10/11/07 Let the Games Begin*

Before we get into this edition of World Cup Wednesday, reminder came in via the electrons from our new USA correspondent Gustave Sexauer that Timberline Lodge on the ramparts of Mt. Hood has indeed opened for the season. A lot of times I don’t really count Timberline as “first” because in many years they only close briefly during September for maintenance and lack of paying customers. But I guess they’re first to spin, albeit with an asterisk….Don’t get me wrong, no disrespect to Timberline. I skied it once, end of June about a dozen years ago. Top half of Palmer was ice, bottom was mush, and the hotshot ski camp kids riding the chair were heckling all of us tourists. At one point I caught an edge and was going over but I’d be damned if I was going to give those spoiled brats the satisfaction. I was determined to save it, so I did a crazy pirouette and wrenched my back in the process. Spent the night in pain sleeping on the wood floor of my pricey Timberline Lodge room, eating Advil every couple hours. My back has never been the same, but that’s my fault, not Timberline’s. I’d recommend the experience to any skier. Palmer of course is not really open as part of Timberline’s winter operations, except for cat skiing — snow is too deep to run the lift…now on to the World Cup scene, and unless you’re living in a cave you know that this season will be punctuated by a winter Olympiad, which is driving a lot of athletes to do things that might not be super sensible. Talking specifically about legendary skiers like Steve Nyman, Julia Mancuso, two names that come to mind from Team USA. Both are exciting but aging speedsters trying to come back from some darn serious surgery…Another is Laurenne Ross, a gifted and under-appreciated speed skier from Bend, OR. Ross tallied seven World Cup top-10s last season, finished fifth in the world championships downhill, and fourth in the Olympic test event downhill in South Korea. Ross ended the season with a US Championships victory in the Super G at Sugarloaf, followed by a crash in the Giant Slalom that tore her knee apart. Ross has battled injuries throughout her career, but says this was the worst…Resi Stiegler, who won the US slalom title at Sugarloaf, appears healthy and may be poised for her best shot yet at Olympic hardware…Lindsey Vonn is another supercharger who is going through a grueling workout regime whilst eyeing PyeongChang. Will age and fate conspire against her? Hard to say…As for reigning overall women’s champ Mikaela Shiffrin, she seems to be working harder than ever and is certainly a favorite to repeat…California boys Travis Ganong and Bryce Bennett are both healthy. Although neither is an odds-on favorite, Ganong has topped the WC podium and Bennett has a few top tens under his belt…Ted Ligety, the perennial GS threat underwent back surgery last year and claims to feel no pain, although he did say his back tingles from time to time: “I still have some phantom symptoms, which they say is super common for six months or a year”…And finally, looking more and more like Bode Miller is not going to compete. He’s been listed as “alumni” by the US Ski Team, although they claim the invitation to compete still stands. No official word yet from the enigmatic skier-turned-horseman.