Saturday, February 2, 2002
Q. Alpine equipment has changed drastically since the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. How have the new, shorter skis transformed the Alpine events and how does that translate into what sports fans will see on their television screens? How can discerning Olympic viewers pick up the difference the skis have made?
A. The skis have gotten much shorter, with much more drastic side cut. In other words, much more width difference along the ski. What that does is, the short ski is easier to maneuver, but it also makes it more difficult to balance on. When the side cut is so exaggerated, when you put the ski on edge, it bends in a very drastic arc. Therefore you can turn much sharper without skidding. When the ski rebounds, it's like a bow shooting an arrow and it will almost flip you backward. These new skis are very difficult to balance on, and therefore you should see many falls. Bode Miller has got this figured out quite well, pushes it right to the limit and almost over the edge. I think it will work for him; he could win the gold medal in slalom.
Q. Are there technique improvements that recreational skiers can bring to their own skiing, just by noticing the tendencies of World Cup skiers?
A. Watch the racers and the bump skiers stand in the starting gate. They keep their feet apart, knees bent and hands out so they have muscle memory for that position on the way down. Therefore they have better balance, better edging and they can move their hands around like a tightrope walker to keep their balance. In the giant slalom, watch for round turns, no skidding. Even though giant slalom skiers are going much faster, 40 to 50 mph, recreational skiers should try to make that same kind of turn round smooth turns where their skis curve. In slalom and the bumps, watch the pole plant. That's the timing device that starts the turn. Racers always start the turn with a pole plant it's like turn signals on your car. Plant your pole, and make your turn. If you want to turn faster, plant your poles faster.
Q. Have you had a chance to form impressions of the different Olympic Alpine skiing venues? We understand the first 400 meters of the men's downhill course is a scary freefall.
A. I was over there last week and skied on all of the Alpine courses. The downhill is most interesting. On the men's downhill course, you stand in the starting gate and when you push out, within about six seconds you're going 80 miles an hour. Then it gets really interesting from there on. Within about 10 seconds you go off a bump, fly about 180 feet through the air while you're making a left turn, and then into a really tight compression turn. It's got compression turns, bumps, jumps, ice, fall away blind turns everything is really fast and furious all the way down. Then you come over the last jump, the Buffalo Jump. You make a really sharp fall away right turn and left turn, and then you get in your tuck and really pick up speed. The speed across the finish line will be right around 90 mph. Maybe a little more than that. It's still not over. You've still got to come to a stop, so you're doing your finish line interview in something other than a prone position. It's going to be a fascinating downhill.
Q. You stay current with World Cup skiers are there any dark horses who have a chance to come out of nowhere to grab Olympic glory? Care to make any predictions?
A. Unlike in ice skating, or running a 100-yard dash, dark horses can come out of nowhere in skiing and have a really good day. But I don't think it's just luck. Some people really perform well under the pressure of a one-time chance in the Olympics. Fortunately several of the U.S. Ski Team members have competed (in the Olympics) before this and they know what it's like. Shannon Dunn in snowboarding, for example.
Bode Miller and Kristina Koznick could win gold medals in slalom. In the GS, Bode Miller and Erik Schlopy could win gold medals.
In the downhill, Picabo could surprise everyone. She won the last race last year on that downhill at Snow Basin.
Darren Rahlves, because he won the world championship at St. Anton last year, could be one of the favorites in downhill and super-G. In the combined, I think Caroline Lalive could win. In the moguls, Ann Battelle and Jonny Moseley and in the aerials Eric Bergoust defending his gold medal.
Q. As someone who has probably attended every Winter Olympics in 30 years, what are you looking forward to?
A. I will be acting as an Olympic host at our sister resort, The Canyons. The Canyons is an outstanding area. It's a lot like Steamboat well-groomed intermediate runs, but enough steeps and trees and lots of powder to make it really interesting. So I'm really happy to go over there and ski a place a lot like Steamboat and call it work during the Olympics. We'll be doing a number of different corporate outings.
I encourage everyone to go over and cheer our Steamboat athletes. There are still tickets and there is still housing. There could be some exciting times with people like Todd Lodwick and Billy Demong possibly winning unprecedented gold medals, as well as several of our other athletes who could do well.