It’s almost upon us.

In one week from today the first World Cup of the season will be in the books. It’s crazy; summer just goes by way to fast. I just arrived to Europe a couple days ago picked up my sweet new Audi RS5 (see pic below). Unfortunately it was raining when I drove it to Soelden, so I couldn’t “safely” test its capabilities’, but on the mountain roads around Soelden it has truly kicked ass.

Soelden has been great so far. We’ve had the opportunity to train 2 days on the race hill. It is a rarity to train on World Cup hills especially in the weeks before a race. The snow wasn’t anything like it will be on race day (soft) yet it was still a valuable experience. Soelden is the US Ski Team’s new European home base so we’ll be seeing a lot of this place. They injected one of the training hills on the glacier, which turned out great. It’s pretty rare to get quality training this time of year, so hopefully that bodes well for the race.

My Audi RS5 for the winter

Unpacked in my room

View from the bottom of the face

Sunrise from the top of the gondola

Getting excited from the parking lot

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FIS should relinquish ski regulation powers to the ski companies.

I hate to sound uncompromising on the new FIS GS radius and length rules after FIS backed off it’s original 40m radius rule to a reduced 35m but the truth is, it is still going to be bad for the sport. Show me and everyone else who will be affected, the data behind these rules and why GS is the target of such drastic changes. FIS says it’s implementing these rules based on studies that the University of Salzburg has been doing, but to my knowledge they have not contact any of the athletes being affected by these changes. Seems like we would be a pertinent resource for such a study, not outsiders.

The biggest issue lies in the negative effect it will have on the younger FIS racers. These kids are not big or strong enough to handle these skis and their parents that are already footing a massive bill for their kids to ski race. They fortunately will not have to deal with these rules for a couple years but it’s headed down the pipeline. This I fear will drive many young skiers out of racing at a greater rate.

Bode Miller has said that FIS should remove itself from equipment issues all together and I agree. If FIS did remove itself, I don’t think much would change at the highest level. There is a point of diminishing return on where we’d push our equipment (height, length, sidecut etc.) and we are not far off from it if there were no rules. A couple of years ago I’ve tested elevated boot height and ski lifter height for the Rockfest dash for cash race and it wasn’t better feeling or faster. I ended up using my normal set up. If the rules were open, everyone could tailor their set up to better fit their body type and style. Small skiers could use shorter skis; skiers with big feet could go a little higher so they didn’t boot out. Currently not all skiers on World Cup use the maximum height allowed because it’s not universally better. If a first year FIS kid is small or lacks physical maturity why shouldn’t they use smaller skis? It will be safer and more fun for them and it’s not an advantage.

If FIS really wants to make racing safe they should focus on their domain, which is hill safety and prep: the biggest area of danger. If you want to do research look into better fencing, expanded crash zones, dangerous course sets, better ways to prep snow conditions so that they are homogeneous throughout the race-hill. The last one seems obvious but 90% of World Cup courses have variable snow conditions throughout the race-hill that do cause injuries.

FIS shouldn’t muddle around in ski equipment regulations. They should let the people who know ski equipment best; the ski companies continue to develop better and more forward thinking equipment with safety as a top priority. Hence why the ski companies were up in arms about the FIS’s regulations. If regulations are needed then the rules should come straight from the ski companies not FIS, since they have a better perspective on the direction of the sport and safety.

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On a lighter note NZ car jumping

As per tradition this year we took NZ rally fest to new heights, literally and figuratively. This year we (Jon Olsson, Warner Nickerson, Jimmy Cochran, Mike Janyk and I) decided that one car wasn’t enough so we bought two cars to jump and play bumper cars with. Team TNT (Jon and Warner) bought a ’91 Mitsubishi Chariot affectionately named Marilyn and Team USA (Mike didn’t buy in so the car is on him next year) bought an ’87 Ford Telstar named Sheila. I’ll let the video that Jon put together below do the talking. Also the previous year’s videos are below.

NZ CAR JUMPING from Jon Olsson Video Blog on Vimeo.

First Year we jumped.

Last Year.

JOVB – SEASON 4 EPISODE 5 from Jon Olsson Video Blog on Vimeo.

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My thoughts on FIS’s attempt to ruin GS.

There’s a lot of talk out there right now about the new FIS ski regulations to be implemented in 2012- most specifically the GS radius minimum. I’ve spoken out against the new rules which include a new guideline stating that GS skis cannot be less than 40 meters in radius (whereas the current rule is 27m). I have even joked that Michael Von Gruenigen and Alberto Tomba were going to come out of retirement and use their old skis. Although, there is just one problem with that- their skis from the 90’s wouldn’t be legal.

