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#AmericanDownhillers Take on Birds of Prey

By Megan Harrod
December, 3 2015

BEAVER CREEK, CO (Dec. 3, 2015) – The sun has been shining on the famous Birds of Prey downhill track the last two days, but don’t be mistaken – it has been cold and the conditions have been perfect. With some of the steepest pitches, the most difficult terrain and the biggest air on the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup circuit, this course is tough.

Ask any nation and they’ll tell you they love it here at Birds of Prey. That buttery smooth, grippy Colorado snow makes the hill that much better – thanks, in part, to the Talon Crew. They’ve done an outstanding job preparing the course after Mother Nature dumped 21 inches of fresh snow over the last week. This is a world-class course crew, and they’re ready for some world-class ski racing to commence.

But before we dive into racing, remember that the team is on home turf and the guys have the opportunity to connect with their hometown fans and do things like school visits to nearby Homestake Peak School in Vail.

Bryce Bennett, Marco Sullivan and Nolan Kasper visited Homestake Peak School in Vail.

The pre-K to 8th graders oohed and aahed over the crashes and big air in the highlight reel as well as the advice Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA), Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, CA) and Nolan Kasper (Warren, VT) gave them. “Surround yourself with good people that can inspire you every day,” advised Sullivan. “I’m pulling for my teammates because when my teammates do well, it inspires me. We’re all we have over there. We’re a family. It’s us against Europe.”

Training run number one kicked off yesterday. Excitement was in the air as Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) was the POV forerunner, grabbing footage for Eurosport and NBC. Miller will be announcing this weekend for NBC, alongside Dan Hicks.

When asked about whether or not he’ll make a career out of it, Miller stated, “I am comfortable [with announcing for NBC]. I’ve done so much talking and I’m comfortable with my knowledge base on skiing, so there are no surprises there and nothing new for me. For me, whether I pursue it further would depend on how I felt about the relationship with Dan Hicks, and the banter. If it’s fun then I would do it. But it’s not really in me to do things that I don’t really enjoy and find exciting and fun. So if it’s work, then don’t expect to see me again.”

Bode Miller stands with his son after running the Birds of Prey downhill. 

The Attacking Viking, Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud came out on top, with Switzerland’s Carlo Janka in second followed by Germany’s Josef Ferstl in third. The top American was Steven Nyman (Sundance, UT) tied for 11th, with Jared Goldberg (Holladay, UT) in 26th, Bennett in 28th and Andrew Weibrecht in 29th.

Travis Ganong, who was third and fourth in the Lake Louise downhill and super G respectively, did some experimenting and ended up in 38th, but looks forward to Friday. “I’m feeling pretty good,” said Ganong. “This is our first look at the hill today, so it’s really important to check out the hill and see what the timing is like and build from there. I have high expectations, but I’m just going to focus on the little things and it will all take care of itself.”

So, why is this course so special? While standing in the finish, American Downhiller Nyman shared with journalists what he remembers most about this course after snagging third on this track last year. “It’s just always cool because you’re just flying, landing and gunning for the next jump,” said Nyman. “It’s just active movement the whole way down. That’s what I remember and what I always love, and what I’m excited to get back to here.”

Bryce Bennett took 28th in the Birds of Prey downhill. (Getty Images-Ezra Shaw)

Bennett came down with the largest smile on his face, and simply stated, “That was FUN. I LOVE downhill.” He, along with teammate Goldberg, have been putting some fast runs down, and Bennett has a good chance for a breakthrough performance this weekend.

Along with Friday’s opening downhill, Beaver Creek will play host to a super G on Saturday and GS on Sunday, where Ligety will be going for a historic six straight wins on the Birds of Prey GS track. Sit back and brace yourself for a wild ride down Birds of Prey.

Birds of Prey Starters
Michael Ankeny – GS
Bryce Bennett – DH, SG
Tommy Biesemeyer – SG
David Chodounsky – GS
Tommy Ford – SG, GS
Travis Ganong – DH, SG
Jared Goldberg – DH, SG
Tim Jitloff – SG, GS
Ted Ligety – SG, GS
Steven Nyman – DH, SG
Marco Sullivan – DH
Andrew Weibrecht – DH, SG, GS

Steven Nyman 
I’m comfortable here. It’s one of those courses where I’m really comfortable. And I just understand, and I know where to invest line and to gain. It’s just a joy to ski as well. What’s good is that we have speed. Travis got on the podium in Lake Louise. I had great training runs and I know I have speed. We’re training with the Norwegians and beating them in training, and knowing we’re right there…it’s cool. Obviously you’re here, home snow – you want to throw down, and do everything you can. And this is one of those tracks I know I can do well on, because I have three podiums here. It’s going to be fun.

Travis Ganong
This track is just really, really fun. Lots of nice terrain, and good, technical turns, so I can push harder and find speed and then carry that on on to the flats. That’s like my bread and butter – finding speed and then carrying that on to the flats. This hill is all about carrying speed from Pump House into the Brink and then down to the flats and all the way into the finish. Definitely looking forward to it.

2015 Birds of Prey Broadcast and Live Streaming Schedule (times EST)

Friday, Dec. 4
12:30 p.m. - Men's DH, Beaver Creek - NBCSN - LIVE
12:30 p.m. - Men's DH, Beaver Creek - NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM

Saturday, Dec. 5
1:00 p.m. - Men's SG, Beaver Creek - NBCSN - LIVE
1:00 p.m. - Men's SG, Beaver Creek - NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM

Sunday, Dec. 6
5:00 p.m. - Men's GS, Beaver Creek – NBC and NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM

Men’s downhill training, day one