2006-07 World Cup to award super combined crystal globeThe proposals for the 2007 alpine World Cup calendars, which will be discussed at the end of May at the FIS congress in Portugal, include several interesting points. A total of 78 events are planned for both women and men in a dozen countries from Oct. 28, 2006 (opening in Soelden, Austria) to March 18, 2007 (with the Finals at Lenzerheide, Switzerland).

Among the changes which may be introduced, a men's slalom in Levi, Finland, in mid-November, next to a women's race. Beaver Creek could host a downhill/slalom super combined at the end of November/early December instead of a super G, while Val d'Isere, France, may lose its very traditional downhill, which has been part of the World Cup tour since December 1969.

Alta Badia, Italy, which has organized a very spectacular giant slalom after the speed events at Val Gardena, Italy, since 1985, should also get a slalom earlier in the week (on Tuesday). A total of five super combineds are planned along with the traditional Hahnenkamm slalom at Kitzbuehel – and a crystal globe will be awarded in that event, as was the case in the 1980s.

On the women's circuit, Aspen is scheduled to host three races (super G, giant slalom and slalom) during the Thanksgiving weekend. The World Cup tour returns at the end of February to Sierra Nevada, Spain, where no World Cup races have taken place since the 1999 Finals.

Tarvisio, in the northeast of Italy, a few miles from Austria and Slovenia, will host its first World Cup races in March with a downhill, super G and super combined.

In 2008, the World Cup tour will return to Whistler Mountain, B.C., for pre-Olympics events in February, and St. Moritz, Switzerland, is a motivated candidate for the third super World Cup Finals since 2000, hosting alpine, nordic, snowboard and freestyle.

Goodbye champs
A lot of top champions will not compete next season, and some of them invited their colleagues to nice farewell parties in the weeks following the World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden.

At the end of March, Slovenia's Jure Kosir, one of the most spectacular slalom specialists in the 1990s, organized a pro-am race in Kranjska Gora attended by many of his former great rivals. More than 10,000 spectators watched the competition and a big concert took place in the evening. The 34-year-old Kosir, a bronze-medal winner at the 1994 Olympics, will be a busy man. Beside his family, he will also be busy working with some of his partners, as Rossignol and he will promote Kranjska Gora and the 'Hit-Casino' company owned by Las Vegas gambling giant Harrah's.

A week later, almost a thousand people – including stars such as Marc Girardelli, Bernhard Russi, Michael von Gruenigen, Pernilla Wiberg and Mexico's Hubertus von Hohenlohe – gathered in Davos to honor Switzerland's Paul Accola, the 1992 overall World Cup champion, who officially retired from ski racing at 38. Accola, who won his first Olympic medal in 1988 at Calgary (third in combined) left the World Cup tour in January 2005 after finishing 31st in downhill at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. A father of two kids, 'Pauli' was one of the best allrounders on the tour in the early 1990s before focusing on downhill and super G. He lost his momentum in 2002 after suffering a foot injury a few weeks before the start of the next season, losing the chance to compete in front of his fans at the 2003 worlds in St. Moritz. He worked out hard to come back but it was not enough. During the off-seasons, he spent most of his time working on his caterpillars or other industrial machines. In fact, Accola is considered one of the finest experts in this field. FIS downhill designer Bernhard Russi worked with him a few years ago building the start area of the men's downhill at St. Moritz.

Switzerland's Sonja Nef and Germany's Hilde Gerg were the stars of a huge and exclusive party hosted by Christoph Bronde, top manager at Volkl International, at Austria's Zuers am Arlberg. Among the guests who took part in a fun race were former overall champions Hanni Wenzel (and her young daughter Tina Weirather, who just won a gold medal at the recent junior worlds), Maria Walliser, Alexandra Meissnitzer, slalom world champion Frank Worndl and downhill Olympic champion Russi. Austria's Nicole Hosp was also present at the get-together.