For the past 17 years, GS ski radius hasn’t changed much. In 1996, World Cup racers were skiing on skis with a similar radius to today- with a 28 m radius. Three years earlier, in 1993, Rainer Salzgeber, the Head Race Manager who raced in the 90’s, said he raced World Cup on skis with 32-meter radius. To give you context of the times, “Schlinder’s List” and “Sleepless in Seattle” were in theaters and the first President Bush was handing over the keys to the White House to the newly-elected Bill Clinton. You would have to go back to the 80’s to find 40 meter radius skis. That’s the radius FIS wants everyone from me to 15-year old boys to be racing GS on. Wave good bye to the sport’s progression of arcing the cleanest possible turns.

I write this article now because today I finally had the chance to try a prototype of the 40m GS skis. And quite frankly, they suck. I felt like Phil Mahre circa ’84. Try as I might, I could not get the skis to come around without a huge slide and step. Warner Nickerson also tried them in the course. As I watched him fight his way down through the course, I could only think about how much the scene reminded me of the silent black and white films from the early days of skiing. At the bottom of the run, Warner said he was worried he was going to straddle every gate because the tips were so long. To have any chance of making the next gate, he had to go recklessly straight and then awkwardly slide. Might I say ‘dangerous’?

There has been a lot of talk that ski racing has gotten too dangerous. Leading that discussion is the sport’s international governing body; yes, of all people, FIS. The truth is, ski racing is a dangerous sport: always has been and always will be. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for safety and taking the precautionary measures to avoid needless risks. But when I ask myself if GS is “super” dangerous in the relative sense of things, the answer is NO. In the last two years, there has been a grand total of three injuries among the skiers of the GS elite (ranked in the Top 30); and I wouldn’t contribute any of the causes of these injuries to the equipment. For example, Thomas Fanara tore his ACL in Beaver Creek in ’09 because the gate panel hooked/wrapped him in the gate then sent him flying (also note, the snow conditions were that very grippy man-made snow); Marcel Hirscher broke his ankle due mainly to poor hill preparation (he was running #2 and there was a huge unmarked hole in the ice that he stuffed his foot into at full speed); The third injury of the past two years was Benni Raich’s ACL tear that happened racing in a dual in which men and women were running the same course (men and women ski a different line resulting in a sharp grove at the bottom of the turn which caught Benni’s ski twisting him up and not letting him release the energy out of the turn). If you ask me, three injuries in 2 years is an acceptable level of danger- especially considering equipment was not at fault.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the era of 40-meter skis very well so I cannot provide good examples of GS skiers hurting themselves based solely on the radius of the ski. But I do remember greats from the era like Marc Girardelli, among others that had countless numbers of injuries skiing on the straight skis. FIS should be reminded that racers have injured themselves in every era of the sport and chances are, they will continue to do so. When you have a 195cm, rigid lever firmly attached to your foot, there is a good chance of hurting yourself if you fall, no matter the sidecut or radius.

FIS claims that slowing down the racers (via drastic equipment modification) will make the sport safer. But the reduction in speed when using longer radius skis is inconsequential. When you crash, what’s the difference if you are going 90kph or 80kph or in downhill, 140kph to 120kph? Plus coaches are now going to set straighter because of the new rule changes so speed/danger really won’t decrease anyways.

It should be noted that FIS doesn’t exactly have the best track record in making smart, safer equipment rules. For example, just a few years ago FIS lowered stand- height and widened the skis- putting more force on the knee and body which resulted in more injuries. Narrower skis would have been the right move in that instance and is the only part of this new round of rules they got right.

If you want to slow down the sport then don’t allow tight suits and make us wear normal ski clothes like skier-cross- I don’t like wearing my race suit anyways. Another idea is to make an off set rule for GS so that courses are set with rounder turns.

I obviously must seem very biased when it comes to GS rules since things have gone very well for me in recent years. And to be honest, if the rule changes truly were safer and wouldn’t ruin the sport, I’d be all for them even if it were to my disadvantage. But from where the new rules stand now, I don’t see any added benefit to the interests of skier safety. If anything, I fear these new rules will drain all the fun out of the sport and will deter future generations from picking up a pair of race skis when they head out to slopes. Ski racing is a unique sport in the way it balances of finesse and well-rounded athletics. From my and Warner’s experiences skiing on these new skis, the new rules will favor brute strength and size, think Aksel and harm smaller athletic skiers like Fanara and Hirscher. I hope these proposed rule changes are just a ploy by FIS so they can say they made an ‘attempt’ to make the sport safer. Otherwise, I better dust off those Sarajevo Olympics VHS tapes and start studying that legendary Phil Mahre and Ingemar Stenmark step.

