I left my house around 6 AM to ensure that I would beat the crowds at the resort, as well as the ski traffic on the highway. It was a pleasant drive, relatively free of bad weekend ski drivers (imagine rush-hour tailgating, speeding and weaving, then put it all on slippery snowpack in the mountains). Here's a photo of Dillon Reservoir that I took before dawn, from the westbound scenic overlook on I-70:
There was just a touch of orange light on Mount Guyot (left) and I could see plumes of snow being whipped off the peak by high winds.
Because my primary objective was to watch the race, I decided to pony up the $33 (!) for the parking garage at the Beaver Creek base area. There's only one level and it was almost empty around 7:45 when I arrived. I wanted to be able to stow my gear in the car easily, and did not want to miss any of the race due to the logistics of getting back and forth to free parking via the shuttle bus.
Taken later in the day, here is a photo of a small section of the rugged-looking Gore Range to the north, which I saw as I was skiing before the race:
Below is the end-of day view down the valley to the Beaver Creek base area, which I also skied in the morning. Geographically it reminds me of Snowmass Village, which is at the head of a mountain valley. I've never skied at Snowmass, but I stayed there one summer when attempting to run/climb Castle Peak.
Although early in the day (before 11 AM) the surface was nicely groomed and easy to ski, because of the dearth of recent snow, by afternoon the surface was scraped down to smooth white linoleum. Every spot where you would have liked to skid or carve a turn (basically all steep areas and stopping points) was bulletproof hardpack, and I just skidded my way down the mountain from one pile of shaved snow to the next. It was somewhat harrowing. I can't imagine what it must have been like for beginners.
Of course, I don't exactly have race skis either, which are made for hard snow. Nonetheless, I'm taking my rather wide K2 obSETHeds for a tune this week at Alpine Base & Edge (I've tried other places, but the best tunes I've ever gotten are from Alpine). It did make me feel a little better that while watching the race, I noticed that even some of the race workers, some of whom were probably ex-racers and had carving skis, were sliding down the hill. In any case, we will be happy when more snow arrives in Colorado's mountains!
Access to the race was simple: either ski down Red Tail trail, or take a shuttle from the free parking at the bottom or the base area.
Since Beaver Creek is lobbying to host the 2015 alpine World Championships, they had this cool (heh) ice sculpture near the entrance to the finish stadium:
If you arrive at the stadium early, you can sit in the stands, and if you're skiing/riding there are racks for your gear. There is also a concessions area and a bar with a view of the finish line. Get your $13 brisket with 2 gourmet sides! Or $5 coffee! That's what I call top-tier pricing.
I didn't want to sit in the stands for an hour simply to have a seat, so I had to find somewhere else to watch from. I stowed my skis and hiked up along the course. My Garmont Endorphins' hiking soles came in very handy for grip on the snow as I ascended the hill, and so did the fact that they weigh about half as much as a pair of standard alpine boots. Here is the view down to the finish area (this is only a small portion of the entire course):
I realized that it's actually pretty difficult to gain a good vantage point on a hilly race course that's 2,500 feet high and 1.5 miles long. Those who are watching televised coverage have the advantage of excellent video quality and multiple cameras on course. There was a screen showing the broadcast, but it was only visible from the crowded finish area. What I wanted was the feel of the race, to hear the skis on the icy course and to see the competitors fly by at speed!
I also found that it was tough to capture athletes in motion. My camera does not have a really high speed mode, so the best I could to was to press the button at the right moment and hope that its roughly 1 shot per second speed would capture something good. In this photo, the racer is roughly 10 feet off the ground and 40 feet past the takeoff point:
And here is a shot of a competitor coming over the hill before the jump:
I also managed to capture some video. Even though I missed the landing, I got the jump at the beginning and the ending:
In terms of finish times, the U.S. just barely missed being in the top three, with Bode Miller placing 4th. The top three overall finishers were:
1. Carlo Janka, Switzerland, 1:43.49
2. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 1:43.51
3. Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, 1:43.53
The U.S. finishers were:
4. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 1:43.94
11. Andrew Weibrecht, Lake Placid, NY, 1:44.60
14. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 1:44.83
25. Erik Fisher, Middleton, ID, 1:45.33
31. Steven Nyman, Sundance, UT, 1:45.71
41. Jeremy Transue, Hunter, NY, 1:46.65
After the downhill, I skied down from the top of the mountain and called it a day. Beaver Creek has some interesting shops, so I poked around for a while and then headed over to Edwards and the Gore Range Brewery to let the ski traffic hit the road and clear out. The Bookworm book store at Riverwalk in Edwards is nice and has great coffee (and the first refill is free). There's a bike nice path along the Eagle River also.
All in all a fun day, with some great new experiences.