Germany's Martina Ertl, who competed in more than 420 World Cup races in the last 15 years, invited her friends to a farewell bash this spring. Among the attendees was Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister, another great character of the World Cup circuit who decided to give up the scene. Italy's Kristian Ghedina attended some of these friendly meetings, which may influence his decision to leave the tour. The 37-year-old champion from Cortina d'Ampezzo hopes to receive a good offer from a strong team to start a new career in car racing. 'I still feel able to get onto the podium, but I'm tired of all the training and traveling' he said in March. 'I'm also not healthy enough to train as hard as I should during summertime. It would be nice to race a last year – yet just for fun!'

Soon to be ex-racers Daron Rahlves, Jean-Pierre Vidal and Lasse Kjus are also thinking about organizing a farewell party later on this spring.

Injury update
Some of the top champions of this season had no time to relax and rest in the days after the Finals. Skiers such as Anja Paerson, Antoine Deneriaz, Kalle Palander and Kjetil Andre Aamodt underwent medical treatment at the end of the season.

Paerson had successful knee surgery at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colorado, and she hopes to get back on her skis in the summer. Palander had knee surgery in Helsinki, Finland, after tearing his ACL during a crash in giant slalom at Are. After spending a few days in the hospital and at home, he moved to Croatia for rehab on the Adriatic shore where the Kostelic siblings like to rest. 'It's my first major injury and it's tough but I hope to be back in shape next fall – in time for my first World Cup slalom at Levi' he said after his operation.

Aamodt underwent a arthroscopic surgery for a minor knee injury that did not prevent him from winning another gold medal at the Torino Games. He was operated in Oslo, Norway, to repair damaged cartilage. He will rehabilitate the knee for a few weeks before resuming training later this spring.

Deneriaz endured a spectacular crash during his last downhill at Are. He recovered fairly well but suffered a bad infection during his stay at the hospital. 'It's tough, because he has to rest and take antibiotics instead of testing skis' explained his manager Ralph Krieger. 'Hopefully things will soon be better for him.'

Maier, Alphand bond
Luc Alphand remains profoundly in love in skiing and ski racing. He often returns to his skis after driving his fast cars.

The 1997 overall World Cup champion, who celebrated an amazing triumph this winter in the famous Rallye-Dakar with the official Mitsubishi team, aims to also excel at the legendary 25 Hours of Le Mans race in June (with a Corvette). In March, he won another big event in Argentina, the new Rallye-Raid World Cup competition.

In Verbier, he was able to race once more against his former colleague Hermann Maier during the famous High-5 Pro-Am event organized for the eighth time by Carlsberg. Top champions are invited to compete next to 250 'normal' skiers who have the opportunity to compare their skills to the talent of top athletes.

This year, Bruno Kernen and Didier Defago from Switzerland, Tanja Poutiainen from Finland and Jessica Lindell Vikarby from Sweden competed in tha
t event next to Alphand and Maier.

The Austrian was happy to spend two days in the Swiss Alps before enjoying deserved holidays and he signed numerous autographs to the fans along the courses on which several races were held – a giant slalom, a parallel race, a speed test and a skier-cross.

Maier, who won his first World Cup race in Garmisch in February 1997 a day after Alphand's last triumph, was pleased to talk with the Frenchman. 'He was a great skier who developed a very smooth and efficient technique in downhill, and he achieved great performances in car racing during the last years' Maier said. 'I also hope to compete once in such a adventurous rally, but not in a car but on a motorcycle. Car racing is too easy and too boring – motorcycling is the real stuff.'

The skier from Flachau may have to wait a few more years – he is not sure yet about ending his career at the end of next winter. 'I'm having fun, ski racing is exciting and I'm still pretty good, no?' he told the press in Verbier. 'I'm proud to have won in three specialties this season and to have collected two medals at the Olympics eight years after the 1998 Games. I'm 33 but I only raced eight years on the World Cup tour because of my accident. I still feel more in me. I think it's better not to set any precise deadline and just keep on racing as long as I enjoy it.'

A fifth overall World Cup win (tying Marc Girardelli) and more gold medals at the Are World Championships could be some of his goals in the coming winter.

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