KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) – Didier Cuche called it ''magnificent.'' Bode Miller was highly critical. Aksel Lund Svindal said upon first glance that the course for the 2014 Sochi Olympics was ''what downhill is all about.''
So while there were some mixed feelings, racers mainly gave high marks to the Rosa Khutor slope after the opening World Cup training session was held under clear sunshine and on good, hard snow conditions.
''It's a magnificent course,'' said Cuche, the four-time winner of the World Cup downhill title, who finished second to Austria's Hannes Reichelt on Wednesday. ''Perhaps a little bit too turning, it could be adapted a little bit to change that. The first 40 seconds or so it resembles more a super-G than a downhill, albeit a very fast super-G.
''It's not like any other run on the circuit,'' added Cuche, who has announced he will retire after this season. ''It's a really interesting run. They have managed to shape the course around the mountain in a really nice way.''
For Miller, however, the constant turns on the upper section are too much like super-G.
''I don't really believe it embodies anything that a true World Cup downhill should be,'' said the 34-year-old American, who will be competing in his fifth Olympics if he continues through to 2014.
Two more training sessions are scheduled for Thursday and Friday before a World Cup downhill on Saturday and a super-combined race on Sunday - the first major test events for the Sochi Games.
At 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles), the course is one of the longer layouts that skiers have faced, although the constant turns mean little time in the tuck position and therefore it's not one of the most physically demanding tests.
''If they ran that as the Olympic super-G it would be an epic super-G, because it's not that tiring, even for the amount of time that you're on the course,'' said Miller, who cruised down in 32nd place. ''It's just cranking turns the whole way on that good, hard snow.''
Miller lamented the lack of gliding sections, where he usually excels.
''There's not one place where you're not going hard edge-to-edge except for this road just before this second-to-last jump into the finish,'' he said. ''Because you're so tall and you're legs are long, you're not tucking at all.''
The upper half of the course contains a series of technical, narrow and steep turns before easing out toward the end, although there are large jumps all the way down, including one into the finish.
''It's a tough course,'' said Svindal, the two-time overall World Cup winner from Norway. ''I think a lot of guys were surprised at inspection this morning.
''It's kind of what downhill is all about - the mountain kind of sets the pace,'' Svindal added. ''If this was gliding from the top then we would kill ourselves after 20 seconds, so I'm glad they put some turns in there.''
However, Svindal thought organizers injected too much water to make the upper portion of the course harder.
''It's a tough course - that's the bottom line - but the course preparation really makes a (difference),'' said the Norwegian, who placed 21st. ''I think they overdid it with the water this time. They'll probably use less water for the Olympics.''
For Christof Innerhofer of Italy, who placed fifth, the course was ideal.
''I like the ice, so I feel at home here,'' said Innerhofer, who won gold, silver and bronze medals at last season's world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
''It's a good downhill for the Olympic Games,'' Innerhofer added. ''At the Olympic Games we say the best must win and here will win the best, not just one guy who is only fast on the flat.''