In addition to earning the fastest time on the hill, some ski racers on the FIS Alpine World Cup circuit get some pretty interesting prizes from different countries. In Levi, Finland, it appears that winners get a reindeer, in Val d’Isere, France, you either get a huge wheel of Beaufort cheese or a cow and in Beaver Creek, a bird of prey.
These prizes aren’t exactly literal, there are more so tokens from each race venue, mere symbols of the area, although, Lindsey Vonn opted for the cow versus the $5,000 she was offered by the farmer in 2005 after she won the downhill race in Val D’Isere.
Many times, the public sees pictures of a beautiful bird of prey on stage with the top three finishers of that day’s race at Beaver Creek. The bird goes back to the Raptor Education Foundation but the athletes do get to take home a beautiful photograph that beholds the image of the event’s namesake.
The Talons area of Beaver Creek Mountain is home to several runs named after birds of prey. The Golden Eagle run hosts the men’s racecourse and the Kestrel run hosts the women’s racecourse. Screech Owl, Ruffed Grouse, Peregrine, Ptarmigan, Osprey and more fill the trail map. The majestic birds are represented in the photography of Rob Westrich of St. Louis, Missouri. The framed photos are what grace racers’ homes all over the world after reaching the podium at Beaver Creek and this art became a part of the race package in 2009.
Westrich had just started photographing the amazing birds the year before, after attending a Cub Scouts meeting with his son. The World Bird Sanctuary brought in raptors to share with the scouts and it didn’t take long for Westrich to become inspired. Westrich, whose company, Westrich Photography, has covered the photography needs of the public in the St. Louis area for 75 years, soon found himself taking photos not of people, but of birds. The World Bird Sanctuary brought birds to his studio to capture what would become his fine art series, The Raptor Series.
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The buzzworthy art gained the attention of those in the St. Louis area and eventually, it was deemed a perfect fit for the Birds of Prey awards package and Westrich has been involved with this for the past 13 years.
“I never thought it would turn into something this big,” Westrich said. “To know the print is hanging in the homes of some of the greatest athletes in the world is incomprehensible. Bode Miller. Lindsey Vonn. Mikaela Shiffrin. The list goes on. It’s an incredible honor.”