Two in a row at Val Thorens, FRA, up next for ski cross World Cup

11 January 2014 13:47
Overlooking the impressive Val Thorens, FRA, SX course
Overlooking the impressive Val Thorens, FRA, SX course -
FIS/Buchholz

VAL THORENS, FRA – After several weeks of struggle and uncertainty, the Audi FIS ski cross World Cup tour is happy and relieved to announce that a replacement has been found for two of the three World Cup races that were lost due to the inclement weather and lack of snow plaguing much of Europe in the 2013/14 winter season.

Races originally slated for after the holiday break in Megeve, France, and Bischofsweisen, Germany (x2), were forced to be cancelled due to a lack of snow at both resorts and an extended forecast of warm temperatures running well beyond the scheduled snow control date.

A ski cross race takes not only a significant amount of snow, but also a significant amount of resources, planning, and commitment from a local resort and its organizing committee. While FIS worked diligently to find suitable venues to stage make-up races for the ones cancelled, shortness of notice and shortness of resources (due to factors such as, say, Orthodox Christmas holiday goers occupying resort beds) had the situation at the resorts investigated across Italy and France looking less than hopeful.

That was, of course, until the French Ski Federation (FFS) and Val Thorens resorts came together with FIS Freestyle to construct an ideal solution, offering a return Europe's highest resort for back-to-back races on January 16-17. The agreement to stage these races ensures two more critical qualification opportunities just in time for the end of the Olympic qualification period on January 19th. Without the addition of these races, several top ski cross athletes in the midst of slow starts may have found themselves on the outside looking in come Olympic time. Those athletes will now have the chance in Val Thorens to prove that they indeed belong where they think they belong, in February's big show.

Val Thorens was the site of the one of the finest World Cup ski cross races in extended memory this past December, as its unique combination of natural terrain and big, well-designed features allowed for a top-tier course that both challenged and fed into the skill sets of best ski cross athletes in the world.

When we last left the Audi ski cross tour, we had just wrapped up a pair of races in Innichen/San Candido, ITA. Several top athletes punched their tickets to Sochi at those races, while some dark horses were able to step up and make strong cases. David Duncan (CAN) claimed victory in both the men's races, effectively changing his status from Sochi “maybe” to being a guaranteed representative for the Canadian team. Anna Holmlund (SWE), returning to racing for the first time since suffering an injured knee in 2012/13, scored a podium in her first race back, asserting her fitness ahead of Games. And last season's men's overall leader Alex Fiva (SUI), despite struggling somewhat this season, was able to get back on track to take a 2nd and a 5th place and clear his passage to Sochi.

It was a good weekend for the Swiss all around, as Fanny Smith and then Katrin Mueller won the ladies' races. Other top performers included Canadians Kesley Serwa and Marielle Thompson who traded 2nd and 5th place finishes in the ladies' races, and Daniel Bohnacker (GER), who took a 3rd place finish and 5th place finish home for the holiday break.

After so much time off, it almost feels as if it's a new season on the Audi FIS ski cross World Cup, to be played out in the form of a two-race sprint to the finish of the Olympic qualifying period. That we are allowed to watch this sprint take place over back-to-back days on perhaps the best World Cup ski cross course in the world is fortunate indeed.

Ladies Audi ski cross World Cup leader board can be viewed HERE

Men's Audi ski cross World Cup leader board can be viewed HERE