Breaking news: Aspen World Cup Finals make the cut on FIS final draft calendar

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A banner at the women's World Cup ski races in Aspen in December tout Aspen's hosting of the World Cup Finals in March 2017.
Aspen Times file photo |

Aspen’s hosting of the 2017 World Cup Finals was “confirmed” in the final draft calendar Wednesday, the International Ski Federation reported on its website.

The final draft calendar will now go to the FIS Council “for definitive approval and should be confirmed by Saturday, June 11,” the FIS said.

The FIS International Congress is meeting in Cancun, Mexico, this week.

The World Cup Finals are one of the biggest events in alpine ski racing, ranking in prestige right behind the Olympics and World Championships.

Aspen was named a surprise host of the finals two years ago during the FIS Congress in Barcelona, Spain. There had been lingering questions about whether FIS officials would yank the finals from Aspen and award them to another resort. FIS officials have been firm that they want Lift 1A upgraded and base-area improvements on the west side of the mountain.

Skico has permission from the U.S. Forest to replace Lift 1A. However, the company insists it must wait before making a multimillion-dollar investment until it is clear what base-area development will materialize. The city of Aspen is reviewing land-use applications.

Atle Skaardal, International Ski Federation’s race director for women’s World Cup events, visited Aspen last June. While he stressed that FIS wanted the finals in Aspen, he also said the resort had to meet the same requirements as every other World Cup race host.

“This is already a decided case,” Skaardal said last year. “But requirements must be filled, same as it’s always been. I am convinced that everything is going to turn out in a perfect way for everybody.”

Aspen Skiing Co. officials previously said they were never given an ultimatum. John Rigney, Skico’s vice president of sales and events, has repeatedly said the company was proceeding on the assumption the awarding of the finals would stand. He attended a portion of the FIS Congress in Cancun. He couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Rigney said last week that top FIS officials were scheduled to visit Aspen on June 12 to 14 to “walk the hill” and go over all minutiae of the event, he said.

Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Wednesday the company wouldn’t release a statement until the FIS Council finalizes the calendar.

As it stands, the top men’s and women’s racers will compete in Aspen on March 15 to 19. The event will showcase the top performers of the season in downhill, super G, giant slalom and slalom as well as a team event.

It will be the first time the finals have been held outside of Europe since 1997 and the first time Aspen has hosted men’s World Cup races since 2001.