Aspen scores World Cup races in 2001
Aspen will grab the international spotlight in November 2001 by hosting the first major World Cup ski races of the Olympic season.
The Federation Internationale du Ski tentatively named Aspen the host site for men’s and women’s giant slalom and slalom races in mid-November, according to Aspen Skiing Co. spokeswoman Rose Abello.
The decision was made this week at the FIS Congress in Melbourne, Australia. The FIS will formalize its schedule in spring 2001.
Sites that are tentatively selected almost always make it onto the formal schedule, said Jim Hancock, Aspen’s chief of race for World Cup events.
Aspen earned the races that have been held in Park City, Utah, for the last 10 years. They became available for 2001 because Park City will host Olympic ski races later that winter.
Hancock said the races aren’t technically the first of the season. A couple of events are scheduled earlier on a glacier in Europe. However, the races in Aspen will be the first big event of the season, he said.
The dates for the 2001 races haven’t been set yet, but they will be before Thanksgiving weekend.
Aspen will also host World Cup races Nov. 23-25, 2000, when the women come for a super-G and slalom.
The 2001 races will be watched even more closely than usual, according to Zeno Beattie, a local ski racing enthusiast who has helped organize Aspen’s past World Cup events.
“In an Olympic year, we’re going to get a ton of coverage for Aspen,” said Beattie.
Media from around the world will likely check out those first races in Aspen to see who starts strong for the men and women in the Olympic season. They will also want to build their stock of video or photos of individuals in new team outfits, Beattie noted.
The live television broadcast of the races is fed via satellite to about 200 million homes and an estimated 600 million people worldwide, according to the Skico. ESPN will televise the races for two hours nationally. Aspenites’ homecoming The November 2000 races will be special because they mark the homecoming of two Aspen racers and the anticipated return of U.S. skiing star Picabo Street from an injury.
Aspen women Katie Monahan and Alex Shaffer are both returning from injuries from last season. Monahan, 27, was named to the women’s alpine A Team. Shaffer, 24, was named to the B Team, according to an announcement made by the U.S. Ski Team last month.
Both Aspen racers are “full gun, cleared to train one hundred percent,” said U.S. Ski Team public relations manager Juliann Fritz. Barring relapses, both should be ready to race in Aspen in November 2000, she said.
Street, 29, a two-time World Cup downhill champion and 1998 Olympic champion, has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons. She is trying to make a comeback in 2000-01, with an eye on the Olympics the following season. Lobbying pays off Beattie credited Skico officials with lobbying hard to earn the right to host the races. The Skico has worked with U.S. Ski Team officials to get back on the schedule as a regular venue for World Cup races.
In addition, the Skico has helped its cause by regularly sending representatives to FIS meetings, according to Beattie. Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton and Aspen Mountain Manager Steve Sewell made the trip to Melbourne.
Hancock was prepared to go, but had to stay back because of back surgery.
Aspen’s presence lets the predominantly European FIS officials know Aspen is serious about wanting back on the schedule, Beattie said.
Under the leadership of former president and CEO Bob Maynard in the mid-1990s, the Skico told FIS officials it was no longer interested in hosting races.
Aspen fell off the schedule for 3 1/2 years until November 1998. No races were held last season. Back for good? Before departing for Australia, Norton said he believed Aspen would soon be a regular venue for women’s races, and occasionally men’s races.
“We are very excited to have been chosen as the site for the World Cup opener,” said Norton in a prepared statement. “World Cup racing belongs in this community.”
Several other U.S. resorts, including Copper Mountain, hoped to land the men’s and women’s giant slalom and slalom races in November 2001.
“The U.S. Ski Team is very excited to have Aspen back on the World Cup calendar in what we hope will be a regular early-season position,” said Bill Marolt, president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “We’ve always maintained that Aspen is a classic World Cup stop, steeped in history and excitement in World Cup skiing.”
Marolt is an Aspen native who grew up racing in Aspen before making the 1964 Olympic team. Local officials credit him with getting Aspen back on the World Cup schedule.
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In Eagle County, Vail and Beaver Creek resorts Senior Communications Manager John Plack said the company agrees with the state’s assessment that the ski industry must be out-front in its approach to ensure a safe and successful season in Colorado.