-Ted Ligety

P.S. Feel free to repost or print this at will.

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Wow it’s been a while.

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything that I’m not going to give a long winded summary of the season thus far. Obviously I had a phenomenal December, by winning 3 GS’s in a row. Followed by a very BLAH perhaps even a disappointing January. I had the 4 streak in my hands in Adelboden, by winning the first run but I showed how fragile good race results really are in ski racing by falling, part way down second run to end up last. It ended up being the perfect storm, me being the unlucky small boat, with Cyprien Richard and Al Svindal the next closest guys in the title chase tying for the win. But oh well. Perhaps next year they’ll start the second run so the top guys after first run don’t race in the dark. ha ;)

As for the rest of the month I am pretty pumped about my first downhill points in 4 years; all 5 of them… though they did come in Wengen and Kitzbuhel. So if you’re going to score points those are the places to do it. I did grab my Cuche inspired tuck mid air off the Mausefalle too which felt sweet. Zagreb slalom went well (6th place: best slalom result in 3 years). Followed by a string of DNF’s and Schladming where I thought I skied well but ended up 19th…hmmm. Go to have to work on that.

After Schladming I trained a couple days of SL and GS in Hinterreit and took my first days off skis in basically a month. Here’s a video of me training in Hinterreit:

Ted Ligety training gs, with pov follow cam. from Ted Ligety on Vimeo.

I decided to skip Chamonix WC so I could get a little break and train. The SuperCombi there looked pretty exciting with 25 out of the top 55 guys not racing. Poor scheduling? Now I’m training in Saalbach, AUT for Hinterstoder WC this weekend. Trained my 3rd day of SuperG of the year which was fun. 4th day will come tomorrow followed by some GS training.

After the race this weekend in going to ISPO in Munich to work the Shred and Slytech booth. Next year’s gear looks sweet.

Till next time…

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Sitting on our hands in Mt. Hutt aka Mt. Shut

So I’ve been here in Mt. Hutt, New Zealand now for the last 5 days. Thus far, we’ve skied one mediocre day and the rest of the time has been spent playing tennis and working out. Not all that bad except I want to ski/ i need to be skiing to get ready for my first race a month away. We went up to the mountain today but the wind was so bad it was moving parked cars in the parking lot, so never mind them opening the lifts. We decided to cut our loses in Mt. Hutt and move down to Coronet Peak. Hopefully the weather cooperates with us.

Lata
Ted

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New Zealand

My first camp on skis just came to an end. It was an awesome 3 weeks in Queenstown, New Zealand. New Zealand is always my favorite trip; Although the skiing is pretty decent, the scenery and the abundance of post skiing activities are what make me really love NZ. It’s definitely one our plushest trips too- we stay right on the Millbrook Golf Course, which is apparently a good course not that I know what makes a golf course good. There’s a tennis court right there, and we have Adam, our amazing cook, preparing awesome meals for us, so life is pretty good. We ski at Coronet Peak which is about a 20 minute drive every morning. They have a whole section of the mountain closed off for race training, and it’s usually prepared icy (just the way we like it). One of the trails we train on would be one of, if not the hardest hill on the World Cup circuit for SL and GS if it were a little longer. So that’s a good test of how your equipment is working and helps develop your survival skills.

NZ was also my first chance to put on some much needed miles on my new Head set up. I’m not sure exactly how many pairs of skis we had down there but it had to be in the 30 pair range. So my new tech Alex Martin had a lot of work to do get all those skis ready. Everyday we were either cycling through a bunch of different sidecuts and/or constructions or testing different boot set ups/stiffnesses or plastics. As you can imagine it was a lot of stuff to sort out. So far I’ve narrowed it down quite a bit but still have some work to do to find the set up that’s going to win Solden. ;) Rainer Salzgeber, the Head race team director, who was also a kick ass WC racer, was there taking high speed video so we could get a really good idea of what the equipment was doing and so we could talk through ways to improve everything even more.

