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U.S. Athletes Competing Around The Globe: Dec. 7-10

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
December, 6 2017
Toyota Grand Prix Copper Mountain

U.S. Ski and Snowboard athletes posted some remarkable results last weekend as Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, Colo.) continued to establish herself as one of the most dominant athletes in any sport in the world, landing two downhill podiums, including her first win, in Lake Louise, Canada. Sadie Bjornsen (Anchorage, Alaska) skied to another podium finish in a classic sprint in Lillehammer, Norway, and the U.S. Ski Team men’s alpine athletes took to the famed Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek, where Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) led the charge in giant slalom and Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.) skied to his first top-10 World Cup finish.

More top results will be accomplished this week as U.S. Ski and Snowboard athletes compete around the world, including the first stop of the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix, which also serves the  first Olympic qualification event of the season for members of the U.S. Freeski and Snowboard Teams. All the action will be either streamed or broadcast LIVE, or same-day coverage, on the Olympic Channel - Home of Team USA - or on the networks of NBC Friday through Sunday.

Toyota U.S. Grand Prix - Copper Mountain, Colo.
The ride to PyeongChang for the U.S. Freeski and Snowboard Teams continues this week with the first Toyota U.S. Grand Prix of the 2017-18 season at Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado. U.S. athletes who land podium spots in halfpipe skiing, halfpipe snowboarding and big air snowboarding competitions will be one step closer to making their respective 2018 Olympic teams. Halfpipe skiing finals will take place on Friday, followed by halfpipe snowboarding finals on Saturday and big air snowboarding finals on Sunday. The U.S. has a strong contingent of athletes expected to compete, including Chloe Kim (San Clemente, Calif.), Jamie Anderson (S. Lake Tahoe, Calif.) and Gus Kenworthy (Telluride, Colo.).

FIS Women’s Ski World Cup - St. Moritz, SUI
The U.S. Alpine Ski Team women head to Europe for an action-packed weekend in St. Mortiz, featuring an alpine combined event Friday, and a pair of super-G races Saturday and Sunday. Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colo.) are among the athletes expected to race in an action-packed weekend that will attract millions of viewers worldwide.

FIS Men’s Ski World Cup - Val d’Isere, FRA
The U.S. Ski Team men’s alpine tech group, including Ligety and Ford, will race giant slalom Saturday and slalom Sunday.

FIS Freestyle World Cup - Ruka, FIN
The U.S. Ski Team moguls athletes kick off their World Cup season this weekend with a moguls competition in the winter wonderland of Ruka, Finland. The U.S. is starting six men and six women who will all have a chance to secure a top result in the first of seven competitions being considered in selection for the 2018 Olympic team.

FIS Freestyle World Cup - Val Thorens, FRA
The ski cross World Cup tour opens with a two-race weekend in Val Thorens Thursday and Saturday. U.S. athletes Tania Prymak (Goshen, N.Y.), Tyler Wallasch (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.), Whitney Gardner (S. Lake Tahoe, Calif.) and Brant Crossan (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) will be competing. Crossan was fifth in Tuesday’s training runs.

FIS Cross Country World Cup - Davos, SUI
The U.S. Cross Country Ski Team will join their alpine teammates in Switzerland for a weekend of freestyle races. Freestyle sprints will take place Saturday, followed by a 10k freestyle for the women and a 15k freestyle for the men on Sunday. Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN), who finished a pair of top-five results in Davos last year, will be on the hunt for her first podium of the season.

FIS Ski Jumping World Cup - Titisee-Neustadt, GER
Will Rhoads (Park City, Utah) is coming off a strong weekend of competition where he placed 21st in a World Cup in Russia, a personal best, and the best result for an American athlete on the men’s World Cup since 2003. Rhoads will be joined by USA Nordic Teammates Kevin Bickner (Wacounda, Ill.) and Michael Glasder (Cary, Ill.) for another weekend of ski jumping action Friday through Sunday.

