The U.S. Ski Team descended on Copper Mountain in Colorado this week to begin training for the 2013 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season on the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center course. Before training got underway in earnest on Thursday, Copper, the U.S. Ski Team and 200 lucky guests had a little Halloween fun on the only full-length downhill training facility open anywhere in the world at this time of year.

Contest winners selected from U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) members and Copper Mountain season pass holders had the chance to rub elbows with the athletes and ski the downhill course. U.S. Ski Team coaches and racers took the contest winners down the course for an "inspection run" that detailed what the racers are looking for when they tackle a downhill course. After that, the winners were free to take laps on the course and try to keep up with the athletes. A host of racers, including Steven Nyman, Andrew Weibrecht and Travis Ganong, took to the course to show off their speed and to give the contest winners a pointer or two. 

The U.S. Ski Team Speed Center opened in 2011 after nearly six years of planning and construction. This year, the Speed Center opened two weeks earlier than it did in the inaugural season. Having a full-length downhill training facility, like the one at Copper, open so early in the season gives the U.S. Ski Team a leg up on their competition.

"It's a true game-changer for us," said Tom Kelly, USSA Vice President of Communications. "It makes a huge difference as we strive to be the best in the world."

The Team will call Copper home over the next several weeks as they charge the course that takes over portions of Oh No and Rosie's Run.