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Ski the Games

Ski the Games

Travel
By Sarah Tuff
posted: 01/23/2006




THE BIG PICTURE
You've caught a plane to Torino, Italy, to watch the Olympics. But you don't want to be glued to a bleacher seat for your whole vacation. You're a skier. You want to watch some killer events and make some badass linguini tracks. We've assembled a nine-day itinerary that includes four of competitive skiing's most thrilling events: Men's Downhill, Ski Jumping, Men's Moguls, and Women's Combined-all of which take place in the mountain venues east of Torino. In between events, we send you north (read: away from the crowds) to ski four of the Aosta Valley's secret stashes: Breuil-Cervinia Valtournenche, Gressoney, Courmayeur, and La Thuile. The following pages provide a summary of your trip to Torino, and below you'll find a clearinghouse of transportation, lodging, and ticket info. So what are you waiting for? There are events to watch, penne to scarf, and Alps to schralp.

THE DETAILSYour plane just touched down in Torino. Now shake off the jet lag and get ready for some hot Olympic action. Here's how to make it happen.

GETTING AROUND
Airport to City: Trains run from Turin International Airport to the city every half-hour between 6:49 A.M. and 9:19 P.M. To book a shuttle, check out caarp.it. You'll eventually want a rental car to get up north and go skiing, so book one in advance through a travel agent or go to europcar.com.
City to Mountain Venues: There's one narrow, twisty mountain road leading to the alpine skiing, ski-jumping, and moguls venues near Sestriere. Avoid the traffic by taking one of the spectator trains. Once there, grab a free shuttleto the competition venues. See torino2006.org for details.
City to Ski Resorts: Head north on highway A5 for an hour and a half. ForGressoney, take A5 to Pont St. Martin, and then go north on 505. Breuil-Cervinia is about 20 miles north of Chatillon along 406. If you're going to La Thuile, take A5 to Aosta and catch 26. For Courmayeur, stay on A5.

LODGING
Olympic athletes, officials, and media are occupying about 20,500 rooms in Torino and the surrounding areas. Book your lodging as early as possible. Visit jumbograndieventi.it and turismotorino.org for info on a wide range of hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and hostels. For private apartment rentals and bed-and-breakfasts in or near the mountain towns adjacent to the skiing competition venues, check out montagnedoc.it.

EVENT TICKETS
Buy them now. For ticket packages or tickets to individual events, visit cosport.com or call 877-457-4647.

GENERAL INFO
torino2006.org["DAY ONE"]


MEN'S DOWNHILL
Sunday, February 12
Sestriere Borgata

The Event
There is perhaps no fitter stage for the men's downhill-the Formula 1 race of the Winter Olympics-than Italy, the land of Lamborghinis and Ferraris. In this event, freakishly strong athletes hurl themselves down boilerplate-ice headwalls and through organ-compressing turns and knolls at speeds faster than you're allowed to drive your car. And there's always drama. Remember Austrian Hermann Maier's horrifying tumble at the Nagano 1988 Games? It could happen again at Torino's Esse Azzurra and Esse Nube, two tight, technical curves. Besides American heroes DaronRahlves and Bode Miller, watch for the traditionally dominant Austrian squad: Maier, Michael Walchhofer, and Fritz Strobl.

The Dark Horse: Steve Nyman
Born: February 12, 1982, Provo, Utah
Vitals: 6 ft., 4 in.; 210 lb.
In 1969, Robert Redford starred in the film Downhill Racer. Twenty-one years later, at age eight, Utah native Steve Nyman began bashing gates at Bob's Sundance Resort. Today, the new Sundance Kid is the fastest U.S. Ski Team member you've never heard of. Though Nyman's early success was in technical events-with a gold in slalom at the 2002 Junior World Championships-he's gone on to win the downhill nationals in 2003nd 2005. (He was out in 2004 with a broken leg.) While the spotlight shines on Daron and Bode, look for Nyman to surprise.

NUMBERS
9,186 Start altitude, in feet, of the men's downhill course.
3,000 Vertical drop, in feet (like skiing Mammoth top to bottom).
66 Daron Rahlves's average speed, in mph, when he won here in March 2004.
97 Number of feet Rahlves skied in one second.
150-200 Number of feet racers will fly off the three biggest jumps on Torino's downhill course. Besides the classic prejump technique, racers are employing a new trick to reduce flight time: the jump press. Look for them to keep their hands near their binding toepieces, which draws the chest forward and down.
5-8 Number of feet that Rahlves, a good prejumper, usually flies lower than Hermann Maier off downhill course jumps.["DAY TWO"]