All times EST
*schedules subject to change

Dec. 8
1:00 p.m. – Halfpipe skiing finals –

Dec. 9
1:00 p.m. – Halfpipe snowboarding finals –
4:00 p.m. – Halfpipe snowboarding finals – NBC (same day delay)

Dec. 10
1:00 p.m. – Big air snowboarding finals –
1:00 p.m. – Halfpipe skiing finals – NBC (next day delay)
8:00 p.m. – Big air snowboarding finals – NBCSN (same day delay)

Dec. 8
4:00 a.m. – Women’s combined/super-G; St. Moritz –
7:00 a.m. – Women’s combined/slalom; St. Moritz –
8:00 a.m. – Women’s combined; St. Moritz – Olympic Channel TV (same day delay)

Dec. 9
3:30 a.m. – Men’s giant slalom run 1; Val d’Isere –
4:45 a.m. – Women’s super-G; St. Mortiz –
6:30 a.m.  – Men’s giant slalom run 2; Val d’Isere – Olympic Channel TV
7:30 a.m.  – Women’s super-G; St. Moritz – Olympic Channel TV (same day delay)

Dec. 10
3:30 a.m. – Men’s slalom run 1; Val d’Isere –
4:30 a.m. – Women’s super-G; St. Mortiz – Olympic Channel TV
6:00 a.m. – Men’s slalom run 2; Val d’Isere –  Olympic Channel TV

Dec. 7
5:30 a.m. – Men’s and women’s ski cross; Val Thorens –

Dec. 9
7:30 a.m. – Men’s and women’s ski cross; Val Thorens –
9:30 a.m. – Men’s and women’s moguls; Ruka –
11:00 a.m. – Men’s and women’s moguls; Ruka – Olympic Channel TV (same day delay)

Dec. 9
7:15 a.m. – Men’s and women’s freestyle sprint –
10:00 a.m. – Men’s and women’s freestyle sprint – Olympic Channel TV (same day delay)

Dec. 10
5:30 a.m. – Women’s 10k freestyle –
7:45 a.m. – Men’s 15k freestyle –
1:00 p.m. – Women’s 10k freestyle –Olympic Channel TV (same day delay)

Dec. 8
6:00 a.m. – Men’s HS142 qualifications –

Dec. 9
10:00 a.m. – Men’s Team HS142 –
6:00 p.m. – Men’s Team HS142  – Olympic Channel TV (same day delay)

Dec. 10
7:45 a.m. – Men’s HS142 –
7:30 p.m. – Men’s HS142 – Olympic Channel TV (same day delay)

U.S. Ski & Snowboard Statement on IOC Decision

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
December, 5 2017

The following is a statement from U.S. Ski & Snowboard President and CEO Tiger Shaw regarding the IOC decision on Russia participation in the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018:

 "U.S. Ski & Snowboard applauds the decision of the IOC today as it demonstrates a strong commitment to the importance of clean sport and the support of clean athletes. On behalf of our athletes, we have a fundamental obligation to fight for fairness in sport, to advocate for the health and welfare of athletes and to protect the image of our sport. Now we look to the International Ski Federation (FIS) to hold a FIS Council meeting to review the IOC’s decision and related evidence to consider its impact on the Russian Ski Association, its FIS committee members, officials and athletes." 

Toyota U.S. Grand Prix Kicks Off at Copper Mountain

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
December, 5 2017

COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. (Dec. 5, 2017) – The ride to PyeongChang for the U.S. Freeski and Snowboard Teams continues this week with the first Toyota U.S. Grand Prix of the 2017-18 season at Copper Mountain Resort. U.S. athletes who land podium spots in halfpipe skiing, halfpipe snowboarding and big air snowboarding competitions will be one step closer to making their respective Olympic teams.

Skiers will take to Copper’s Main Vein halfpipe on Friday, Dec. 8 for their second of five Olympic qualifying events. The U.S. Freeski Team expects to have more than 25 athletes competing in Copper along with a strong international field. Olympic Champion Maddie Bowman (S. Lake Tahoe, Calif.), Olympic silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (Telluride, Colo.), Torin Yater-Wallace (Basalt, Colo.) and Taylor Seaton (Avon, Colo.) all landed podium spots at the first qualifying event last season in Mammoth Mountain, California. They will be back for more in Copper along with U.S. stars David Wise (Reno, Nev.), Devin Logan (West Dover, Vt.) and Aaron Blunck (Crested Butte, Colo.).

