Training ground for gold: Sugar Bowl plans for season-long skicross, snowboard cross course
Following in the footsteps of BMXs Summer Olympic debut in Beijing, the equally elbow-bumping, pedal-to-the-floor events of skicross and snowboard cross will make their Winter Olympic debut at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.While the North Tahoe area has always been a hotbed for top racers in these hard-nosed disciplines, its now on track to be one of the nations finest training grounds for these Olympics sports as well.Sugar Bowl Ski Resort has recently unveiled plans to build and maintain the countrys only season-long, event-specific training course for skicross and snowboard cross athletes. Located off the Mt. Judah Express quad chair, the new course will take over the Tunnel 41 run skiers right of their existing Switching Yard Terrain Park. The course will be designed by Sugar Bowl Terrain Park Manager JP Martin and Sugar Bowl ski ambassador and U.S. Ski Team skier cross athlete Daron Rahlves. Both are thrilled with the announcement.With an X Games skiercross gold medalist on our team in Daron and a great race program already, this training course will be a perfect extension of what were known for, said Martin. Were excited to give local racers and the public a safe place to practice this new racing style.While Rahlves is understandably excited for the new home-turf opportunities, his first thoughts echoed Martins excitement for the public.Sugar Bowl is making a major commitment that will not only benefit pros, but visiting skiers who will be able to improve their skills in varied terrain, said Rahlves. It will be a really cool run thats not just jumps and a great place to go head to head with your buddies.Initial plans are to build a sprint course that will have enough linked features to give racers a condensed run of approximately 35 seconds at top speed, Martin said. Terrain obstacles on the course will include long sets of rollers, scalloped banked corners and lofting jumps that will require practiced technique to master, he added.This wont be a course where you just launch out of the gate and tuck it to the bottom, said Martin. Our intention is to build a course that rewards strategy.Being able to focus his training on start skills and cornering is why Rahlves proposed the course construction to Sugar Bowl in the first place. I pushed the idea because I want to be more prepared this season, he said. The last two years Ive just shown up to ski and ended up being the last guy out of the gate. Ive had to work hard and make risky moves to get my way to the front.Competing in just seven national skicross events this season, including two World Cups, the X Games and 48 Straight, Rahlves hopes his time spent training at Sugar Bowl will keep him competitive with racers taking on more committing schedules.When I show up at a national race having skied just one event, while other guys have skied six, my opportunity to go to Sugar Bowl and practice starts and other techniques will help me in a huge way, said Rahlves.As the course will be used as a training ground for not only Rahlves but other skicross and snowboard cross athletes and race teams, it will obviously not be open to the public every day. The course will be closed periodically for training and events but the public will definitely get to race it, said Martin. We will also have a few special events where we hope to give visitors the opportunity to race it on the clock and see how their times line up with the pros.The start gate on the course will drop as soon as natural snow conditions permit, but Martin hopes to use some snowmaking and a lot of snow farming to get racers up to speed as soon as possible. Once established, the development potential of the course is open ended.The possibilities of expanding the idea are limitless, said Martin. There will be nothing on the West Coast like it. Well do as much as we can with the terrain and the snow available.
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