Beaver Creek, CO, Nov. 23 (AP by Mike Clark)--Short skis or long skis? Which way should a slalom skier go?
For Bode Miller, the top American gate racer, it's a question of confidence, not equipment.
``There's no mystery to it. The reason those guys are using a shorter ski is because with a longer ski they keep screwing up,'' said Miller, 22, of Franconia, N.H. ``The longer ski should be faster if you can ski it clean and not make any mistakes. But the short ski is so much more forgiving that they're not messing up.''
Miller pointed to a NorAm race last week in Breckenridge, Colo., in which several racers competed on shorter skis.
``Didier Plaschy (of Switzerland), who won, was on a much more traditional ski,'' said Miller, who also rides the longer boards. ``The difference is he has confidence in the way he's skiing right now and he didn't make any mistakes. He just skied his race solidly.''
Those who finished close to him might have been fooled by the conditions, as well, Miller said.
``These are not World Cup conditions for the most part. It's not going to be like that on Birds of Prey,'' where the first men's World Cup slalom of the season was scheduled today. ``I think it's going to be icier and definitely steeper. I think you're going to see guys on much more traditional skis for the World Cup.''
Short skis, which are very nimble in the gate-per-second slalom, ``almost gives a false hope,'' Miller said. ``Guys who were beating guys like Jagge (Norway's Finn Christian Jagge) over in Breckenridge in the slalom maybe think they're as good as he is. Then they get to the World Cup and on ice Jagge knows how to ski and these guys haven't seen ice like that. That's the only real drawback.''
Miller is one of those guys trying to run down the likes of Jagge, Norway's defending overall champion Lasse Kjus and Austrian veteran Thomas Stangassinger, the defending slalom champion. He made inroads last year, with two fourths in slalom and two eighths in giant slalom.
Heading into his fourth season, he's looking for more consistency while stretching himself out to race in super-G and downhill as well.
``There's a huge difference between slalom and giant slalom,'' Miller said. ``I qualified for the super-G for the World Cup and I think there's a huge difference between slalom and GS and a really slim difference between GS and super-G and downhill. I think slalom is the only one that's really set apart.''
Today's slalom and Wednesday's giant slalom were moved to Colorado from Utah because of a lack of snow, but it is still an American site, and Miller says that's important.
``Being in your own country has so many advantages,'' he said. ``We get the first pick of the training; we get the best training there is. Even though there's no snow for the rec skiers, we're still getting the best quality training. It's been the best prep period for me.''
A moment of silence was planned before the start of the race for Serge Lang, one of the founders of World Cup skiing, who died Sunday of a heart attack at age 79.
Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press