America's Opening goes back to dual courses this year. That is, side-by-side racing by skiers who have decided to make ski racing their profession.
What has become recognized as the official start of ski racing in the U.S. will feature professional skiers vying for a total purse of more than $110,000.Men and women racers will qualify on Friday, then race on Saturday and Sunday.
One change this year is the location of the event. For convenience sake, the course was moved from a run higher on the mountain to the Clementine run near the base of the Park City Resort.
The new location, says resort President Phil Jones, "Is extremely easy for spectators to get to. Also, it's a run that's easy for us to maintain."
Seating area will be within 100 yards of the lower parking lot.
The last time the professional tour skied at Park City was two years ago. It was at that race that America's greatest skiing duo - Phil and Steve Mahre - made their pro racing debut. The twins will return to Park City this week seasoned veterans of the racing tour.
Last year, Phil Mahre finished third in the standings, while Steve, who was injured part of the season, finished behind younger brother Paul, in 38th place.
According to race organizers, the Mahres will head one of the strongest fields ever to apply for qualifying rights. All of the top finishers, for men and women, from last year's pro tour have committed to the Park City race.
The winner of last year's tour was Roland Pfeifer from Austria. He finished with 594 points and winnings of $221,816. Runner-up was Bernhard Knauss, also of Austria, with 552.5 points and $118,922 in winnings. Phil Mahre had 490 points and $76,767 in earnings.
On the women's list of racers, Catharina Bjemer of Sweden stands out as the defending champion. She easily outdistanced the field last year. She finished the year with 335 points and $33,360 in winnings. Runner-up was Birgit Hussauf of Austria. She finished with 287 points and $10,820 in cash.
The top U.S. finisher was Beth Madsen, who took fourth with 232 points and $10,460.
The Mahres come into this event after a successful season behind the wheel of a Lola 2000 race car.
The Mahres drove for Zerex Team Reno in the American City Racing League. Over the course of the season Phil came in first and Steve fourth in individual standings.
Men's qualifying will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, followed by the women's at 1 p.m. The top 32 men and the top 16 women will make the racing field. The first round of the women's giant slalom will be Friday at 2:45 p.m.
The women's GS will finish at 10 a.m. on Saturday, followed by the men's complete GS event at 1 p.m.
Sunday, the 32 men qualifiers will return on Sunday to run a slalom at 11 a.m. This will be followed by awards ceremonies and a skating exhibitions by 1984 Olympic medalists Peter and Kitty Carruthers and by Utah's Holly Cook, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the world. Skating will take place at 2:30 p.m. on the outdoor rink at the Park City Resort Center.
General admission tickets are available at the Gart Brothers Sports Castle in Murray and at the ZCMI Center, or at any Top Stop location, or at the resort's Sports Desk. General admission is $5. Available at the Sports Center are VIP passes for $30 a day. The VIP pass entitles spectators to bleacher seating gourmet lunch and course-side seating.
Under pro skiing's rules, the 32 qualifiers are bracketed in twos. Two skiers race, then return to the top of the course, switch courses and race for a second time. The skier with the lowest combined time over the two runs advances to the next round.
To win an event, a competitor will have to race against five other skiers and make a total of 10 runs.
Another feature of pro skiing is that three six-foot high bumps are set up along the course.
Among the other activities scheduled will be a free street dance Friday evening, with music provided by the band America.
Top qualifiers in the men's and women's divisions, will each receive a 15 karat gold and stainless steel Two-Tone Rolex watch. The men's watch is valued at $3,700 the women's at $3,500.
Winners of each race will receive "Badami Bullion," or gold and silver coins.
The event this year is being dedicated to the honor of Craig Badami, originally organizer of the America's Opening events, who was killed in a helicopter accident shortly after last year's race.