“I’m excited to start off a crazy year of competition at Copper Mountain,” said Yater-Wallace. “They’ve done a great job preparing the halfpipe given that there’s been almost no snow in November, so I’m feeling fortunate to have an opportunity to ski and compete with my friends. It's going to take some great skiing to do well with the international field that's headed to Copper, especially with it being a World Cup and a U.S. Olympic qualification event."

Copper will be the first of four qualifying events for U.S. Snowboard Team halfpipe riders. After being too young to attempt to qualify in 2014, 17-year-old Chloe Kim (La Palma, Calif.) is in the hunt for a top result to begin the journey to her first Olympic Winter Games, while three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark (West Dover, Vt.) is looking to make her fifth Olympic team. On the men’s side, two-time Olympic champion Shaun White (Carlsbad, Calif.) is expected to compete against a stacked field that includes fellow U.S. athletes Chase Josey (Sun Valley, Idaho) and Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) as well as Australia’s Scotty James and Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov. Finals will take place on Saturday, Dec. 9.

The weekend wraps up with big air snowboarding finals on Sunday, Dec. 10. After a successful inaugural competition last season, Copper is once again pulling out all the stops for a world-class big air venue right in the resort village. Sunday’s event is the second of five Olympic qualifying competitions for U.S. slopestyle/big air riders. Jamie Anderson (S. Lake Tahoe, Calif.), Hailey Langland (San Clemente, Calif.), Julia Marino (Westport, Conn.), Red Gerard (Silverthorne, Colo.) and Kyle Mack (West Bloomfield, Mich.) will be looking to add more top finishes after claiming podium spots at the first qualifying event in Mammoth last season. Ryan Stassel (Anchorage, Alaska) and Chris Corning (Silverthorne, Colo.) are also in the hunt.

“The more big air events I enter the more stoked I am to do them,” said Gerard. “Coming off a podium sweep in Milan with Kyle [Mack] and Chris [Corning], I’m pretty fired up to go to Copper for the only big air Olympic qualifier of the season. I think the format, in which you have to qualify in slopestyle as well as big air, is super key as it makes the overall best riders get the results they need to go to Korea. I got to ride a ton this fall and I’m stoked now to get into the real winter, to ride, compete and film.”

NBC Sports Group will feature comprehensive coverage of the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain with shows airing on NBC, NBC Sports Network, The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, and streaming on For additional event information, visit

Event Schedule
*subject to change

Dec. 6: Halfpipe skiing qualifications
Dec. 7: Halfpipe snowboarding qualifications
Dec. 8: Halfpipe skiing finals + big air snowboarding qualifications
Dec. 9: Halfpipe snowboarding finals
Dec. 10: Big air snowboarding finals

Broadcast and Streaming Schedule (times EST)
*subject to change
Dec. 8
1 p.m. – Halfpipe skiing finals –

Dec. 9
1 p.m. – Halfpipe snowboarding finals –
4 p.m. – Halfpipe snowboarding finals – NBC

Dec. 10
1 p.m. – Big air snowboarding finals –
1 p.m. – Halfpipe skiing finals – NBC
8 p.m. – Big air snowboarding finals – NBCSN

Ligety Seventh in Beaver Creek GS

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
December, 3 2017
Ted Ligety Beaver Creek 12-3-17

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (Dec. 3, 2017) – The fans at Beaver Creek were happy to cheer Ted Ligety’s return to giant slalom racing on the FIS Ski World Cup circuit Sunday, but Ligety was disappointed he didn’t deliver on one of his favorite tracks for the home crowd.

“I love racing here, this is one of my favorite hills, and that’s a big reason why I’m disappointed with seventh place today,” Ligety said. “It’s far and away the worst finish I’ve ever had at Beaver Creek.”