INSIDE LINE: BREUIL-CERVINIA & VALTOURNENCHE
Top Elevation: 12,792 feet (Gobba di Rollin)
Vertical Drop: to Breuil-Cervinia, 6,066 feet; to Valtournenche, 7,792 feet
Marked Trails: 56 in Breuil-Cervinia Valtournenche; 68 in Zermatt
Price of Ticket: $38 ($50 with Zermatt)
Info: +39 01 66 944380; cervinia.it

The Resort
At first glance, the high slopes above the sister towns of Breuil-Cervinia andValtournenche look gentle. Just remember, this is but a fraction of what's accessible. Cervinia is, after all, home to frequent speed-skiing competitions, and heartthumping steeps abound on the lower mountain and the area's generous off-piste terrain. Situated beneath 14,692-foot Cervino (more famously called the Matterhorn), this off-Broadway jewel has an old-world ambience-unlike the order and metropolitan bustle of its Swiss neighbor, Zermatt. The upshot? It's the back door to that very kingdom and all of its spectacular skiing-and it's just 120 miles north of Torino.

On-Piste
The most challenging pistes here are either heinous couloirs up high, or steeper shots lower down where erosion has created diverse terrain. The marquee quad-torching cruiser, from Ventina to Valtournenche, is 13 miles long (yes, miles!).Don't miss the precipitous, lift-line-hugging Bardoney, and the narrow, double-fallline Ghiacciaio del Theodulo off the Bontadini lift.

Off-Piste
Plenty of big vertical tumbles into both Switzerland and Italy, and there's spectacular high-altitude touring. Guides are key. Try the Società  Guide delCervino (guidedelcervino.com). Heli-skiing is uncommon in the Alps, so getting up in a bird is a treat (heliskicervinia.com).

Intake
Get sucked into The Black Hole Bar on Cervinia's pedestrian-only main thoroughfare. The slopeside Yeti Bar has soccer on the tube and an e-mail hookup. Woodpaneled Le Vieux Grenier (in Hotel Grivola) is charmingly old-Italy. Ski d'Oro Ristorante offers bargain-priced homestyle pasta and pizza.

Shelter
Try the centrally located, three-star Hotel Grivola (from $95 for small but sparkly rooms; nuovoho telgrivola.com) or the cozy, two-star Hotel Breithorn (from$50 for utilitarian comfort; breithorn@libero.it). Each includes breakfast.

The Tip
Cervinia is linked to the lifts of Zermatt at Plateau Rosa. Make sure you buy a ticket that allows you to ascend the Swiss lift system: It's a long walk back to Italy. Also, tapwater quality is questionable. In the Rifugio delle Guide near the top of the resort, where you gaze at Swiss glaciers while dining on Italian food, the barmaid's answer to "Can I have a glass of water?" is "What-you want to ruin your holiday?" Stick with wine.
--LESLIE ANTHONY["DAY THREE"]


INSIDE LINE: GRESSONEY
Top Elevation: 9,747 feet
Vertical Drop: to La Trinité, 4,357 feet; to Alagna, 5,771 feet
Marked Trails: 20
Price of Ticket: $40 for all Monterosa Ski resorts
Info: +39 1025 355185; monterosa-ski.com

The Resort
Turn off highway A5 at Pont St. Martin to head up the Gressoney Valley, and you'll pass Roman aqueducts, mountaintop forts, and homes built directly into hillsides and even into massive boulders. Skiing will be the last thing on your mind. But stay focused and you'll be rewarded with Gressoney's five-star glades, winding cruisers, and plentiful backcountry. Plus, it's part of the Monterosa Ski consortium, a vastly underrated complex of some of the finest skiing in the Alps, including Ayas-Champoluc and Alagna-Valsesia--and one ticket is good at all of them. The best part: You're unlikely to ever stand in line for any of it.

On-Piste
The key word here is access. The handful of pistes near the valley-top village of La Trinité are steep and meandering, but you can be in the virtually piste-less freeride Valhalla of Alagna in less than a half-hour, or the Rocky Mountain-like treed bowls of Champoluc in 15 minutes. Exercise these options. You won't regret it.

Off-Piste
Gressoney is home to the Red Bull Snowthrill (redbullsnowthrill.com), Italy's biggest freeride comp (monterosaskirider.com), and the world's highest ski-mountaineering event (trofeomezzalama.com). Need we say more? To access the virtually endless backcountry, hire a guide (guidemonterosa.com).

Intake
Nightlife in La Trinité consists of drunken Swedes strumming guitars in the Hotel Dufour. Good après requires detective work: Posters advertise parties for "freaky freeride people" in nearby St. Jean. On the other hand, La Trinité boasts the valley's best food-think wild-gamemeets- Tuscany-chic-at the exquisitely local Capanna Carla (+39 0125 366130).

