The men’s World Cup speed circuit touches down in Saalbach, Austria, for the first time since 1999 this week. The men haven’t contested downhill there since 1994 when Canadian Ed Podivinsky finished on top of the podium (and current FIS Race Director Atle Skaardal placed third) in a two-run sprint race after high winds forced a shortening of the course. Prior to that, Saalbach hosted the World Alpine Ski Championships in 1991.

This year’s installment will be held on the Schneekristall, which race officials hope will be skied to completion come race day.

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“It’s a course with a ton of terrain — a lot of sharp terrain — so it helped to know where you were going in the first training run,” which the U.S. did not, said assistant speed coach Scotty Veenis.

Kjetil Jansrud opened the speed week the same way he’s opened many others this season — with the fastest time in training. The Norwegian clocked in at 1 minute, 49.62 seconds.

Weltcup_SteckenuebersichtJansrud was followed by six straight Austrians, starting with Max Franz (+0.09) and Matthias Mayer (+0.29). The Austrians who departed Colorado after the speed events of the World Championships were able to log some training time on the hill before the pre-race moratorium took effect. Likewise, Jansrud also had an opportunity to train in Saalbach prior to returning home to Norway for a bit.

The U.S. team had atypical results in the opening training run with most of the top speed skiers finishing near the back of the pack. Many of the guys missed gates and were simply hesitant — not totally sure how to execute the new course.

“The snow for the most part is in really good condition right now,” said coach Chris Beckmann. “There is a lot of really sharp terrain and decent jumps. So for the guys going into it blind, not even having been down the trail yet, it was kind of a learning experience.”

The course follows a gondola from top to bottom, beginning well above tree line and then dips into a forested section where the trail becomes quite a bit turnier, but not necessarily more technical, according to the coaches. The race concludes with good action on the bottom — a Daytona-style bank turn and a 60-meter jump over an Audi. (Yes, an actual Audi.)

“It’s something cool for the fans,” said coach Pete Anderson. “It jumps pretty easy actually, even though it’s big. The takeoff has got to be close to three meters, 10 feet off the ground.”

I don’t know if the course is necessarily going to suit one type of skier more than others,” added Anderson. “It’s going to take some good active skiing over terrain. I think anyone can be fast. It’s not super technical and at the same time there isn’t a long gliding section either. It’s just a lot of good, open downhill turns.”

On this, an entirely new hill for the athletes, the coaches said there isn’t much of a change to the team’s approach — try to capture some good video angles and analyze their training performances in advance of race day on Saturday.

The biggest difference is the learning curve. “You’re starting with no knowledge of the hill, so each training run has to count a little more,” said Anderson.

With the presumed success of the speed hill this weekend, the hope on the ground is that Saalbach can return to the calendar as a more frequent stop on the World Cup Tour.

“The people in this valley are really into ski racing, as much as anywhere in Austria,” noted Anderson. “They have a lot of interest here and they haven’t had a race in so long, they want to get get back in the game.”

 

