With the 2010 Winter Olympics set for Feb. 12-28 in Vancouver, this is going to be a very interesting season for ski racing fans, especially for those living the the North Country of New York state.
That’s because Andrew Weibrecht, whose parents own the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, is considered a top prospect for the United States ski team in the downhill and super-G events.
That might seem like a stretch, considering the 23-year-old Weibrecht had no top-10 finishes in World Cup ski races last season, but he came close, finishing 11th in the super-G at Kitzbuehel, Austria.
Weibrecht began opening eyes on the World Cup circuit in December of 2007 on the Birds of Prey downhill course in Beaver Creek, Colo. He went into the four-event weekend a relative unknown. When It was over, the whole town was talking about him.
On opening day, he finished 12th in the downhill portion of the super-combined, making him the third-fastest American behind Steve Nyman, (second) and Bode Miller (sixth).
The next day, he was even better in the featured event, the downhill. Starting from 53rd position in a swirling snowstorm, Weibrecht turned in a performance that had the leader and eventual winner Michael Walchhofer, sweating it out at the bottom.
In a run that was a series of recoveries, Weibrecht was .46 seconds behind the Austrian star at the first split, .41 seconds back at the second and just .07 seconds at the third.
Weibrecht got airborne after that and lost some time, but he still wound up 10th, just .54 seconds behind Walchhofer.
Austrian legend Franz Klammer was at the race, and he jokingly told Weibrecht that he had a patent on that kind of skiing.
Last season, Weibrecht had a spectacular crash on the same course. Clips of both runs can still be seen on www.youtube.com.
The Birds of Prey is considered one of the most demanding downhills on the World Cup circuit, second, some say, only to the Hahnenkamm downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
In two days of training and racing on the “Streif” course at Kitzbuehel last season, Weibrecht again proved he can challenge the big boys on a tough hill.
He’d never raced at Kitzbuehel before, but on the first day of downhill training, Weibrecht finished a very respectable 20th.He was 13th in training run No. 2.
Then, wearing bib No. 48, he finished 11th in the super-G on the same hill, finishing ahead of all other Americans. The next day, he earned World Cup points on the Streif course with a solid 24th place finish in the downhill.
OFF SEASON PROGRESS
U.S. men’s coach Sasha Rearick said Weibrecht made excellent strides during summer training in New Zealand and in the team’s fall training in Chile. Rearick. in fact, singled him out as a “potential surprise” in the speed events for the 2010 season.
“Andrew has made some incredible breakthroughs with his giant slalom,” the coach said. “He’s moving his center of mass towards the initiation point of each turn much better than ever, and that’s translated into very clean skiing on the fall line.”
Coaches see the technical training (giant slalom) as a way to focus on Weibrecht’s speed. In Chile, the Whiteface Mountain-bred skier won the overall Condor Cup as the fastest U.S. skier in downhill and super-G.
A product of the New York Ski Education Foundation, Weibrecht went on the U.S. ski team’s radar at a very young age. Following Junior Olympic downhill and giant slalom wins in 2003 he was named to the U.S. Development Team. He was elevated to the “C” team for the ‘04-’05 season after placing seventh in super-G at the U.S. Alpine Championships. He was the overall NorAm champ in 2007.
His first big test of the 2009-2010 season will come this weekend in super-G and downhill World Cups at Lake Louise in Canada. Next weekend, he’ll be back at Beaver Creek for another crack at the Birds of Prey.
HICKORY BACK IN BUSINESS
The big ski news in the southern Adirondacks this season is that the Hickory Ski Center in Warrensburg will operate for the first time in four years.
And for the first time ever, the area, which opened in 1946, will have snowmaking.
With 1,207 feet of vertical, the ski center’s greatest asset is its wide variety of terrain, which ranges from wide, groomed beginner and intermediate trails to steep, ungroomed expert runs. Operations manager Shawn Dempsey says the beginner and intermediate trails only will be serviced by snowmaking this season, but he expects the system will be expanded in the future.
The guns are working fine, he said. “We made a big pile of snow last week.”
During the fall, crews were at work fine-tuning the snowmaking, clearing trails, sprucing up the base lodge and making repairs to the lifts. The area’s 18 trails are serviced by a T-bar and two Poma lifts.
The Hickory Ski Center is owned and operated by stockholders, but the public is welcome to purchase day and season passes. Day passes are $45 for adults and $30 for children. Children under 7 and adults over 75 ski free. Season passes range from $200 to $540. Children under 12 ski free when accompanied by an adult with a season pass.
Elizabeth Baskin is the director of the Hickory Ski Center Ski School. The ski patrol is headed by Steven Hoover.
Frederica “Freddie” Anderson, founder of the Schenectady Ski School, has been named recipient of the inaugural Einar Aas Award for excellence in snowsports school management.
The award, presented by the Professional Ski Instructors of America-Eastern Division, will be presented to Anderson at a snowsports school management seminar next week at Mount Snow, Vt.
In notifying Anderson of the honor, the PSIA stated, “This award is a recognition of you by your peers for achieving and maintaining the highest standards in snowsports school management, as well as clearly demonstrating a track record and long history of dedication to your students, staff, the Eastern Division and the snowsports industry.”
Anderson, a resident of Niskayuna, founded the Schenectady Ski School in 1950. The school moved to the Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam in 1967. Freddie’s daughter, Christina, is now the co-director.
A native of Norway, Einar Aas was a longtime ski school and snowsports director at Ski Butternut in Massachusetts. He died in 2008, at the age of 74.
LAPLAND LAKE OPEN HOUSE
The Lapland Lake Nordic Ski Center in Benson is hosting its annual open house from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today and Saturday.
Select ski and snowshoe equipment and clothing will be on sale, and season passes will be sold at a reduced rate. The Tuulen Tupa Grill will be open, and there will be a barbeque in the Finnish Line Lodge from noon to 2 p.m.
If there is sufficient snow, two-for-one facility use passes will be available. If there is no snow, hiking on the ski and snowshoe trails will be free.
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