Just what Aspen needs " more women | AspenTimes.com

Just what Aspen needs " more women

ASPEN ” Good news, guys ” a record number of athletic, beautiful women who are expert skiers are invading Aspen next month.

Aspen is hosting both speed and technical World Cup races Dec. 7-9, so more members of the national ski teams are coming to town, according to John Rigney, vice president of sales and events for Aspen Skiing Co. That means organizers must find more housing than usual for racers, coaches and support staff.

About 330 racers, coaches and support staff will head to Aspen for the races, Rigney said. Members of the media and guests of the sponsors will swell the ranks to more than 400.

While the housing need is growing, the amount of available rooms has dropped, creating a “double whammy” for race organizers, Rigney said.

Aspen lost about 160 rooms two years ago from redevelopment of properties, Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich said. Another 46 rooms went out of circulation this year. Some of the rooms will be available again in the future when construction projects are completed, Tomcich said.

In addition, Aspen needed to find housing for a longer duration this year. Two days of training for the downhill race means the teams must be housed for six nights for five days of racing, including the two downhill training runs.

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Rigney said Aspen’s lodging community responded so quickly that the housing challenge never became an issue. Race organizers went from lodge to lodge seeking help and the properties came through.

“I think we’re covered. We’re looking good,” he said.

The St. Regis, once again, will be the host hotel ” providing space for everything from a press room to dining for the racers and coaches. Numerous properties in Aspen are providing rooms, Rigney said.

Some Aspen properties have hosted the same national teams for years. The Swedish team has camped for five or six years at the Aspen Alps. “It’s like coming home for them,” said Ann Gabriel, the Aspen Alps’ liaison to the World Cup entourage.

The staff there pampers the racers when possible. They made a personalized prize for Anja Paerson, a perennial favorite on the World Cup circuit, when she won a race in Aspen one year, Gabriel recalled.

Aspen Alps has seven apartments for 14 people reserved for the Swedish team.

The nearby Gant is hosting the massive Austrian team. They expect 19 racers, 18 coaches and nine support staffers, said Erin Peck, The Gant’s director of sales and marketing. The crew will have 17 condominiums with 56 beds at their disposal. The Austrian team has stayed there for more than five years.

“We just know the World Cup is important to the town,” Peck said. It’s also a convenient time to accommodate the ski teams because lodges aren’t fully booked by travelers yet, she said.

Lodging isn’t the only preparation being made this far in advance for the races. Crews on Aspen Mountain hoped to crank up the snowmaking system Thursday night.

The plan was to flip the switches on the snow guns Halloween night, but temperatures didn’t drop low enough for a long enough time, said Steve Fischer, Aspen Mountain trails director. Temperatures between 24 and 26 degrees for a minimum of six hours are necessary to make the effort worthwhile, he said. The forecast in coming nights appears favorable, according to Fischer.

Aspen’s races are being held later than usual, giving the snowmaking crew more time to cover the course. However, that advantage is offset because a longer and wider swath needs to be covered for the downhill course, Fischer said.

Crews will split their focus between the World Cup courses and the terrain above Lift 3, the Ajax Express, to make sure terrain is ready for customers for the Thanksgiving opening.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.