By Jim Stanford on February 14, 2010
Judging by the size of the rooster tails on each turn, it was apparent the Olympic skiers began slalom training Saturday on Snow King.
U.S. and French racers signaled their arrival by attacking the King’s Cougar run, sending powder flying with slashing swooshes visible from just about anywhere in town.
Today 10 Olympians went even faster in a pair of FIS women’s giant slalom races on the King. American Megan McJames won the first GS, and Taina Barioz prevailed as France swept the top three spots in the afternoon.
On Monday, the women will compete in two slaloms, the first beginning at 9 a.m. and the second at approximately 12:45 p.m. Afterward, there will be an awards ceremony and autograph signing at Snow King Center where the public can meet the athletes.
The races at Snow King are a tune-up for the skiers who will be competing in the technical events at Whistler, slalom and giant slalom. Two French men, Cyprien Richard and Steve Missillier, are in Jackson for giant slalom training, joining seven French women and three Americans. (Click here for an overview.)
The skiers will practice on Snow King before departing for Canada on Feb. 19.
Racers who are competing in the speed events — downhill, super-G and the combined (one run of slalom and an abbreviated downhill) — already are at Whistler in preparation.
The giant slalom racing Sunday coincided with the return of sunshine to Snow King’s steep, north-facing slopes, which had been draped in shadow since the fall. Sixty-two skiers took part, including members of the U.S. Ski Team who did not make the Olympics. Young racers from Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Sweden and the Western U.S. also competed, trying to improve their rankings in the International Ski Federation (FIS) standings.
The course began high on the Elk run and ran all the way to the base. The top half of the field sliced through the gates in about 45 seconds, on average.
Attracting a group of fans was Sarah Schleper, the top U.S. slalom skier and a four-time Olympian. At 30, she is the eldest racer on the women’s team.
Schleper is making a comeback after giving birth to a son, Lasse, two years ago. She placed second in the morning GS but slid off the course in the afternoon.
Her goal this year was just to make the Olympic team, she explained afterward. But now that the Games are on, “Miracles can happen,” she said.
Update 2/15: Schleper won both slaloms. Results here.