Competing in his first World Cup giant slalom in almost a year, Ligety (Park City, Utah) led the U.S. Ski Team alpine racers in seventh. Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.), starting bib 24, posted his first top-10 World Cup finish in 10th. Marcel Hirscher of Austria, the six-time overall World Cup champion, took the victory Sunday. Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen was second and Germany’s Stefan Luitz was third.

Ligety finished second in the first run and was well positioned to challenge for his sixth giant slalom victory on the grippy Birds of Prey course. But one too many errors in the second run opened the door for the rest of the field.

“First run didn’t feel great, but I was in there and had some turns,” Ligety said. “The second run, I had some good turns here and there, but way too many little mistakes for this kind of aggressive snow.”

Meanwhile, Ford occupied the hot seat for quite a while - posting the 10th-fastest second run time - as a number of racers failed to unseat him.

“I was going down the hill from top to bottom and it was cool to do some good arcs,” Ford said. “The snow is awesome, so everyone is skiing well, and that’s what makes (this hill) challenging.”

The men’s World Cup circuit returns to Europe with slalom and giant slalom races in Val d’Isere, France Dec. 9-10, followed by super-G and downhill in Val Gardena, Italy, Dec. 15-16.

Men’s Giant Slalom

Another Top Result for Shiffrin in Lake Louise

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
December, 3 2017
Mikaela Shiffrin Lake Louise super G

LAKE LOUSE, AB (Dec. 3, 2017) – Fresh off her two downhill podium performances, Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, Colo.) continued to prove she is the best skier in the world, finishing fifth in the super-G Sunday at Lake Louise and building upon her overall World Cup lead.

“It was a very, very great weekend,” said Shiffrin, who has finished in the top five of all seven World Cup races so far this season. She extended her overall World Cup lead over Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, who finished 13th Sunday, to 174 points. “I had a pretty big mistake in the middle section, and a couple spots where I felt like I wasn’t so clean, but with that in mind, to come in fifth place is very satisfying.”

Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein took her sixth career World Cup super-G victory Sunday. Swiss Lara Gut proved she has rebounded from last season’s knee injury, finishing second, and Austria’s Nicole Schmidhofer jumped on the podium for the third time in her career, finishing third.

Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colo.) leaned in and slid out, DNFing for the second time this weekend at Lake Louise. Breezy Johnson (Jackson Hole, Wyo.) rebounded from her DNF in Saturday’s downhill to finish 25th. Alice McKennis (New Castle, Colo.) was 29th. Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, Calif.) was 35th and Alice Merryweather (Hingham, Mass.) was 40th.

“I have to say it’s really, really exciting to race in speed (events) … the biggest thing for me these last few days has been to find the mentality that I can be aggressive and let it go at the same time,” said Shiffrin. “Otherwise, I’m always thinking ‘Oh, I can’t wait to race slalom and GS again!’”

The women’s World Cup tour moves back to Europe with super-G and alpine combined events at St. Moritz, Switzerland, Dec. 8-10. Shiffrin gets her chance to race slalom and giant slalom again in Courchevel, France, Dec. 19-20.

Women’s super-G

Personal Bests for USA in Skiathlon

By Tom Kelly
December, 3 2017
Jessie Diggins

LILLEHAMMER, Norway (Dec. 3, 2017) - Weekend two of the FIS Cross Country World Cup wrapped up Sunday in Lillehammer with a series of career bests for the U.S. Ski Team led by Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) finishing fifth in a skiathlon. Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) continued her strong season in 10th while brother Erik had a personal best in the men’s race at 20th.

Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won his fifth straight race to remain unbeaten, while Charlotte Kalla of Sweden took a solid victory for the women. Skiathlon is a unique event combining classic technique for the first half, a pit stop to change skis then a final segment of freestyle technique. The discipline is an Olympic event, with Diggins checking off another top-eight Olympic qualifying finish.

Diggins started out the classic segment in the back of the chase group, working her way up by the midway point of the 7.5k leg to battle for third. She made the turn into freestyle in third, just ahead of Finland’s Krista Parmakoski but 21 seconds behind the battle between Kalla and Norway’s Heidi Weng.

