Racers on Course

Racers on Course

A new West Mountain competition venue designed in part by SE Group consultant Bode Miller will soon draw the world’s elite athletes—and kids from around North America. 

Compression turns, double fall lines, flats, steep off-camber corners… if you were designing a new ski run for 80 percent of the skiing public, those are exactly the features you’d want to avoid.

Ski racers are not the skiing public. If the goal is to produce a generation of skiers able to perform well on the national and international level, you need to challenge them. “I visited Granby Ranch last winter for a ski company demo day and heard about their plans to add snowmaking on West Mountain,” says Bode. “I immediately recognized what a competition venue at this altitude could do for racing. There’s enough terrain variability for high-level technical skiing.”

Now enter the ski area envisioning firm, SE Group, which, with Bode’s input—he’s a consultant—has designed the plans for a national level training and competition venue on West Mountain. A lot goes into it. For every level of competition there’s a corresponding International Ski Federation (FIS) “homologation” (certification) that must be met. Take the eventual lighting for example. To light an FIS course, you can’t have competitors moving through bright light to dim, so the light poles get stacked up. Instead of high-speed chairs, racers get quick surface lifts. As for the four slalom runs and one convertible mogul run— “lanes” in race speak—the goal is to earn the highest FIS certification the pitch allows.  Middle Park’s very own Chris “Seadog” Seaman, a legend in the world of FIS and Olympic level moguls course development, is overseeing the bump venue. The facilities will be capable of hosting events like the World Pro Ski Tour. “As important as it is to host elite racing events,” says Granby Ranch General Manager Jace Wirth, “we also have a greater objective, to develop Grand County kids into 2034 Winter Olympians.”

Even snowmaking is different with racing. For the public, the lighter and drier you can make snow the better. That’s easy in the cold temps of Granby Ranch. But racers need harder and wetter snow. “It’s fun working on competition venues,” says SE Group Director of Mountain Planning Peter Williams, who has designed race hills all over the world including at the Utah Olympic Park. “By intentionally making the skiing harder, you do the opposite of what you would do for a beginner or intermediate run at a big resort. We’ll have a ton of high-quality competition skiing.”

And it’s coming soon. With the snowmaking install happening now, the West Mountain venue will be welcoming athletes by this winter.  “I grew up racing a small venue and did pretty well,” says Bode. “With slalom especially, you don’t need massive mountains, it’s about the frequency of runs through gates. Some of the best racers in the world come from mountains like Granby Ranch.”

This story appears in Granby Ranch’s fall mini-magazine edition. For more information or to get a print copy, please email eloveland (@) granbyranch.com.