Shelter
In La Trinité, threestar Hotel Dufour (from $65; hoteldufour.it) sits right next to the lift. Want a busier village with spectacular, German-influenced Walser architecture? Check out four-star Hotel Gressoney, just down the valley in St. Jean (from $75; hotelsgressoney.com).

The Tip
If the weather gets nasty, buy some grappa and stroll around St. Jean. Take in the iconography and artifacts of the 490-year-old- San Giovanni Battista church and visit the anachronistic Museum of Alpine Fauna.
--Leslie Anthony["DAY FOUR"]


MEN'S MOGULS
Wednesday, February 15
Sauze D'Oulx


The Event
Since mogul skiing made its Olympic debut in 1992, the sport has evolved from a display of jackhammering knees (punctuated by a backscratcher here or spread eagle there) to a big-air exhibit: Judges now allow inverts and off-axis tricks, so skiers hitting the two sets of kickers on a World Cup course look more like aerialists now than ever before. U.S. Ski Team rules require that American athletes perform a new flip 100 times before using it in a competition, so Jeremy Bloom, Toby Dawson, and Nate Roberts devote much of their training to perfecting moves. They're the guys to beat on the course at Sauze d'Oulx, where judges will be scoring the form and difficulty of aerial maneuvers along with speed and turns.

The Dark Horse: Dale Begg-Smith
Born: January 18, 1985, Vancouver, British Columbia
Vitals: 6 ft., 1 in.; 165 lb.
As a teen, Begg-Smith was a standout on the Canadian freestyle squad. Then, in 2003, he moved to Australia so he could train with Steve Desovich, a formerCanadian moguls coach who'd helped shoot Jean-Luc Brassard to the top in 1994.The switch did the trick. Dale, now skiing for Australia, started the 2004-05 season with only a dozen World Cup events under his belt. But by February, thanks to a string of top fives, he'd shot up to number two, which he then followed with a bronze medal at the world championships in Finland. Expect a huge crowd reaction from his new trick-a back flip with a 360-degree twist.

NUMBERS
100 Number of times Bloom's knees pop to his chest during a run.
60 Length, in feet, male competitors jump off of 740 Length, in feet, The Resort
Turn off highway A5 at Pont St. Martin to head up the Gressoney Valley, and you'll pass Roman aqueducts, mountaintop forts, and homes built directly into hillsides and even into massive boulders. Skiing will be the last thing on your mind. But stay focused and you'll be rewarded with Gressoney's five-star glades, winding cruisers, and plentiful backcountry. Plus, it's part of the Monterosa Ski consortium, a vastly underrated complex of some of the finest skiing in the Alps, including Ayas-Champoluc and Alagna-Valsesia--and one ticket is good at all of them. The best part: You're unlikely to ever stand in line for any of it.

On-Piste
The key word here is access. The handful of pistes near the valley-top village of La Trinité are steep and meandering, but you can be in the virtually piste-less freeride Valhalla of Alagna in less than a half-hour, or the Rocky Mountain-like treed bowls of Champoluc in 15 minutes. Exercise these options. You won't regret it.

Off-Piste
Gressoney is home to the Red Bull Snowthrill (redbullsnowthrill.com), Italy's biggest freeride comp (monterosaskirider.com), and the world's highest ski-mountaineering event (trofeomezzalama.com). Need we say more? To access the virtually endless backcountry, hire a guide (guidemonterosa.com).

Intake
Nightlife in La Trinité consists of drunken Swedes strumming guitars in the Hotel Dufour. Good après requires detective work: Posters advertise parties for "freaky freeride people" in nearby St. Jean. On the other hand, La Trinité boasts the valley's best food-think wild-gamemeets- Tuscany-chic-at the exquisitely local Capanna Carla (+39 0125 366130).

Shelter
In La Trinité, threestar Hotel Dufour (from $65; hoteldufour.it) sits right next to the lift. Want a busier village with spectacular, German-influenced Walser architecture? Check out four-star Hotel Gressoney, just down the valley in St. Jean (from $75; hotelsgressoney.com).

The Tip
If the weather gets nasty, buy some grappa and stroll around St. Jean. Take in the iconography and artifacts of the 490-year-old- San Giovanni Battista church and visit the anachronistic Museum of Alpine Fauna.
--Leslie Anthony["DAY FOUR"]


MEN'S MOGULS
Wednesday, February 15
Sauze D'Oulx


The Event
Since mogul skiing made its Olympic debut in 1992, the sport has evolved from a display of jackhammering knees (punctuated by a backscratcher here or spread eagle there) to a big-air exhibit: Judges now allow inverts and off-axis tricks, so skiers hitting the two sets of kickers on a World Cup course look more like aerialists now than ever before. U.S. Ski Team rules require that American athletes perform a new flip 100 times before using it in a competition, so Jeremy Bloom, Toby Dawson, and Nate Roberts devote much of their training to perfecting moves. They're the guys to beat on the course at Sauze d'Oulx, where judges will be scoring the form and difficulty of aerial maneuvers along with speed and turns.

