Snow forces changes to Alpine training at Whistler
February 10, 2010
WHISTLER, British Columbia – With a series of storm fronts rolling in off the Pacific, Vancouver Games men’s Alpine race officials pushed up the start of the first downhill training session on Wednesday in a bid to ensure this weekend’s opening race starts on schedule.
Team captains were formally informed of the decision by FIS race director Guenther Hujara on Tuesday after learning that as much eight inches of snow could fall at Whistler over the next three days. The training session will begin at 10:30 a.m. – up from 11:45 a.m. – because snow and fog are expected to limit visibility on the mountain early in the afternoon.
“You heard the weather report, and that’s why we discussed already what we could do earlier in the day,” Hujara said.
The weather is supposed to get worse, possibly wiping out training sessions on Thursday and Friday. The men’s downhill is scheduled for Saturday, a day after the games open.
Under Olympic rules, skiers must complete one test run before a competition can proceed.
The forecast, however, doesn’t look good for the weekend, as rain and snow are both projected to continue through Sunday.
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Mother Nature has dominated the conversation in the weeks leading up to the Olympics. While there might be too much snow in Whistler, there hasn’t been enough down south at Cypress Mountain, where freestyle skiing and snowboarding events will be held on the slopes overlooking Vancouver.
In examining the Dave Murray course at Whistler on Tuesday, Hujara described it to be in near perfect shape.
Race officials have been careful in preparing the course over the past month, including injecting the men’s run with water to harden the surface. Such a practice allows a course to better withstand warm weather and rain, and is not uncommon in international competition.
Critics, however, say courses injected with water can cause more skiers to fall. Lindsey Vonn fell during a giant slalom on such a course in Austria in December, leaving her arm in a sling.
FIS assistant race director Mike Kertesz said the injections have been done over the past month. The women’s downhill will be raced on Whistler’s Franz’s course, which has not been injected.
Having one downhill training run favors the Canadians, a team that’s trained extensively at Whistler and features two members, Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Robbie Dixon, who grew up skiing on the mountain. Osborne-Paradis, ranked fourth in the World Cup standings, is considered a favorite to win the downhill.
Canadian men’s coach Paul Kristofic expressed confidence his team will be ready.
“The weather’s not going to be an issue for us. We’ve had plenty of runs down this course,” Kristofic said. “The guys are pretty comfortable to let it rip at any moment. So one training run suits us just fine.”
U.S. men’s coach Sasha Rearick has four starting positions available for the downhill, two of which are locked up by Bode Miller and Andrew Weibrecht. Rearick said he’ll consider numerous factors – including training run performances – to determine who will fill the final two spots.
He all but ruled out Ted Ligety from competing in the downhill. Ligety, however, will train to prepare for the super G.