In the skate leg, Norway’s Magnhild Haga burst out of the chase pack to put herself into third. Diggins stayed with the chase group, with Norway’s Marit Bjoergen bursting out into fourth while Diggins held the others at bay to claim fifth.

“I was really happy with today,” said Diggins. “Our classic skis were amazing and I think that’s the smoothest and strongest I’ve ever classic skied yet! In the skate I felt good and am still working on building my top race gear as we get into the season.”

The classic performance of the team continued to be a major storyline, especially with the strength shown by Diggins. Sadie Bjornsen, who has been a strong classic skier and is now elevating herself up in the rankings, hung in the middle of the chase group much of the race to finish 10th. It was a career best for her in the Olympic skiathlon distance. 

“Another great day in Lillehammer for me,” said Bjornsen, who was third in the classic sprint on Saturday. “The race started with a nice fiery hot pace, as the girls took off super hard from the line. I tend to prefer classic skiing, so I wanted to try to stay in contact during the classic section, and hold on for the skate portion of today's race.”

The closure was rugged with four trips up a huge climb. “I knew I didn't want to redline too early on, but keep some control for the skating section of the race,” added Bjornsen. “I struggled at the beginning of the race to set in with the hot pace, but managed to find my gears by the end.”

Bjornsen struggled to find the gears at the start of the skate leg but got back on track.

Sadie’s brother Erik had a career best day in the men’s 15k/15k finishing 20th - his first World Cup points in skiathlon. Noah Hoffman (Aspen, Colo.) was also in the points. Hoffman had finished top-10 in the Olympic test event skiathlon.

"I’m very happy with today's result," said Erik Bjornsen. "It was fun last weekend to feel like I was in the mix for both sprinting and distance skiing. After missing out on the heats yesterday, and getting beat by 13 Norwegians I was out to get some redemption today. I felt great in the classic and was trying to hold myself back from chasing the leaders. I’m sure I could have kept up with them for 15k but the last half of the race would have been a disaster."

Erik Bjornsen, who admits 30k races used to scare him, skied a smart race to get a career best. It was his fourth points-scoring finish in five races this season.

Sadie Bjornsen now stands seventh in the overall World Cup standings after five events, with Diggins in 10th.

“Jessie had one of her best classic races ever to keep her in a battle for the podium the entire race,” said Head Coach Chris Grover. “She never relented in the face of the powerhouse Norwegian team and their home crowd and fans.”

Grover also cited Sadie Bjornsen for her second strong weekend. “Both Jessie and Sadie have clearly made a step forward and are proving once again that they are a threat in every event.

Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) moved up steadily in the skate leg to finish 16th.

Grover was also thrilled with Erik Bjornsen’s performance. “He was strong in classic, which is normally his best technique, but equally strong in skate and moved up several spots in the skate leg.” Grover also acknowledged a strong skate leg from Hoffman.

“The Team is really looking forward to getting Davos - our home away from home,” he added. The formats in Davos, skate sprint and skate distance, are ideal for the U.S. Ski Team.”

The team now heads to Davos, Switzerland for a full on freestyle weekend. Saturday is a freestyle sprint (not an Olympic discipline in 2018) plus a men’s 15k and women’s 10k freestyle. Diggins will be among the favorites in the 10k freestyle at the Olympics this February in PyeongChang.

Shiffrin Wins First Career Downhill at Lake Louise

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
December, 2 2017

LAKE LOUSE, AB (Dec. 2, 2017) - Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO) may have found a new favorite pair of Atomic skis, albeit just slightly longer than her previous favorite pair, after riding the long boards to her first career FIS Ski World Cup downhill victory Saturday.

With her win on the Olympic Downhill course and her slalom victory last weekend in Killington, Vermont Shiffrin proved that she is the best ski racer in the world six World Cup races into the Olympic season. The defending World Cup champion also extended her overall World Cup lead over Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg to 149 points. This must now raise the question, is Mikaela Shiffrin the most dominant athlete in the world right now?

"I've skied here a couple times now, so I felt Lake Louise was a really good opportunity for me because I have some experience on the track," said Shiffrin. "I wasn't planning to win, but I was planning to come here, do my best and see what happened."