Outside of skiing we played a fair amount of tennis. The most momentous match played was a doubles match between myself and Thomas Vonn vs. Felix Neureuther and Fritz Dopfer. Thomas was supposed to carry our team but the combination of falling rain and puddles on court hindered his game. I played okay but Felix’s net play and Fritz’s serve were just to much to overcome and we lost in straight sets, though it was close enough it could have gone either way.

The real highlight of the trip was car jumping. It’s become a tradition for us to buy a crappy car to rally and jump until it dies. We originally rallied the rental cars, but we decided we were lucky to not have done any major damage after driving it up a river, rallying on dry grass, catching the car on fire while rally racing, and then getting 2 flat tires simultaneously. Two years ago we decided we should start buying our own cars to rally rather than trashing the rentals. Our first car was a ’89 Holden Camira, after getting too many flat tires racing in a dried river bed, we built a jump. After a few jumps we started sending it huge. From then on we were hooked. Check out the video clips from 2008:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I8KSyOrtIM
www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUph07rL_uI
Last year I missed the action, but the boys sent it pretty big, in a free Subaru that Warner Nickerson found. This year Warner Nickerson, Jon Olsson, Felix Neureuther, Sean McKenna and I bought a ’87 BMW 320i named Gertrude. After an hour of building a jump, I took the first jump then Warner jumped twice, but after Warner’ 2nd jump we noticed something was very wrong. On Warner’s second jump he nose the car in on the landing which pushed the radiator into the engine and cut the hoses attached to the radiator. We figured it was best not to drive Gertrude home in fear it would overheat, so we hid the her off a seemingly unused dirt road in the bushes and walked to the main road to get picked up. Because of bad weather we didn’t go out the next day. The following day we were all psyched to do some more car jumping, but when we pulled up to Gertrude, we were met with the horrible site of our beautiful baby, beaten with a sledgehammer all the windows knocked out, the hood ripped almost all the way off and worst of all, a fresh poo in the trunk. After a few minutes of tinkering with the her, she started up, and we were once again car jumping (minus windows and hood). Luckily, Jon had brought his helmet and some glasses, since without the windshield, smoke, dirt and the remnants of broken glass were blowing in our faces and bouncing around the car. As the day progressed we went bigger and bigger until the gear box dropped, making it tough to get Gertrude in gear. In addition to the gear box problems, the air intake was loose and needed to be duct taped back on after every jump. The next day we returned to the scene to see if we could resurrect Gertrude for another few jumps. We had to wrap the air intake with some more duct tape and it took some wriggling and jerking of the stick to get it in gear, but she did manage to run albeit with not that much power. After a bunch of disappointing jumps I decided the go hog wild with the duct tape. I taped the air intake extra tight, taped all the hoses that go into the engine and put an extra layer of tape around basically everything that felt the slightest bit loose. All that extra tape breathed new life into Gertrude. She screamed down the in-run with same ferocity as she had the first day, but since the engine had broken off its mounts, the engine was just resting on the front axle, so as I hit the jump, the shocks compressed and the engine dug down into the dirt. As Gertrude and I left the jump, the shocks decompressed and popped us far higher then we’d gone before- perhaps 10ft above previous trajectories. As I landed getting fulling compacted in my seat, Gertrude ran no more. Gertrude’s insides laid all over the jump’s takeoff and landing with chunks of metal from the engine steaming in the dirt. Thus ending rally fest 2010.
Check out video on Jon’s site:
http://www.jon-olsson.com/?p=2666
I’m now home but I’m going to the US Open for a few days before we head back down to NZ for round 2.

lata
Ted

One of the first jumps.

“This is how we found Guertund after she got beat up.”][/caption]

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Summer, Mt. Hood, etc.

After the last race of every season I always think my summer is going to be so long and there is going to be all this time to go places and do fun things, but come now mid July, I wonder where all my time went. I have 2 more weeks of summer before I head to New Zealand for our first ski camp, and I feel like my summer just started. Where did all that time go?….

After I finished my spring activities of testing skis, going to the Monaco Grand Prix, and backcountry skiing, I decided it was time to start hitting the gym with my workout partner and friend AJ Avrin (hopefully my racing protégé). I’ve normally worked out by myself in the summer because I felt like it was easier to get through the workouts and get on with my day. But this year I felt like I wanted/needed to be pushed a little harder, and that’s where AJ has come in. He’s probably the most athletic kid I know, especially when the sport involves a ball. (Unfortunately for him ski racing doesn’t not…it involves two.) On a typical workout day we mountain bike to the gym, play a game or 2 of one-on-one basketball which AJ almost always wins, then do our workout whether it be a lower, core or anaerobic workout (=puke workout). In the afternoons we mix it up with mtn. biking, basketball, tennis, etc. We mix in some sprint workouts on the track as well. All said and done we spend about 5-6 hrs working out.

