Leanne Smith competes during the 2013 Audi Raptor FIS World Cup at Beaver Creek, CO. Raptor will be the women's downhill and speed host for the 2015 World Championships. (Photo: Grafton Smith)
BEAVER CREEK, CO (July 7) – When Granite Stater Leanne Smith (N. Conway, NH) took her first lap on Raptor – the brand new Audi FIS Alpine World Cup women’s downhill and speed host for the 2015 World Championships – she knew right away it was the “real deal.”
“Our eyes were wide when we trained on it two years ago, but there was a lot more big eyes when we raced it last year,” said Smith. “This downhill is the real deal, but in a good way. I think it’s going to be one of the more popular downhill’s on the women’s World Cup tour.”
A perfect compliment to the men’s Birds of Prey race hill, but with it’s own unique DNA, Raptor utilized the natural terrain of Beaver Creek Resort to tap into every element of modern downhill racing.
“It starts with a cool gliding section and kinda lets you set up for what’s to come,” added Smith. “Which is to say the entire middle section where you’re basically never on a flat ski. It’s really important to know what it feels like in there because there's quick switches, off camber turns and it’s super steep in spots.”
Following the technical middle section, the course mellows out with more rhythm that allows the racer to focus on their tuck before diving over a huge jump toward the shared Red Tail finish.
“It’ll be a crowd pleaser, that’s for sure,” Smith said. “We know that when we get there for World Championships the snow is going to be firm and you have to be on top of your game. It's going to come at you quickly and you'll have to be really dynamic in your skiing.”
Smith, along teammates Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, CA), Laurenne Ross (Bend, OR) will have run the course more than a handful of times prior to the World Championships thanks to the World Cup test events and previous training camps.
But when the Champs open with women’s downhill training runs on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, it has the potential to be the first time down for Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) and St. Anton downhill winner Alice McKennis (Glenwood Springs, CO). For them, all three scheduled training runs will be critical.