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Aspen locks up World Cup

Just two months after the successful return of World Cup ski racing, Aspen is planning a bigger and better event for next season.

Next time, Aspen will host the best men racers in the world in addition to the best women.

Aspen has been selected by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association to host men’s and women’s slalom and giant slalom races in November 2001. Although next season’s calendar must still be endorsed by the International Ski Federation at its congress in May, it’s considered a lock.

“When the FIS guys were here in November, they were talking about when they would come for a summer inspection” of the courses, said Jim Hancock, director of the race for Aspen’s World Cup events.

All talks with U.S. Ski Team and FIS officials were based on the assumption that Aspen would be awarded the races, he said.

They are scheduled Nov. 22-26. The exact format isn’t known, but it will likely be one race per day.

Aspen’s windfall in races is due to the Olympics. Park City, Utah, home of the U.S. Ski Team, usually hosts men’s and women’s technical races to start the season. But because it will host Olympic races in February 2002, the resort surrendered the regular World Cup events for one season.

Park City officials didn’t want to organize for two big events, and FIS officials really didn’t want the athletes on the Olympic course earlier in the season, Hancock explained.

Vail will host speed races one week after Aspen’s races next season. The Skico and Vail Resorts have already teamed to try to sell special packages for European skiers and race fans.

Aspen held women’s slalom and super G races last November. It was the first time the world’s best racers had been here in two years, and the first time the women were here since the late 1980s.

Holding twice the events will have advantages and disadvantages. Hancock said interest in the event will be extremely high.

“It’s the first big series in an Olympic year,” he said. So competition will be particularly fierce and there will be additional media attention, thus additional exposure for Aspen.

On the other hand, hosting the men and women complicates off-mountain logistics.

“I think the biggest challenge is going to be housing and feeding all the athletes,” said Hancock.


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