U.S. Skiers Set for Alpine World Cup Opener


Tignes, France, Oct. 27--Course workers moved new snow off the glacier above Tignes Wednesday, looking to prepare the icy run for the start of the 1999-2000 alpine World Cup season this weekend with back-to-back giant slaloms. The women race Saturday and the men's schedule opens on Halloween.

Eight members of the U.S. Ski Team are in Tignes - five men and three women. The group includes: Men - Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), Chad Fleischer (Vail, CO), Casey Puckett (Crested Butte, CO), Dane Spencer (Boise, ID) and Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, NY); Women - Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN), Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) and Alex Shaffer (Park City, UT).

"They're removing the snow so they can get down to the glacier, and I'd go along with that decision," said U.S. women's Head Coach Marjan Cernigoj. "We'll be starting back in the field and we need good, hard snow, and getting down to the glacier is better than having to go through soft, new snow."

Cernigoj said the women came to Tignes after training on the Soelden and Pitztal glaciers in Austria - with the Austrian team. "It was on a nice upswing at the end. We had two perfect days of training, so that's a good way to go into the first race of the season."

Koznick, one of the best slalom skiers on the World Cup tour, is looking to ski more GS this season, he said, and her preseason training has shown solid improvement. Schleper, the 1998 U.S. giant slalom champion who rebounded from a broken leg at midseason a year ago, and Shaffer, the '99 GS gold medalist, also were skiing well.

After the races in Tignes, the Cafe de Colombia World Cup schedule takes nearly a three-week break before resuming with the Chevy Truck America's Opening races - GS and slalom for both men and women - Nov. 18-21 in Park City, Utah.