Leanne Smith's time is now

The women's alpine World Cup tour moves to Beaver Creek, Colo., for a super-G race Wednesday and Lindsey Vonn is your favorite. Obviously. There were three races last weekend in Lake, Louise, Alberta; she won all three. Not only that, she'll be skiing five minutes from where she lives. You've got to like her chances. Julia Mancuso finished third in Sunday's super-G after taking third in Aspen just a few weeks ago. The odds would seem good for Julia, too.

At the same time, this U.S. team is so much more than just Lindsey and Julia, and Leanne Smith's breakthrough is just waiting to happen. You can just sense it.

You can see it in the way the numbers are rolling for her.

In one of the downhill training runs in Lake Louise, she rocked to fifth.

In last Friday's competition downhill in Lake Louise, she was running and gunning at the top of the hill, the celebration gearing up at the bottom and -- bam.

She didn't fall. She ran smack into a huge gust of wind.

In ski racing, as she said, "Variables can be a day stopper."

She also said, recalling the moment, "At the jump, I hit a headwind and I thought, 'Oh, no, I am so hosed here.' That is something that happens. I was definitely bummed out."

She finished 29th.

The next day -- 11th.

"You don't go from skiing really well to not," she said, adding a moment later with a laugh, "You hope you do enough good deeds so that the karma will come get you."

If anyone deserves some good karma, it's Leanne Smith.

For comparison purposes, she finished the 2010 season way back in 75th in the World Cup overall points.

2011: 30th.

Why? Consistency.

Why so much more consistent? She was injury free.

Some detail behind that 30th: She finished the season 15th in super-G, 19th in super-combined, 22nd in downhill. Best, she earned her first trip to the world championships.

This season, she said, "I am the most optimistic I have been any year so far." Without any significant injury, "Last year I had the the best year of my career and got super-consistent. I am skiing better now than I was then. Why not be excited?"

It's reasonable this season to shoot for World Cup podium finishes, she said. To get there means shaving tenths or even hundredths of a second off finish times from last year.

"In your mind," she said, "that's a minimal amount of time to make up and there are things you can do to get there, just a little bit of execution combined with luck and confidence. It's why I really am looking forward to this season and I would love to get some podiums.

"I am happy to show everybody what I can do, and hopefully get up there with Julia and Lindsey and show everybody how good our speed team is. We have a lot of really good speed skiers."

It's why, in Lake Louise, the night before that first downhill, Leanne wasn't the least bit nervous. "That feeling inside me was great," she said.

Now, heading toward Wednesday's super-G in Beaver Creek, "I just know I need to push it more and not over-ski. You just have to know that you are giving it your best and you're not being a sissy.

"If you want to keep up with Lindsey," she said, "you have to push it. I'm excited. I'm excited to be on home turf."