2:22 PM EDT, October 23, 2011
Home, sweet home.
With the emphasis on sweet after this weekend.
The U.S. ski team announced a week ago it had signed a three-year deal to make the Austrian towns of Soelden and Obergurgl-Hochgurgl its alpine training base in Europe during the World Cup season.
Seems to have given Team USA an immediate home field advantage.
Sunday, Ted Ligety completed a U.S. sweep of the World Cup season openers on the Soelden glacier.
The ninth World Cup giant slalom victory for Ligety followed Saturday’s first career GS victory for Lindsey Vonn.
“Just being able to train here last week was a nice advantage and having our own apartments just adds to the comfort,” Ligety said.
The men are headquartered in Soelden, the women about eight miles away in Obergurgl-Hochgurgl.
For years, U.S. skiers have been mainly nomads during the three-month European phase of the World Cup season, which begins in earnest after the U.S. and Canadian races in late November and early December. That means going to a succession of different hotels and carrying all belongings from place to place.
A few U.S. stars – notably Bode Miller for a few seasons and now Vonn – have tried to find some familiarity and stability by staying in personal motor homes.
The World Cup skiers will get to Austria for some home cooking as often as possible, and U.S. skiing will let others stay there as well. A U.S. women’s development team has moved in.
"The amount of skiable terrain in Soelden is unbelievable, which equates to any number of quality training opportunities and amazing freeskiing," Miller said.
From Soelden, the white circus goes on to Levi, Finland for slaloms Nov. 12-13, but the U.S. skiers first will return to their new domestic training base in Copper Mountain, Colo.
Ligety, 2006 Olympic gold medalist, long has felt at home in Soelden. The win Sunday gave him a complete set of medals from the last three Soelden races, following silver in 2009 and bronze in 2008 (last year’s was cancelled).
“Any race win is a good win, I don’t care where it is,” Ligety said.
Ligety, 27, is going for a third straight World Cup season title in giant slalom.
He seemed more impressed by Vonn’s breakthrough success, which made her one of just five women to have won in all alpine disciplines. She had won three straight overall titles and finished second last year because of her dominance in the speed events, downhill and giant slalom.
“I feel sorry for all the girls who have to race against her,” Ligety said. “Now that she is winning in giant slalom, too, it’s going to be an uphill battle for everyone else.”
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