World Cup Opens In Austria

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Soelden, Austria, Oct. 25, 2000--Ten U.S. skiers will be racing on the Soelden glacier as the 2001 Cafe de Colombia World Cup seasonopens with a women's giant slalom Saturday and a men's GS Sunday. The midweek long-term forecast predicted good weather throughthe weekend.

After the snow and rainstorms, which ravaged much of central Europe, conditions on the glacier are excellent. Men's GS/SL Head CoachJesse Hunt said the U.S. men, who lost vital training time in France because of the storms, arrived Tuesday and are using the lead-up totheir opening race as a mini-camp to sharpen their skills. The U.S. women, who were expected to arrive Wednesday, appear to beready, according to Head Coach Marjan Cernigoj; Cernigoj has been with three of them at a final camp on the glacier above Pitztal, not farfrom Soelden, which is in the Oeztal Valley and about 90 minutes southwest of Innsbruck near the Italian border.

The U.S. Ski Team entrants will be: Men - Chip Knight (New Canaan, CT), Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO),Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT), Dane Spencer (Boise, ID), and Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, NY). Women - Caroline Lalive (SteamboatSprings, CO), Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO), and Alex Shaffer (Park City, UT). Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN), who is training andcompeting on her own outside of the U.S. Ski Team, will also compete.

"It's a good group. We're all pretty fired-up to get the season underway," Hunt said. "They're really motivated for the season. It's going tobe exciting. Everyone wants to see where he stands." He added, "what's really exciting for me is these guys know they're 'players' andthat they're capable of doing something out there. Their confidence is 'there' and we're ready to go."

Cernigoj, who oversaw the Pitztal preparation with GS/SL Coach Georg Capaul, was pleased with the final sessions from Lalive,Schleper, and Shaffer.

Lalive, Shaffer and Schleper stopped briefly in Soelden while en route to Pitztal, he said, and trained on what were icy, uneven, choppyconditions. However, course crews have manicured the Soelden runs and improved conditions, he said. "From where we skied in Pitztal,we could see the top of the Soelden glacier - it's just one valley over."

After the opening weekend, there's a short break before the schedule resumes with the traditional start of continuous racing at the ChevyTruck America's Opening Nov. 16-19 - men's GS and slalom, women's GS and slalom - in Park City, Utah.