FILE UNDER -- Alpine // Top Story

McKee's McThoughts: Don't need a weather man

Go the FIS website and pull up the alpine results page. There are 20 race sites listed there.

Let’s do my eighth grade teacher, Dr. Alice Hilton, proud and do some math.

Of those 20, Six have been canceled outright. Eight more indicate there have been “changes” to their schedules, which generally means races moved around by forces of nature. Of the remaining six, two are in North America in high altitude Colorado and high latitude Alaska. Of the remaining four, three are slalom only events; the shortest and therefore easiest discipline to pull off. The other is the World Cup at Val Gardena-Gröden and it is currently being documented the very good and well supplied organizers there have had their hands full preparing the Saslong. Not a pretty picture for those concerned about the future of the sport. I think we want the sport to continue for awhile.

Skiing is either trying to start its season too early, or global warming is very real. Either way it’s time we started paying attention and considering what might be humanly done. Might be a good focus area for FIS.

Given that slaloms still count and North America is still part of the program the FIS races getting held without severe weather challenges make up about 25percent of the schedule. That’s a minor league batting average. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the winds blows.

Heck of a start to the season for the US of A. Unprecedented in fact. I wish Paul Robbins, Don Metivier and Charlie Meyers were still among us. Not so they could have seen it, because I imagine that they did. I sure felt their presence at Beaver Creek. But more because I would love to read what they might have written and heard what they had to say to one another in the press room. It would have added to the euphoria.

That “Best in the World” vision initiated in 1997 (a year in which the US did not acquire one World Cup win) has lost its’ humor. When in December 2011 the storied Wall Street Journal asks if America is the new Austria, the phrase can no longer support jokes.

It has been the stars, thus far, who have made the big impact and attracted attention from media not routinely covering ski sport. Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller, Ted Ligety and Julia Mancuso have played their roles as well, or better, than we might have expected. More exciting I think is that through the first week of December 17 US alpine skiers have scored World Cup points. Eleven have placed in the top 10. That’s more than Switzerland, Italy or France. Austria has put 18 different skiers in the top 10 to date, so complacency should not be exercised. But Holy Cats folks, this hasn’t happened before. Skiers from other nations are watching video of our guys trying to figure out how they can be so fast. That didn’t happen in 1997.

Add to this Will Gregorak placing second in a Europa Cup slalom with a World Cup field, and Will Brandenburg registering the fastest time – before blowing out – in the first run of slalom at Beaver Creek. And lets not forget Mikaela Shiffrin. An eighth at Aspen for any 16 year old is all but unbelievable. … puts a smile on the face doesn’t it?

The pieces have been put in place to support this success. The Center of Excellence was a much criticized expense that is starting to appear well worth the cost. Our team is strong and well educated about all aspects of how their bodies work and what helps them work better. Our on-snow time is methodically spent. And if you don’t think the high altitude early season speed track at Copper Mountain isn’t going to help you just aren’t paying attention.

It’s the very beginning of a long, long, brutally difficult World Cup season. The indication so far is there may be many schedule changes to endure. There are numerous eggs to be hatched before we can count anything. But you can’t fault the start. Or the view of the future.

Hank McKee

Senior Editor

What do you think?


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