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Smith ready to think big again

By Marty Basch
Globe Correspondent / November 26, 2009

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US Ski Team member Leanne Smith is rebounding from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee suffered in last January’s Cortina downhill and will get her first World Cup start since the injury in Saturday’s Aspen giant slalom.

“I’m feeling really good and was really lucky that even though it was a serious injury I had the resources to get back together,’’ she said.

Smith is a former Mount Washington Valley Ski Team racer from Conway, N.H., who finished 23d in the downhill in her first World Cup appearance in December 2007.

She’s gunning for a top-30 finish in the GS.

“I feel I can hang with just about anybody,’’ she said. “I’m going to go for it, get some confidence, and take it from there.’’

US Women’s coach Jim Tracy told Ski Racing magazine Smith was second in a time trial last week.

“She’s worked really hard. We’ve talked a lot about how she could correct some of the technical issues she was having when she started skiing again. She’s been training well. The key will be to maintain that work ethic and philosophy when it counts,’’ he said.

After Aspen, Smith has her sights set on Lake Louise, where she can showcase her speed.

“I worked hard on this knee,’’ she said. “I want to show people what I can do.’’

Then there’s going after a slot for the Vancouver Olympics.

“I feel pretty good about it,’’ she said. “I just have to perform, execute my plans, and plug away every day.’’

Rising again
The landscape at the base of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington is earmarked for change. The fifth reincarnation of the Glen House hotel, first completed in 1852, is scheduled to open with cross-country ski in/ski out access in June 2011 along the Great Glen Trails ski touring network in Pinkham Notch. Original plans called for placing the 80-room hotel on the hill north of the existing Auto Road Lodge. No more. Construction is now slated across Route 16 for the site of the original Great Glen Trails Lodge consumed by fire in March 2001.

“This change will greatly improve our ski in/ski out and bike in/bike out access for the hotel and allows us to better mesh the new hotel with our existing programs,’’ said spokesman Ryan Triffitt.

Designer helmets
While Lindsey Vonn competes in this weekend’s World Cup fans can imagine what it would be like to see their artwork on the world champ’s helmet during the upcoming Olympics.

Through Dec. 21, aspiring graphic designers and artists at least 13 years old can enter their original creations through NBCOlympics.com in the “Design Lindsey’s Helmet’’ contest.

“Now that the World Cup season has started, I’m getting very excited for the Olympics,’’ Vonn said in a statement. “I really wanted to do something that allowed my fans to share in my Vancouver experience, and this is what I came up with. I’m looking forward to seeing what people create for my helmet.’’

Judges will whittle the entries down to a final three, and fans will get to help Vonn decide. Grand prize is a trip to Vail.

Frostbite victim
Frostbitten fingers have forced a member of an all-female international team hoping to ski 560 miles to the South Pole to abandon the expedition. Kim-Marie Spence of Kingston, Jamaica, 30, left the Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition Monday, the second day of the trek.

“I have frostbite, which goes to show what kind of place Antarctica is - it’s really tough and I have the blackened fingers to prove it,’’ she said through the project’s website (kasperskycommonwealthexpedition.com) . “The doctor here has said that I cannot continue unless I’m willing to lose my fingers but that’s not the sensible route at this point in time.’’

More than 800 women applied for spots on the eight-member team, with one each from the Commonwealth countries of Britain, Brunei, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, and Singapore. The skiers plan to average 6-10 hours of skiing a day. Weather hazards for the 40-day odyssey include winds in excess of 80 miles per hour, blizzards, and brutal sub-zero temperatures.

Getting in the spirit
Skiing and riding Santas take to Sunday River’s slopes Dec. 6, but jolly old sliders must first sign up online beginning Sunday at www.sundayriver.com. There are only 250 slots available and skiers must wear a red Santa hat with a white pompom, a red Santa jacket, red Santa pants, and a white Santa beard. Santas donate $10 to the Bethel Rotary Club. Show up for the 11 a.m. Santa Sunday photo shoot and get two free tickets good until Dec. 18 at the Maine ski resort . . . Attitash is calling freestylers to its preseason rail jams tomorrow and Saturday. Though the lifts won’t be spinning - ski patrol’s on duty - participants will compete on a few rails outside the base lodge. Bring at least three non-perishable food items and it’s free . . . Skiers and snowboarders who donate five non-perishable food items can score $30 lift tickets at Mount Sunapee Dec. 6.

Tough act to follow
The Maine ski industry will have a tough act to follow in 2009-10 after posting the best two years on record. Ski Maine Association reported 1.36 million ski/snowboard visits in ’08-’09, topped only by the ’07-’08 season, which drew a record 1.4 million visits.

The trade association also reported that Maine increased its share of the Northern New England market by 1 percent last season. “Although 1 percent is not a huge number, the fact that Maine is gaining market share in the competitive Northeast market is a very positive sign,’’ said Greg Sweetser, executive director for Ski Maine. According to the National Ski Areas Association, resorts nationwide drew 57.1 million visits last season, the fifth best on record.

Museum on the move
The Ski Museum of Maine has moved from Farmington to Kingfield, and the organization will hold an open house Dec. 5 from 3-6 p.m. to show off its new digs. The new location is above the Sugarloaf Sports Outlet . . . Liftopia, the online discount lift-ticket site, is growing into its fourth season. Started by Evan Reece, who grew up in Topsfield and made his first turns at Bradford, skiers and riders can purchase date-specific, nonrefundable tickets in advance at a discount. Some recent examples include a $12.99 lift ticket at New Hampshire’s Ragged for late November, a $12 Jay Peak deal for Nov. 27, and a Mad River Glen ticket for $17.99 on Jan. 4, 2010. “Quantities are limited, and prices change all the time, but there are typically some amazing deals on there,’’ said Reece . . . If you’re thinking ahead to the Vancouver Games and wondering about early season snow cover, rest assured that Mother Nature seems to have things covered in British Columbia. Whistler Blackcomb, the host mountain, reported Nov. 19 that the Olympics resort has passed its previous record for snowfall in the month, measuring in at 165 inches and counting . . . Sunday River has demo days Saturday and Sunday this weekend. The try-before-you-buy event costs $10 at South Ridge Lodge . . . Sugarloaf will have an on-mountain Blessing of the Skis Sunday morning at 11.

Globe correspondent T.D. Thornton contributed to this report.