Aspen World Cup: heartbreak, hard work
December 11, 2007
ASPEN ” It was a weekend of rapid ups and downs for the hundreds of employees and volunteers who put in thousands of hours last weekend getting ready to host the World Cup ski races.
For many, the weekend’s most difficult part was preparing a downhill course that was perfect on Thursday and covered with more than a foot of wet powder the next day, prompting officials to postpone the race until Saturday.
“Everyone agreed the course was in great condition,” said Mike Hosp, the slip crew chief for the World Cup. “To wake up and have that much snow … It’s mother nature, you just shrug your shoulders. You just have to work hard. To maintain a good attitude through those adversities can be hard to do. The brightest moments are seeing people doing that.”
Hosp likened the job of clearing the course to shoveling the entirety of Main Street on a 30-degree pitch.
“People just started pushing snow by skis and with shovels,” said Hosp. “That’s what it’s like. You have to clear it down to the hard surface.”
Hosp said the volunteers and workers on the mountain logged significant hours readying the course for Saturday.
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The event manager for World Cup, Nancy Scheinkman, said hosting the races poses a series of challenges ” translators, on-mountain cameras, live international video feeds, wax rooms ” that had people working overtime for months.
“There’s not enough money to pay people to get out there,” Scheinkman said. “It’s about passion for ski racing. That’s something individual to each person. Luckily, we had all those people willing to do it. Nobody is doing this for the paycheck.”
But though the course for the downhill was cleared and the race was run, Saturday was not without its own difficulties.
Anne-Sophie Barthet, a 19-year-old racer from France, tore several knee ligaments in a violent fall. Later, two-time World Cup overall champion Anja Paerson said the race never should have taken place and that the fall could have been avoided.
“The most difficult part for me personally is whenever someone gets injured,” said Hosp. “We take it personally and professionally. We understand it’s the nature of the game. But we still want to take every measure to keep it from happening. The fact that the young French lady severely injured her knee was the most heartbreaking part of the weekend.”
Aspen lobbied for and successfully landed the downhill, ski racing’s premier event, for the first time in 12 years and the first for the women since 1988.
“The sheer volume of work when you host a downhill is daunting,” Hosp said. “But if you’re all washing the dishes together, it’s a lot easier than if you’re doing it yourself.”