"Shortneing the distance was definitely an advantage for me because it's flat on the top section and I'm not as good up there. From where we started today, it's fairly technical. I felt really good about that yesterday, so I took even more risk today and it paid off. I know that I was lucky with conditions yesterday and today, but I skied well and took some risk and it was really fun." 

Rebensburg, the winner of the first two World Cup giant slalom races of the season, including last weekend in Killington, finished second Saturday. Swiss Michelle Gisin moved up from her eighth-place finish in Friday’s downhill, to round out the podium in third. Austria’s Cornelia Huetter, the winner of Friday’s downhill in Lake Louise, was fourth.

Stacey Cook (Mammoth Mountain, CA) posted another top-10 result at Lake Louise, finishing sixth. Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) rebounded from Friday’s crash to finish 12th. Jackie Wiles (Aurora, OR) was 23rd and Alice McKennis (New Castle, CO) was 35th and Alice Merryweather (Hingman, MA) was 37th. Breezy Johnson (Jackson Hole, WY) was on her way to another top-20 finish but slid out halfway down the track.

Saturday’s race was delayed one hour and 15 minutes due to a sub-station fire that knocked out power to the resort. Fortunately, the athletes were towed to the start thanks to a fleet of Prinoth snowcats at the resort.

World Cup racing continues Sunday with the super G at Lake Louise.

Women’s Downhill

All times EST
*schedules subject to change

Dec. 3
1:00 p.m. – Women’s super-G – Olympic Channel TV
6:30 p.m. – Women’s super-G – NBCSN (same day delay)

Bennett Top American At Birds Of Prey

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
December, 2 2017
Bryce Bennett skis down the Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek Saturday. (Getty Images - Ezra Shaw)

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (Dec. 2, 2017) - Bryce Bennett (Squaw Valley, CA) led the way for the American Downhillers in 21st at the Bird of Prey FIS Ski World Cup downhill Saturday in Beaver Creek. Norway’s Ansel Lund Svindal took the victory, followed by Swiss Beat Feuz in second and Thomas Dressen of Germany in third.

Starting with bib 1, Svindal nailed his lines down the challenging, sun-splashed course for his 13th career World Cup downhill victory. Dressen, coming out of the 10th start position, grabbed his first career World Cup downhill podium result.

Other American finishers included Jared Goldberg (Holladay, UT) and Travis Ganong (Squaw Valley, CA) tied for 30th. Tommy Biesemeyer (Keene, NY) in 39th; Wiley Maple (Aspen, CO) in 50th; Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) in 54th; and Sam Morse (Sugarloaf, ME) in 57th.

Watch same-day coverage of the men’s downhill at 5:00 p.m. EST on NBC

The Bird of Prey wraps up Sunday with a giant slalom. Ted Ligety (Park City, UT), who has won an unprecedented six times on the Birds of Prey track, will lead the Americans.

Men’s Downhill

All times EST
Saturday, Dec. 2
5:00 p.m. – Birds of Prey Men’s downhill – NBC (same day delay)

Sunday, Dec. 3
11:45 a.m. – Birds of Prey Men’s giant slalom run 1 – NBC Sports App/ – LIVE
2:30 p.m. – Birds of Prey Men’s giant slalom run 2 – Olympic Channel TV – LIVE
5:00 p.m. – Birds of Prey Men’s giant slalom – NBC (same day delay)

Bjornsen on Classic Podium Again

By Tom Kelly
December, 2 2017
Second straight classic sprint for Sadie Bjornsen

LILLEHAMMER, Norway (Dec. 1, 2017) - Any lingering doubts about the U.S. Ski Team's ability to perform in classic seem to have been dashed. For the second weekend in a row, Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) cracked the podium in a classic sprint, finishing third. Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.), was sixth.

What was especially notable about the Americans' day was depth. Bjornsen led qualifying with Diggins seventh and Sophie Caldwell (Peru, Vt.) ninth. And for the first time in history, the Americans put three athletes into the semi finals with Bjornsen and Diggins making it through.

