There were a few questions to be answered heading into Sunday’s giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo. How would the new 30-meter skis fare? Would Ted Ligety be back after so long away from the top? Could Marcel Hirscher still be his dominant self four months after breaking his ankle?
The final race of the Birds of Prey weekend answered all these questions and more as Hirscher didn’t miss a beat en route to yet another World Cup giant slalom win, Ligety showed serious potential in his first healthy GS race in nearly two years, and the new skis provided an exciting, fast-paced spectacle for the throngs of fans in Beaver Creek.
“I have not expected this,” Hirscher said of his performance. “For sure, I know I can ski pretty good, but I need training as well. The last two weeks were really good. The team around me is always doing a great job and now I have teammates that are kicking my ass so it’s good to come pretty fast into shape but it’s not expected for sure.”
One thing that was apparent from the outset in run one was that the new men’s radius will allow for much more aggressive skiing. Racers were willing to take more risk knowing they have equipment that is considerably more forgiving of drastic recoveries than the cumbersome 35-meter skis of seasons past, which favored technical perfection over risk.
Styles varied from racer to racer with some opting for the more loopy Ligety-esque style that the American rode to so much success on the old skis. Others chose to ride the bad-boy line, risking it all in hopes of a big payoff in the finish. In the end, it was a mixed bag with both styles showing promise and no clear-cut fastest way to approach GS this season.
Following Hirscher in the standings was Norwegian wunderkind Henrik Kristoffersen who finished runner-up, 0.88 seconds back. German skier Stefan Luitz claimed Germany’s second podium in as many days in third after setting the pace in run one.
“It’s perfect,” the German shared after the race. “The speed guys had a podium and we had to do the same and I’m really happy to make the podium today. I really love Colorado skiing. The snow is so nice and so much fun to ski on.”
Sunday’s performance was especially sweet for Luitz as he found himself in a similar position after the fist run in the last Beaver Creek GS two years ago, but was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
“I remember two years ago I had a really good first run and was second but had a big mistake in the second run and went, like, 22nd place,” he remembered. “Today, with the lead, I tried to do not the same like two years ago. First run felt really nice, it was so much fun to ski and in the finish line I was a little bit afraid of the time because when it feels so good and so much fun, sometimes it’s really slow but the green light came up and I was so happy.”
American fans breathed a collective sigh of relief after a disappointing performance by the speed squad as Ligety and Tommy Ford both managed to land in the top ten with Ligety finishing in a solid 7th and Ford cracking the top 10 for the first time in his career in 10th, 1.36 and 1.94 seconds back, respectively. Ligety wowed fans with a first run that put him into second place, but he was unable to hold on in a tightly-packed second run.
“We’ve been training a bunch with the Germans and the French guys so I kind of knew where I was time-wise and I knew I was skiing pretty fast,” said Ligety. “I know the speed’s there but when you haven’t raced in a while and haven’t raced healthy in a couple of years it’s hard to have that tempo and that race attitude; it’s just something you have to readjust yourself to.”
“I’m feeling totally fine in my body,” he continued. “I feel like I’m skiing pretty well so I expected a lot more out of today, definitely a lot more bobbles than you can really get away with on this hill. Second run had some good turns here and there but way too many little mistakes for this kind of aggressive snow. It’s tough, on this hill with the aggressive snow if you have little slip-ups, they cost you a ton of speed and you just can’t get away with those.”
Ford, while excited for his career-best finish, admitted to having to make some adjustments to his skiing heading into race day as training on the perfect Colorado hero snow at the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain caused him to slip into some bad habits.
“Training at Copper is tough because it’s so aggressive; it’s hard to ski like you normally would, hard to get your skis up behind you and bring them through the turn whereas in any other snow you can do that,” Ford shared. “It’s sort of like cheating in Copper. We made some adjustments, driving the top of the turn more and getting my hips behind me and really getting the power out of it. That was much better skiing. That was going down the hill from top to bottom, it was cool to do some good arcs.”
If there was one take away from Sunday’s GS, it was that the 2017-18 GS season will be one to watch as racers continue to figure out technique, tactics, and equipment setup on the new skis. From a fan’s perspective, men’s GS just might be the most exciting event to watch this season. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the field deciphers Hirscher’s winning ways and challenges the Austrian for the top step of the podium.
The men’s tour now heads to Val d’Isere, France, for slalom and GS races De. 9-10.
Fans can stay up to date on World Cup by downloading the U.S. Ski Team – Ski Racing app for iOS and Android.
- Marcel Hirscher (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Stefan Luitz (GER) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Manuel Feller (AUT) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Justin Murisier (SUI) – Voelkl/Dalbello/Marker
- Loic Meillard (SUI) – Rossignol/Rossignol/Look
- Ted Ligety (USA) – Head/Head/Head
- Filip Zubcec (CRO) – Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
- Matts Olsson (SWE) – Head/Head/Head
- Tommy Ford (USA) – Head/Head/Head
|Rank||Bib||FIS Code||Name||Year||Nation||Run 1||Run 2||Total Time||Diff.||FIS Points||WC Points|
|15||9||990116||DE ALIPRANDINI Luca||1990||ITA||1:18.84||1:20.66||2:39.50||+2.20||13.71||16.00|
|22||6||421669||NESTVOLD-HAUGEN Leif Kristian||1987||NOR||1:19.56||1:20.54||2:40.10||+2.80||17.44||9.00|
|26||17||422139||KILDE Aleksander Aamodt||1992||NOR||1:19.01||1:22.84||2:41.85||+4.55||28.35||5.00|
|Did not finish 2nd run|
|Did not qualify for 2nd run|
|39||422112||PATRICKSSON Axel William||1992||NOR||1:21.46|
|Did not finish 1st run|
|Did not start 1st run|