Markus Waldner, FIS Chief Race Director for the men’s World Cup, is excited about the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships at Vail-Beaver Creek 2015. He took a moment both to look back at the World Champs dress rehearsal on occasion of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup events on Birds of Prey in early December and to look forward to the season highlight almost 30 days away.
How important was the Birds of Prey FIS World Cup as a test for the 2015 World Ski Championships?
“The final test in Beaver Creek was very important for us for many reasons. For one, it was an ideal opportunity to try all the new technologies that the host broadcaster EPC will use for the TV production of the World Championships. Working with director Michael Kögler and his team, we have defined 160 possible camera positions for the ladies and men’s races altogether. We also used the Birds of Prey races to run the precise start intervals for the three competitions, as planned for the World Championships. Thanks to the excellent cooperation with EPC, we only have minor amendments to a few details before the Championships.
Moreover, it was an important opportunity for our FIS men’s team, which to a large extent is new this season, to integrate with the local team and to familiarize ourselves with the procedures on site.”
Overall, what do you expect from Vail-Beaver Creek 2015?
“Beaver Creek is one of the top three FIS World Cup Organizers: their team of volunteers – the Talon Crew – is world-renown and that’s for a reason. They are extremely motivated with a superb attitude. It is also great fun to work with the local leadership team. The courses are fantastic; team accommodation is well taken care of. Everything is at a high level. I am convinced we will see great World Champs!”
Is there anything that worries you?
“At title events, the biggest challenge is also the greatest unknown: the weather. We had a great test event but it’s an easy ride when you have excellent slope conditions and perfect weather. That’s why it is important to be ready with contingency plans; you need both Plan B and Plan C. For example, we’re used to racing Birds of Prey in December, but in February when it is not unusual to have massive snowfall. Fortunately the team in Beaver Creek has shown that they can manage any challenge. In the case of snowfall we already know that they are prepared with 49 snow cats!”
There were some scheduling challenges in Schladming two years ago, have you made any changes?
“Fitting the ladies and men’s schedules together does present certain challenges. After Schladming 2013, we conducted a detailed review and analysis of the competition program and made a few changes to ensure that it can be carried out as planned. Specifically we have adapted the order of events such as moving the men’s super combined backward and beginning the ladies’ downhill training earlier. Most of these adaptations were to ensure that there are sufficient training opportunities for the speed events. As a result, we had to make few compromises with lines on some race courses but are convinced that this new program will work well even in case of weather-related challenges.”
What will be your personal highlight in February?
“I think the nations’ team event in Vail will be a lot of fun. We are expecting 16 nations to fight head-to-head for the medals. It will be short and compact and the course will feature two jumps. It’s just the perfect competition for a title event.”
What else is new?
“Based on the test at Birds of Prey, we will continue to refine the downhill race line, to see if it can be amended further. We – Hannes Trinkl and I – took quite some time this spring and summer to discuss our downhill philosophy with the Organizers and athletes alike, including meeting all downhill teams during their training camps, gathering feedback and establishing dialogue.
We will seek to make the downhill courses a bit faster and somewhat straighter, and the jumps a little bigger to underline the main characteristics of a downhiller: Courage, or guts, and the ability to push one’s own boundaries but also respect and self-responsibility. In the first place, the skiers should race against the mountain, not each other.
This is no revolution. Safety remains our first and foremost objective. We simply want to make alignments to certain hills and build perfect jumps given each hill’s profile. This is made possible by the current course conditions, state of the equipment and professionalism and preparation of the racers. It will be great to see this put in practice at Vail-Beaver Creek 2015!“
Photo © Alexis BOICHARD/AGENCE ZOOM