Diggins ended up sixth - match a career best classic sprint. Caldwell was ninth - her second straight top 10. Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla took the win. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo made it a Norwegian sweep with his fourth straight victory. No American men made the heats.

“Today was another really awesome day of ski racing here in Lillehammer,” said Bjornsen. “After last weekend'd podium, I tried to keep the momentum and confidence going.”

Bjornsen had also qualified first a year ago in Lillehammer, but made some mistakes in the heats. 

“Today I decided I needed to use my strengths, and that was to just go as fast as I could over the entire course, and try to ‘tire out’ the sprinters,” she said.

She drew a tough quarter final where she ended up battling Norway’s Heidi Weng. Bjornsen pushed the pace hard, sprinting Weng to the finish before laying back at the line to finish second and move on to semis. In the semis, she jumped in behind last week’s winner Stina Nilsson, relaxing a bit on the course then hammering the final hill and double-pole finish to take the win. Just past the midway point of the semi, she made a strategic inside pass on a corner, briefly getting tangled up but coming out ahead. 

Bjornsen took some fatigue into the finals, but skied a smart heat. “I kept my head fighting the entire way, giving an extra push over the final climb despite barely being able to stand on my legs full of lactic acid,” she said. “Then in the finishing stretch, thanks to an amazing pair of skis, I got a nice draft and was able to outsprint Stina for third.

Diggins, whose only previous visit to a classic sprint finals came at Canmore in 2016, had the most impressive jump from last weekend where she didn’t make the heats. She skied strong to advance second from her quarter final heat, then battled with Caldwell in a photo finish to take a lucky loser spot from semi finals into the fins.

“I was so happy with today,” said Diggins, who made only her second classic sprint final. “Making the final in a classic sprint in Norway gives me a lot of confidence in how my classic skiing is coming along. I’ve been working really hard for a long time to improve that technique so today felt really good! And our amazing skis from the techs were so much fun to have on that hard course.”

Across the board, the athletes were jubilant about their skis. 

“I am extremely thankful to the waxing staff for giving me what felt like the fastest skis in the world today,” said Bjornsen, “and also super proud of my teammates who had a great day!”

“We had really exceptional skis today - both kick and glide,” said Head Coach Chris Grover. “The service team kept pushing hard and found the right combination of waxes. And the wax truck is doing its job!”

In addition to good skis once again, it’s clear that preparation over the last few years on classic skiing is having an impact.

“As a team, we’ve had a focus on improving our classic skiing for a few years and it’s satisfying to see that we are beginning to compete in classic more often with the Scandinavians,” said Grover. “Sadie, in particular, has always been one of the strongest classic skiers on the team.”

Grover was quick to applaud Bjornsen’s APU Nordic coach Erik Flora, her personal coach, for shepherding her through the process.

Bjornsen moved up to seventh in the overall standings and is in second, just eight points behind Finland’s Krista Parmakoski, in the sprint rankings.

Grover was optimistic about Sunday’s skiathlon - a mix of classic and freestyle technique. Men will ski 15k on each leg with women going 7.5k.

Men's Classic Sprint
Women's Classic Sprint 


Behind the Gold: Dominating Birds of Prey

By Tom Kelly
December, 2 2017
Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves celebrate their 1-2 finish in 2004 on Birds of Prey.

As downhill racers go, Daron Rahlves was physically small but big in stature - a bold, smart risk taker who loved speed. December 3, 2004 - Rahlves stood atop the Birds of Prey downhill in Beaver Creek. He was running 31st - a late starter. At the bottom, Bode Miller had the lead. 'D' tapped his poles, slid his Atomics under the start wand and listened for the telltale beep, beep, beep of the clock. He was off, charging down the elevated start out onto the Flyway. In just under a minute, 40 seconds, he would be part of American ski racing history. But would he repeat the title he won the year before?

In the mid-2000s, Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves ruled the legendary Birds of Prey. Over four straight years, it was either Bode or Daron atop the downhill podium. From 2002 to 2011, they racked up six wins and 13 podiums at the Colorado resort.

