the "world standard" for World Cup downhill.
"The snow conditions are the best in my memory," said Travis Ganong of Squaw Valley. "This is my fourth year here and this is the quickest the snow's been. The speed coming off the bottom here off of Harrier Jump and Red Tail Jump, we're going really fast. You can feel the speed down here. It's such a pleasure to race on a surface as perfect as this."
Sullivan, who recorded a third-place finish in the season-opening downhill this past Saturday in Lake Louise, agreed with his Squaw Valley protege.
"I heard a story that at the coach's meeting, (Chief World Cup Race Director for the men) Gunter Hujara got up and said this is how every World Cup track should be prepared, and a couple other Italian and European coaches got up and said that's absolutely true. I stand by that statement," he said.
Temperatures at Beaver Creek have been unseasonably warm, which could bode well for Ganong and Sullivan, who finished fourth and 18th, respectively, in Thursday's downhill training run. Sullivan, who said he's still a little tired from all the hoopla that followed his podium finish last weekend, called his training run "all right."
"Nothing special. Made a few mistakes," he told Tahoe resident and former Olympian Bob Ormsby, who is attending the Birds of Prey.
The marquee alpine weekend will air on usskiteam.com and NBC Sports Network. NBC will broadcast the downhill on Sunday at 10 a.m., followed by live coverage of the men's giant slalom on NBC Sports Network (former Versus) beginning at 11:35 a.m. Saturday's super G will air live on Universal Sports and at usskiteam.com at 10 a.m.
Aside from Sullivan and Ganong, American men in Friday's downhill will include Ted Ligety, Andrew Weibrecht, Steven Nyman, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, Wiley Maple and Tommy Biesemeyer.
Sullivan, Ganong, Ligety, Weibrecht, Cochran-Siegle, Biesemeyer, Jared Goldberg and Brennan Rubie will compete in the super G, and Ligety, Truckee High grad Tim Jitloff, Robby Kelley, Tommy Ford and two additional starters will race the giant slalom Sunday.
The complete Audi Birds of Prey schedule is available at www.bcworldcup.com.