Leanne Smith grinds through the technical Raptor midsection during the 2013 super G test event (Getty Images/Doug Pensinger)
BEAVER CREEK, CO - Having the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in your backyard has its benefits. Just ask Olympic slalom gold medalist and World Champion Mikaela Shiffrin. The Eagle-Vail local hopped on Raptor for a few days of super G training in April with speed skiers Stacey Cook, Leanne Smith, Laurenne Ross.
While it’s not yet determined if Shiffrin will race super G or super combined at the Feb. 2-15 big show, she and her teammates certainly benefitted from bonus time on the World Champs slope.
“The extra time was huge,” said Cook, a three-time Olympian, who also trained on the venue in April of 2013. “The conditions in April where more similar to what we’ll see in February and I left the camp with a good feeling. I know that I can ski that hill fast. I’m excited to go back there.”
The key factor for the camps success – snow, and lots of it. According to Cook, Raptor is was a “technical masterpiece” during the November 2013 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup test events, but after a solid winter of snow in the Rockies, the terrain had filled out to allow more flow to the slope.
“It became more of a downhill,” said Cook. “If it runs in February like it ran during our training camp, it will be an amazing race with a lot of contenders. More snow definitely levels the playing field.”
Smith agrees, but felt the most critical factor for the team was simply more time on the course.
“The more time I get on that course, the less chance there is for curve balls to be thrown at me. It’s a bad-ass hill – the real deal – it’s not something you can get on once and feel comfortable,” said Smith. “We now know that when we go there for the World Championships the snow is going to be firm and you have to be on top of your game. You’re going to have to be really dynamic in your skiing because everything is going to come at you quickly.”
With luck the women’s team plans to gain a few more bonus laps on Raptor this December during a holiday camp before the slope closes completely for final preparation for the championships.