The downhill is where ski racing legends are made. The relentless off-camber high speed pitches of the Hahnenkamm where Buddy Werner's 1959 win put American skiing on the map. The thigh-burning two-and-a-half minutes of the Lauberhorn where Rahlves and Miller won three straight.

Birds of Prey has its own unique character - the flats of the Flyway into the perilous Brink. The sweeping turns through Pump House. The high speed jumps: Harrier into Golden Eagle, through the Abyss and rocketing off Red Tail into the bowels of the stadium with 10,000 screaming fans.

Birds of Prey made its maiden flight in 1997. Just over a year later, it was showcased at the 1999 Worlds where Austrian legend Hermann Maier took double gold and started a string of six straight speed wins.

The 1999 Worlds were bleak for the USA. A turning point came in 2001 when Rahlves crashed the party at the 2001 Worlds in St. Anton, beating the Austrians with super G gold. Soon, Rahlves and Miller starting cracking the code. The next December, Miller shook off a St. Anton knee injury to start a string of World Cup wins - first Val d'Isere, later the night race at Schladming on the eve of the 2002 Olympics and the glacier race at Soelden in October, 2003.

A few weeks later, Miller won a pivotal World Cup in Park City. That win on home snow ignited an unprecedented period of success for the U.S. Ski Team. "Park City was a rallying cry for the team," recalled coach Phil McNichol. "They were intoxicated by it."

A week later, an inspired Rahlves got his first Beaver Creek win while Miller lost a battle with his nemesis in the Abyss. "Daron elevated our entire approach to Birds of Prey," said McNichol. "The flood gates were opened!" 

Now, a year later, it was Rahlves versus Miller again. Early-starting Bryan Friedman came down fifth to take the lead. Racer after racer attacked and no one could touch Friedman who celebrated in the leader's box.

Then, it was Miller time. Starting 17th, he sliced through the course in Bode style. Instead of carving sweeping turns he attacked the gates with a direct line. He soared off Golden Eagle arms outstretched. He crushed his demons in the Abyss, vaulting off Red Tail to the delight of the fans in 1:39.76 - just off Rahlves' record set a year earlier.

America stood 1-2 once again with Rahlves still to come.

Out of the start Rahlves knew that the Flyway was critical for him. He didn't have the large body mass that equated to speed on the flat. He had to be precise.

He stayed flat on his skis as he approached the Brink - a perilous drop that puts fear into any racer. He dropped into the steep, setting an edge on the icy pitch. A right-footed turn would set him up for the exit - sweeping through Pete's Arena into the Talon Turn and down through Pump House.

Heading into the jumps he was flying - downhill ski racing perfection! He soared off Red Tail with precision, entering the stadium to the most thunderous roar he had ever heard.

It was a perfect run for Rahlves who saw the crowd's celebration, pumped his fist in the air and grabbed an American flag from the crowd. But it wasn't quite perfect enough - .16 behind Miller. He was second.

Miller ran out to meet him celebrating with hugs and tears. "We've been trying to do this for a long time," said Rahlves.

Bode and Daron were two separate individuals with completely different lifestyles. But they came together as ski racers, supporting each other on the hill. "We both do our own thing but when we're racing we each want to win," said Miller. "To be one-two on home turf, it’s just awesome.”

Rahlves and Miller would define a generation for the U.S. Ski Team. A year later Rahlves flipped the table with the win over Miller in another one-two USA finish. Miller, meanwhile, took the 2005 GS with Rahlves second and Erik Schlopy fourth. In 2006, Miller won the downhill again with Steven Nyman third.

Birds of Prey would play a leading role amidst the dramatic ironies of Bode Miller's career. His last World Cup win came in the 2011 downhill there - a narrow .04 win over Swiss Beat Feuz. And he would also ski his final race at the 2015 World Championships on the course that brought him fame - hooking an arm on a gate in the Abyss and slicing a tendon. 

Fans who were there that December day in 2004 will never forget the magic that Bode and Daron brought to Red Tail Stadium that day.

Rahlves summed it up best: "I don’t think you’ll ever have a perfect run, but it was a perfect effort.”