Anticipation builds for Ski World Cup Finals in Aspen |

Anticipation builds for Ski World Cup Finals in Aspen

More than 500 volunteers. Hundreds of media outlets. And just 28 days away.

The clock is ticking on the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals, which returns to Aspen Mountain next month.

On Tuesday, Aspen Skiing Co.’s John Rigney and Deric Gunshor updated the City Council on the preparations leading up to a local sporting event that can only be rivaled in scale by the Winter X Games. The city is giving $150,000 in hard contributions to help stage the event.

Rigney and Gunshor said they expect full lodges in both Aspen and Snowmass Village during finals week, set for March 15 to 19.

Hordes of volunteers, more than 500, will comprise local residents and visitors from throughout the country and globe, they said.

“Hundreds of members in this community have opened the doors to their homes and have welcomed volunteers from the outside,” Gunshor told the council. “It’s a really cool element to this event.”

Skico’s representatives gushed with excitement about the finals, and for good reason. Skico has negotiated for years with FIS to bring the finals to Aspen, who will host some of the sport’s brightest stars, including Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin, who is battling Lara Gut of Switzerland for the overall World Cup title, which could be decided next month in Aspen. Lindsey Vonn was the last American woman to claim the overall title in 2012. Gut won it last year.

“If (Shiffrin) can keep skiing the way she has been, we could have the chance to give the crystal globe (awarded to the racer with the most World Cup points at the end of the season) to an American,” Rigney said.

Austria’s Marcel Hirscher has a comfortable lead in the men’s overall competition.

The event will put Aspen on the global stage for alpine ski racing and reinforce its image as an international ski town, Rigney and Gunshor said.

“There are many iterations where our brands will come to life,” Rigney said, noting “Aspen” will appear on racers’ bibs and the starting gate, among other high-profile spots.

The city-owned Wagner Park, just a brisk walk away from the race venue, will turn into an Olympic Village of sorts during the event, with autographs booths, parties and concerts. It also will feature a large-screen TV broadcasting the races live.

“As people come out of the grandstands, we want the vibrancy to be in the core of town,” Gunshor said.

America’s Downhill also will be revived on Aspen Mountain, returning after a hiatus that dates to 1995.

On Monday, the race crew will begin work on the west side of Aspen Mountain, where the races will be held. NBC and NBC Sports will cover the event domestically while “hundreds of media outlets will provide daily coverage of the action from Aspen, and coverage via social and other mediums will be unprecedented for Aspen,” reads a memo from Rigney to the City Council.