The only week I haven’t been in the gym is the week I spent up in Mt. Hood. I’ve been coaching a camp in Mt. Hood for the last 4 years. It’s a lot of fun coaching kids but it wears you out, with 5:30 wake up calls, then doing dryland and whatnot with the kids in the afternoon. This year we had about 50 kids/campers ranging in age from 8-79. I ski the courses with the kids and sometimes they get the treat of running my course sets. This year Phil Mahre came down for a couple days, which was cool, though I’m not sure the kids really got how much he kicked ass in his day. One of the things the sets our camp above the rest besides our awesome coaches, is Mustache Mondays, in which I draw mustaches on all the kids that will let me, and they get to draw one on me too. Outside of the camp, Shred Optics, my company, has a big presence in Hood so I did a couple signings at the local shops (Fuxi’s and Speedy’s) that carry the product. Tons of kids showed up. I signed everything from posters to shoes to foreheads even gave out a few more Sharpie mustaches.

In addition to working out and Hood, I moved into my new house in Park City, which is awesome but has been quite the project. I decided I wanted to build a flat area on my sloped backyard to play badminton and whatever else. Figuring it would be a couple day project and that all the dirt I dug would be the right amount to level off the down hill side. I rented an excavator and started digging Wrong! Two weeks and two huge full dumpsters later there’s still a ton (actually more like 20 tons) of dirt left. It’s been named the “Pit of Doom”. I’ve hired some Park City Ski Team kids to wheel the dirt out into the dumpsters in exchange for ski equipment. Good trade for both sides! Check them out in their spoof of Audi’s “Truth in Motion”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKXMFiPLE1A
Now I just need to build the retaining wall and lay the sand. (several tons worth..ugh).

This week the team has had a dryland camp, in which we’ve been playing 4 hours of hockey a day. Needless to say we are all extremely sore. (I haven’t skated in two years). We’ve been doing a bunch of drills, run by 2 coaches from the Salt Lake City hockey team. What we lack in skill we make up for in intensity, we all spend a good amount of time falling and sliding into the boards. Today was the big final hockey game. My team lost, in my opinion mostly do to a porous goalie, though Nolan Kasper’s speed was too much to over come. Now I’m off to continue work on the “Pit of Doom”.

Lata
-ted

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Monaco Grand Prix

I don’t even know where to start describing this trip, it was probably the most fun and most tired I ever had/been. My brother Charly and I flew to Munich to pick up our bright red Audi R8. We drove to Kennelbach, Aut where the Head factory is, to check out the factory, test tennis rackets and met with the whole crew, then spent the night in Lugano, Ch. The next day we drove to Monaco testing how the R8 handled the highways. It handled them superbly I must say, we got her up to 186mph (300kph). It was fun on the back roads too. We spent some time in San Remo, driving along the coast, before getting to Jens Byggmark’s apartment in Monaco. Jens’s place served as the skier hostel for the weekend. Along with my brother and I, freeskier Oscar Scherlin and Jens’s friend Peter were all staying there. My brother and I did some nice spooning on the air mattress.

Along with the crew at Jens’s, there was a big contingent of skiers on hand, Didier Cuche, Marco Buechel, Aksel Lund Svindal, Markus Larrson and Jon Olsson. Aksel hooked Charly and I up with VIP Red Bull passes which was awesome of him. The Red Bull set up there was ridiculous to say the least. They had built several bars, a pool and dining area onto a barge and parked it right on the water next to the track. We got to hang out in the Red Bull pit for the qualifiers and met a bunch of the drivers. It’s unbelievable how much was going on behind the scenes and how loud it was.

Outside the race the Monaco Grand Prix is really about the parting. I’m not going to get into it too much but the nightlife in Monaco is lavishly ridiculous. It’s an early night if you make it home by 5am and cheap if you spend under 400 Euros. There were a bunch of big names out and about as well. We hung out with one of my favorite cyclists, Thor Hushovd a couple of the nights, who was a super cool dude. Needless to say after few nights, with early mornings to watch the races we were all pretty tired. Charly and I drove back to Munich, in a half daze before flighting home.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Lata

-Ted

Charly and I with Thor Hushovd
Filling up the R8

Head race room
Overlooking the bay

Watching as 1st place drives by

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