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2010 Winter Olympics: 'Ski Utah' holds true

WHAT'S NEXT Boarders jump into women's halfpipe

U.S. Ski Team members Nolan Kasper, Nick Daniels and Tommy Ford, from left, watch training run Wednesday at Park City, where they're staying sharp before going to Vancouver.
U.S. Ski Team members Nolan Kasper, Nick Daniels and Tommy Ford, from left, watch training run Wednesday at Park City, where they're staying sharp before going to Vancouver.
Colin E Braley, AP

PARK CITY — Skiing in Utah never looked so good.

The U.S. Ski Team's plan to send racers in the technical disciplines to Park City for training seems wiser with every delay at the Vancouver Games.

While winters are hardly predictable in Utah, its weather has been much more stable than the mix that unraveled the early alpine racing schedule at the Olympic venue in Whistler.

Four skiers who are racing in the later events have been riding out the delays in Park City, where they train while awaiting word of when the finicky weather in British Columbia will allow them to race. So far, three alpine events have been rescheduled.

"I haven't actually talked to them that much, but I imagine they're going nuts," said Tommy Ford, who races in the giant slalom on Tuesday — the rescheduled date if the weather holds. "A week delay for a race? That never happens. But it's the only Olympics. They've got to get it off."

Ford is trying to stay sharp for his Olympic debut and raced in a National Development System slalom. It's hardly the competition Ford is used to and will face next week, but it's still a race on the same site of the 2002 Olympic slalom and giant slalom courses at Park City Mountain Resort.

Ford and Jake Zamansky, who is also in the GS, are scheduled to leave Saturday. Slalom racers Jimmy Cochran and Nolan Kasper aren't scheduled to race until Feb. 27 and will leave Utah next week.

Fortunately, it's only a 21/2-hour flight to Vancouver, so Ford was there for the opening ceremony, then returned to Utah. He was scheduled to fly back Wednesday, but raced in the NDS slalom instead.

Cochran said it's a better situation than when he competed four years ago in the Turin Olympics. The skiers were already in Europe for the World Cup season and didn't get much of a chance to come home. This year, he was able to spend a few days with his family in Vermont before coming to Utah to train.

"It's good to sort of stay away from the hype and the hoopla and have guaranteed good training here," Cochran said. "The weather is so tricky up there this time of year."

Before Lindsey Vonn's victory in the women's downhill on Wednesday, the only other alpine event to be completed was the men's downhill Monday. The repeated delays have meant a longer stay in Park City for the technical skiers.

"People want to race. That's what we're here to do," Kasper said. "Getting ready to race at a certain time and that not happening is tough, but being down here is great. We're getting some good training in."

Cochran has been out for a couple of days with a twisted ankle, but hoped to be back on skis today. Even if he waits until Friday, that would still give him more than a week before the slalom if it goes on as scheduled.

Cochran has focused only on slalom this season and is hoping to top his 12th-place finish in 2006. Cochran said the slalom run at Park City is steeper than Whistler's, but the hardened snow injected with water is what he expects next week.

"The biggest thing I've found in preparing for these races is just getting on a similar surface," he said. "What we have here is perfect, and presumably that's what we'll have in Whistler. The hill can vary quite a bit as long as you get that surface right."

He's also trying to win a second Olympic medal for one of U.S. skiing's most prominent families. His father, Bob, won seven national titles and aunts Marilyn Cochran Brown, Barbara Ann Cochran and Lindy Cochran Kelley combined for eight. And their father, Mickey, used to coach the U.S. Alpine team.

His father and three aunts were all Olympians, but Barbara Ann's slalom gold in 1972 is their only medal.