Results

 1  16  421483 JANSRUD Kjetil 1985 NOR  1:49.62
 2  7  53817 FRANZ Max 1989 AUT  1:49.71  +0.09
 3  15  53902 MAYER Matthias 1990 AUT  1:49.91  +0.29
 4  2  51215 BAUMANN Romed 1986 AUT  1:50.05  +0.43
 5  48  53980 KRIECHMAYR Vincent 1991 AUT  1:50.17  +0.55
 6  26  50858 STREITBERGER Georg 1981 AUT  1:50.22  +0.60
 7  11  50742 REICHELT Hannes 1980 AUT  1:50.28  +0.66
 8  13  511139 KUENG Patrick 1984 SUI  1:50.43  +0.81
 9  20  511313 JANKA Carlo 1986 SUI  1:50.49  +0.87
 10  12  192932 FAYED Guillermo 1985 FRA  1:50.66  +1.04
 11  29  191964 POISSON David 1982 FRA  1:50.87  +1.25
 11  28  50753 KROELL Klaus 1980 AUT  1:50.87  +1.25
 13  19  510727 DEFAGO Didier 1977 SUI  1:51.04  +1.42
 14  63  422139 KILDE Aleksander Aamodt 1992 NOR  1:51.23  +1.61
 15  3  202059 FERSTL Josef 1988 GER  1:51.26  +1.64
 16  18  191740 CLAREY Johan 1981 FRA  1:51.27  +1.65
 17  38  180570 ROMAR Andreas 1989 FIN  1:51.30  +1.68
 18  37  54075 KARELLY Mario 1992 AUT  1:51.32  +1.70
 19  51  202196 BRANDNER Klaus 1990 GER  1:51.51  +1.89
 20  58  930024 MAPLE Wiley 1990 USA  1:51.60  +1.98
 21  31  560447 SPORN Andrej 1981 SLO  1:51.62  +2.00
 22  8  192746 THEAUX Adrien 1984 FRA  1:51.66  +2.04
 23  21  511513 CAVIEZEL Mauro 1988 SUI  1:51.67  +2.05
 24  71  194666 DELBERGHE William 1993 FRA  1:51.73  +2.11
 25  44  53936 DUERAGER Markus 1990 AUT  1:51.80  +2.18
 26  50  53933 SCHWEIGER Patrick 1990 AUT  1:51.85  +2.23
 27  9  511383 FEUZ Beat 1987 SUI  1:51.91  +2.29
 28  65  202535 DRESSEN Thomas 1993 GER  1:51.94  +2.32
 29  62  511808 SCHMED Fernando 1991 SUI  1:52.00  +2.38
 30  5  194190 ROGER Brice 1990 FRA  1:52.19  +2.57
 30  4  533131 SULLIVAN Marco 1980 USA  1:52.19  +2.57
 32  23  103271 THOMSEN Benjamin 1987 CAN  1:52.24  +2.62
 33  46  194298 GIEZENDANNER Blaise 1991 FRA  1:52.25  +2.63
 34  54  194167 MUZATON Maxence 1990 FRA  1:52.35  +2.73
 35  70  511638 TUMLER Thomas 1989 SUI  1:52.52  +2.90
 35  36  561217 KOSI Klemen 1991 SLO  1:52.52  +2.90
 35  10  291459 PARIS Dominik 1989 ITA  1:52.52  +2.90
 38  67  202469 RENZ Fabio 1992 GER  1:52.67  +3.05
 38  41  51327 PUCHNER Joachim 1987 AUT  1:52.67  +3.05
 40  27  292514 HEEL Werner 1982 ITA  1:52.78  +3.16
 41  32  511981 WEBER Ralph 1993 SUI  1:52.81  +3.19
 42  45  481705 GLEBOV Alexander 1983 RUS  1:52.83  +3.21
 43  61  990081 CASSE Mattia 1990 ITA  1:52.87  +3.25
 44  33  511847 MANI Nils 1992 SUI  1:52.92  +3.30
 45  60  293550 MARSAGLIA Matteo 1985 ITA  1:52.93  +3.31
 46  57  294904 PANGRAZZI Paolo 1988 ITA  1:52.94  +3.32
 47  68  192504 MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas 1984 FRA  1:53.03  +3.41
 48  47  400281 VAN HEEK Marvin 1991 NED  1:53.05  +3.43
 49  52  200379 SANDER Andreas 1989 GER  1:53.14  +3.52
 50  53  194368 RAFFORT Nicolas 1991 FRA  1:53.19  +3.57
 51  24  102899 OSBORNE-PARADIS Manuel 1984 CAN  1:53.28  +3.66
 52  39  934643 GOLDBERG Jared 1991 USA  1:53.34  +3.72
 53  17  533866 NYMAN Steven 1982 USA  1:53.36  +3.74
 54  64  294277 KLOTZ Siegmar 1987 ITA  1:53.43  +3.81
 55  34  561255 CATER Martin 1992 SLO  1:53.48  +3.86
 56  1  530939 WEIBRECHT Andrew 1986 USA  1:53.54  +3.92
 57  59  511405 OREILLER Ami 1987 SUI  1:53.70  +4.08
 58  14  530874 GANONG Travis 1988 USA  1:53.72  +4.10
 59  40  561067 PERKO Rok 1985 SLO  1:53.77  +4.15
 59  30  293141 VARETTONI Silvano 1984 ITA  1:53.77  +4.15
 59  25  292455 FILL Peter 1982 ITA  1:53.77  +4.15
 62  66  6290985 BUZZI Emanuele 1994 ITA  1:54.00  +4.38
 63  56  561216 KLINE Bostjan 1991 SLO  1:54.30  +4.68
 64  69  6290540 DE VETTORI Matteo 1993 ITA  1:56.59  +6.97
 65  55  194542 GIRAUD MOINE Valentin 1992 FRA  2:03.20  +13.58
Did not start 1st run
 43  100558 COOK Dustin 1989 CAN
 42  380292 ZRNCIC-DIM Natko 1986 CRO
 35  103612 PRIDY Morgan 1990 CAN
 22  293006 INNERHOFER Christof 1984 ITA
 6  534562 LIGETY Ted 1984 USA
Did not finish 1st run
 72  460071 ACHIRILOAIE Ioan Valeriu 1990 ROU
 49  53981 KROELL Johannes 1991 AUT