Beaver Creek Ski Resort will become a Mecca for ski racing fans this week when today through Sunday the resort hosts the 2005 Visa Birds of Prey Men's World Cup Race Week.
The 2005 Visa Birds of Prey features the world's elite ski racers, including Americans Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves. In 2004 the pair became the first teammates ever to finish 1 and 2 in any race, claiming gold and silver in the Super Giant Slalom at the Birds of Prey Race Week. Miller is also the defending World Cup Overall Champion.
Other notables among the field in Beaver Creek this week include members of the Austrian powerhouse the likes of Hermann Maier, Benjamin Raich and Michael Walchhofer. Walchhofer is the defending World Cup Downhill Champion, while Raich reigns as the World Cup Slalom and Giant Slalom Champion and Maier remains dangerous as a four-time World Cup Overall Champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist.
"This year's Visa Birds of Prey Race Week will take on even more significance," said Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz in a press release. "Beaver Creek will be the only pre-Olympic site that will feature all the top World Cup men's racers competing in all four disciplines. There will be no better preview of the 2006 Torino Olympic Games."
"Having Bode and Daron at the Visa Birds of Prey World Cup, coupled with an Olympic year will generate an incredible amount of excitement for both locals and guests," he stated.
The 2005 Visa Birds of Prey will feature all four disciplines of alpine ski racing: Slalom (SL), Giant Slalom (GS), Super Giant Slalom (Super G), and Downhill (DH). Slalom and Giant Slalom races have close gates and shorter lengths and are regarded as the more technical races of the four disciplines.
Super G and Downhill are speed events, with courses up to a mile and a half long. Gates are spaced further apart, and Super G and Downhill courses feature less turns, more straights and jumps where racers can take flight for 300 feet while 40 feet above the ground.
Slopes for the typical World Cup Downhill course usually begin with a gradient of 55 to 60 degrees, then smooth to 40 to 45 degrees by the bottom. Racers reach speeds of 30 to 50 mph for Slalom and GS races, while Super G and Downhill racers usually reach speeds of 90 to 95 mph.
"Spectators will see the speed and the air, and the feeling will be electric," said Birds of Prey World Cup Chief of Press John Dakin in a phone interview. "This course is one of the most exciting courses for Downhill and Super G in the world. It has everything: the speed, the jumps; this course is a wild ride for racers and fans."
Quoting Daron Rahlves, Dakin added "if you can't get amped to ski this, there's something wrong with you."
The 2005 Visa Birds of Prey, regarded as one of the top five ski racing venues in the world, marks the only U.S. stop of the Men's World Cup for the 2005-06 race season.
The 2005 Visa Birds of Prey kicks off today with the Super G at 11 a.m. Friday will feature the piece de resistance, the Downhill, at 11 a.m. Saturday will feature the two runs of the Giant Slalom at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with Sunday reserved for the two runs of the Slalom at 9:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Volunteer opportunities are available through the Vail Valley Foundation at (970) 949-1999 or www.vvf.org.