Hannes Reichelt took first in the season's final World Cup Super G, at Aspen. PHOTO: Cody Downard
Hannes Reichelt took first in the season's final World Cup Super G, at Aspen. PHOTO: Cody Downard

Pinning the Airplane Turn at Aspen’s Super G

Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather and Austria’s Hannes Reichelt take first place for women and men

Marquee Image: Hannes Reichelt takes the top spot at the World Cup Super G, in Aspen. PHOTO: Cody Downard

Day two of the 2017 World Cup Finals dawned clear and blue in Aspen for the men's and women's last go of the season at Super G, where Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather and Austria's Hannes Reichelt took the wins.

Experience came to play on the challenging course. Reichelt, 36, was the oldest racer of the men and skied a smart, tight line to hold first place at 1:08.22. Italy's Dominik Paris was .11 seconds behind, taking second. Switzerland's Mauro Caviezel took third.

The women who held it together to make the podium laid down angles so aggressive they were practically horizontal to the slope. Italy's Federica Brignone skied into third place, only hundredths of a second behind Slovenia's Ilka Stuhek. Weirather took first by .35 seconds.

The same course as yesterday's Downhill, just a lower start, the crux of Aspen's Super G is the airplane turn in the middle of the course: a huge bank turn that's steep, directional, bullet fast, and pushes skiers into their highest gear. The airplane turn demands strength (those power thighs!) and technique to counteract the lift that happens when you take such a wide turn at such a fast speed. And it makes for incredible spectating. So naturally, that's where a crew of Aspenites and I pulled out the blanket and mimosas to watch the race.

Hannes Reichelt can bend a ski. Here he is motoring to victory in the season’s final World Cup Super G, at Aspen. PHOTO: Cody Downard

Aspen has a long history of ski racing, going back to the first sanctioned race here in 1939. In 1950, Aspen hosted the first World Championships outside of Europe, and this year's World Cup Finals are the first in the U.S. in 20 years. The stakes were high for the American racers wanting to come in strong for their hometown crowd, and yesterday, Lindsey Vonn took second in the downhill. But today's Super G knocked out both Vonn and American Laurenne Ross, as well as Italian firewoman Sofia Goggia.

Vonn came flying down the lower Aztec Face and soared through the airplane turn. But just after she loaded her right, downhill ski and deflected off the gate, which whipped her to the ground and sent her sliding into the net. It was a heartbreaking fall: Her line was low and she was skiing at a speed that was well within podium potential. Her fall also knocked the wind of out of the crowd, which immediately went quiet, and then felt relief when Vonn stood up and skied down the hill and off the course.

When you’re done watching the races, you party Aspen-style.

Where the women's course was set wide on the airplane turn, the gates on the men's course were placed to set up the turn with a near-straightline that dove immediately into a hairpin left. A coach was spotted high in a tree looking down on the turn to scout the course. Skiing a feature like that at 60 mph—my heart sank into my stomach nearly every time a skier slipped through the gates.

For the American men, Travis Ganong and Andrew Weibrecht were toward the end of the start list, when the noonday sun had ripened the snow. Ganong was 18th on the start list and came into the airplane turn with clean speed, but a couple speed checks later in the course put him a half second out. He placed 8th.

Weibrecht, the last American racer of the day, 21st on the start list, came out of the airplane turn fast and wide. He almost missed the gate at the end of the turn, but recovered, though the sacrifice counted in his time. He placed 14th.