The Dark Horse: Dale Begg-Smith
Born: January 18, 1985, Vancouver, British Columbia
Vitals: 6 ft., 1 in.; 165 lb.
As a teen, Begg-Smith was a standout on the Canadian freestyle squad. Then, in 2003, he moved to Australia so he could train with Steve Desovich, a formerCanadian moguls coach who'd helped shoot Jean-Luc Brassard to the top in 1994.The switch did the trick. Dale, now skiing for Australia, started the 2004-05 season with only a dozen World Cup events under his belt. But by February, thanks to a string of top fives, he'd shot up to number two, which he then followed with a bronze medal at the world championships in Finland. Expect a huge crowd reaction from his new trick-a back flip with a 360-degree twist.

NUMBERS
100 Number of times Bloom's knees pop to his chest during a run.
60 Length, in feet, male competitors jump off of 740 Length, in feet, of a moguls course.
50 Percent of score that reflects turn quality. Speed and form account for the other 50.
492 Distance, in feet, from start of course to second kicker.
52 Width, in feet, of course.
26 Angle, in degrees, of the course's two sets of 1.5-by-1-meter kickers.
26.2 Average slope, in degrees, of course-about the steepness ofSan Francisco's Fillmore Street.
19-21 Speed, in mph, at which male competitors ski the course.

DAY FIVE: Rest!["DAY SIX"]


WOMEN'S COMBINED
Friday, February 17
Downhill: San Sicario Fraiteve
Slalom: Sestriere Colle

The Event
Perhaps the most grueling of all Olympic skiing events, the mighty Alpine Combined favors the most well-rounded skiers--the ones with a superhuman fusion of speed and technical ability. It consists of one run of downhill and two of slalom--in the same day. Between downhill and slalom runs, American racers eat snacks to keep blood sugar high and ride stationary bikes to help flush lactic acid. Introduced in 1936, the Combined catapulted Bode Miller into the spotlight at the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics. After placing 15th in the downhill and lagging by a dismal 2.44 seconds after the first slalom run, he made up 2.16 seconds and won silver. On the women's side, watch for Swede Anja Paerson and Americans LindseyKildow and Julia Mancuso.

The Dark Horse: Resi Stiegler
Born: November 14, 1985, Jackson, Wyoming
Vitals: 5 ft., 7 in.; 143 lb.
After winning a silver medal in the Combined at junior worlds last season, Stiegler was named the Ski Racing Junior of the Year-the same award that Steve Mahre and Tommy Moe won when they were teens. It's familiar company for the 20-year-old. Her dad, Pepi, won three Olympic medals for Austria back in the 1960s. Lately, she's been on fire. Her impressive speed training last summer has all the ski-racing wonks chattering. And this fall, Dynastar signed Stiegler through 2008, banking on her uncanny ability to point her skis downhill and get results under pressure.

NUMBERS
2,171 Vertical drop, in feet, of downhill portion (nearly twice the height of the Empire State Building).
12.4 Miles of safety netting on the downhill course, enough to stretch the length of Manhattan.
63 Average speed, in mph, of Anja Paerson when she won here in March 2004. Paerson averaged 92 feet per second.
20-30 The most desired start numbers. Racers wearing these bibs can get feedback from coaches watching earlier racers-but race before the course deteriorates.
1.8 Distance, in miles, of the women's combined downhill (versus the two-mile regular women's downhill). The combined slalom is also slightly shorter.["DAY SEVEN"]


SKI JUMPING
Saturday, February 18
Pragelato

The Event
Ski jumping is simple yet absurd. Take a 130-pound guy, clip his toes into a pair of 260-centimeter boards, send him down a 325-foot, 35-degree ramp at 55 mph, watch him soar off the lip and sail 15 feet above the ground for about 330 feet, and see him land as if he's bowing to the crowd. Occasionally, you get someone like Slovenia's Vinko Bogataj, whose ferocious 1970 crash was immortalized by ABC's Wide World of Sports as the painful portrait of defeat. Watch forFinland's Janne Ahonen and Matti Hautamaeki, who won just about every meet last season. And remember the words of British jumping sensation Eddie the Eagle: "When I looked from the top of the jump, my bum shriveled up like a prune."

The Dark Horse: Bjoern Einar Romoeren
Born: April 1, 1981, Baerum, Norway
Vitals: 6 ft., 141 lb.
Bjoern Einar Romoeren, 24, has always been into breaking stuff. As an angst-ridden, heavy-metal-obsessed teen, he broke two bones in his arm punching walls. Now the willowy Norwegian is smashing better things: Last March in Slovenia, he flew 3.5 meters

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