Ski notebook

With Vancouver looming, Vonn looks golden

By Tony Chamberlain
Globe Correspondent / December 24, 2009

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World champion Lindsey Vonn proved two things in the last two races before the Christmas break: first, she doesn’t win every race she enters, but second, it seems impossible to keep her off the podium.

Last Friday in Val d’Isere, France, Vonn smoked the field by more than a full second in the super-combined, giving Vonn her 25th career win.

Then on Sunday, skiing a “disappointing run’’ on Val d’Isere’s Super-G track, Vonn finished on the bronze step, just .26 seconds behind Swiss teammates Fraenzi Aufdenblatten and Nadia Styger.

As the Vancouver Olympics draw near, Vonn, the reigning World Cup overall champion, said she is working on her speed skills. Her 25 career wins put her well ahead of former top American Tamara McKinney, who amassed 18 in the 1980s.

Vonn stands atop the overall World Cup standings with 581 points, 50 ahead of Maria Riesch of Germany. Vonn also leads the downhill discipline (60 ahead of Riesch and Canada’s Emily Brydon), Super-G (16 ahead of Austria’s Elisabeth Goergl), and combined (20 ahead of Riesch).

But for skiers this year, the focus after the holidays will be on the Vancouver Olympics, not the World Cup standings.

“Every race is important in overall and in building confidence for Vancouver,’’ Vonn said.

Powers off to good start
Ross Powers is in a good place on the Olympic comeback trail following a third-place finish at the US Snowboardcross World Cup at Telluride, Colo., last weekend.

“Being on the podium was awesome,’’ said Powers after the second of five Olympic qualifying races. “I rode hard and gave it my best shot.’’

The two-time Olympic halfpipe medalist from Okemo, Vt., who is switching to rough-and-tumble boardercross, has been getting strong starts through the early rounds.

“I was definitely doing well off the starts, getting the hole shot,’’ he said. “But on the last race I wasn’t as good. I was able to catch up and pull through for the podium.’’

Powers credits autumn training for his success. He spent the fall with the US Snowboard Team working out at the $22.5 million US Ski and Snowboard Association training center in Park City, Utah, and also did lots of mountain biking and skateboarding.

The Olympic team will have four men’s snowboardcross spots. Finishing in the top four of a race is the lead standard for a team slot.

New Englanders Seth Wescott (Sugarloaf, Maine) and Alex Deibold (New Haven) are also in contention.

The final three qualifying races are Jan. 10 in Bad Gastein, Austria; Jan. 15 in Veysonnaz, Switzerland; and Jan. 21 in Quebec.

Cook ready to go distance
Ski mountaineering may be under the radar for most corduroy cowboys, but not Warren Cook. The Saddleback chief executive officer and general manager is training for a famed spring half-marathon in Switzerland using the free-heel technique on the trails of the western Maine resort.

Cook, 65, embraced the sport about five years ago during a five-day, 100-kilometer ski tour of the famed Haute Route between Chamonix, France, and Zermatt, Switzerland. Plus, his daughter, Nina Silitch, is a World Cup Randonee competitor, finishing 12th last season. She lives in Chamonix with her husband and two sons.

Cook plans to step up his training as the season progresses.

“I use it for exercising and to see what’s going on,’’ said Cook, who has also done backcountry skiing on New Hampshire peaks such as Lafayette, Cardigan, and the old Mittersill trails.

Cook’s three-person team will compete in April’s Patrouille des Glaciers, held every two years and organized by the Swiss Army. Cook’s team plans to tackle the 27-kilometer race between Arolla and Veriber (there’s also a 53-kilometer race) and hopes to ski the terrain in about nine hours.

Cook plans to try a couple of Maine mountaineering races first: the Dec. 29 Moonlight Climb up Sugarloaf and the Feb. 27 Saddleback Mountain Challenge.

Getting in the spirit
Christmas vacation week means resorts will be jumping.

Crotched Mountain’s Midnight Madness rail jam begins Saturday at 10 p.m. with plenty of giveaways. Pats Peak begins its Saturday night pay-one-price special with $39 lift tickets from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. (rentals and tubing included). Stratton’s Tyrolliene is the place for Saturday’s freestyle Vans Cold Wars rail jam under the lights at 5 p.m. Portions of Black Mountain turn into a snowy pitch for Sunday’s annual rugby tournament. Tiny Northeast Slopes, a 12-trail ski area in East Corinth, Vt., is heralding the grand opening of its new T-bar Saturday. Lift tickets are $12. Shawnee Peak’s Ullr Fest ’09 Dec. 29 features fireworks, torchlight parade, and “The Beating of the Drums’’ at the Maine mountain.

Mt. Cranmore in North Conway will emphasize the family holiday experience, including a terrain park competition, live entertainers, fireworks, night skiing, and snow tubing.

Globe correspondents Marty Basch and TD Thornton contributed to this article.