FIS approves World Cup calendar that locks Aspen in as host of Finals | AspenTimes.com

FIS approves World Cup calendar that locks Aspen in as host of Finals

The condition of the Lift 1A base area of Aspen Mountain has been the centerpiece of ongoing discussions between Aspen Skiing Co. and the International Ski Federation, but FIS officials have awarded the March 2017 World Cup Finals to Aspen.

The International Ski Federation confirmed the 2016-17 Audi FIS Ski World Cup calendar last weekend with Aspen hosting the Finals March 15 through 19.

The confirmation by World Cup's governing body ends speculation by some observers that the FIS would yank the prestigious event from Aspen if Aspen Skiing Co. didn't replace Lift 1A prior to next season. FIS officials have made it clear they feel the Lift 1A base as well as the lift itself need an upgrade to match the FIS brand.

Skico officials agree, but they have said they prefer to plan the new chairlift after the fate of base area developments become more certain. Skico applied to the U.S. Forest Service to replace Lift 1A — possibly as soon as next spring and summer — in case the development picture clears up.

Skico submitted a letter to the White River National Forest Supervisor's Office on Sept. 15 requesting the start of the review process for Lift 1A. The Forest Service staff reviewed the request and opened public comment Oct. 28. That's when the request was unveiled to the public.

Skico Vice President of Sales and Events John Rigney said he was unaware that the Skico planning department had submitted the application to the Forest Service when Rigney attended the FIS Autumn Meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, Sept. 30 through Oct. 3. Rigney is Skico's liaison to the FIS.

Skico always has been consistent with its message that it is doing everything in its power to expedite the process, but it cannot spend the funds on a new lift until the base development issues are settled, Rigney said.

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FIS officials saw news stories that Skico had applied to replace Lift 1A but "they didn't get overly excited" because it is consistent with what Skico told them all along, according to Rigney. Skico wanted to get the application in to the Forest Service for the lift replacement rather than wait until the base development is settled. Waiting to submit the application would have added several more months to the process, Rigney said.

Since Aspen is hosting the World Cup Finals in March 2017, it won't host the traditional early-season women's technical races in November 2016. Instead, Killington, Vermont, was confirmed on the FIS calendar as the host for the slalom and giant slalom Nov. 26 and 27, 2016. The races will be the first alpine World Cup events in New England since 1991, according to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

The FIS Council's approved calendar also included the traditional men's speed races on the Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek, Dec. 2 through 4.

scondon@aspentimes.com