No World Cup in Aspen next season – yet
Aspen’s chances of landing a World Cup ski race next season appear about as slim as a mere mortal challenging Austrian superstar Hermann Maier in a ski race.
A contingent of Aspenites attended the World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail last weekend and learned from International Ski Federation officials that Aspen’s not currently scheduled for any men’s or women’s races next season.
“We came back empty-handed,” said Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President John Norton, a member of the contingent.
It appears the only chance that Aspen has to host a race again in 1999-2000 is for the FIS to take an event away from some other country. The International Ski Federation, or FIS, is ski racing’s governing body.
“Everybody wants a race,” Norton noted. “Nobody is saying, `here, take mine.'”
Zeno Beattie, another member of the Aspen contingent, was more optimistic about Aspen’s chances. He said the proposed calendar of races and sites rarely goes unaltered.
“There are always some adjustments that are made in it,” he said, contending that Aspen race fans cannot give up hope yet.
Currently, the men and women World Cup racers are tentatively scheduled to hold races in Park City, Utah on Nov. 18-21, as they have each season recently.
The women’s schedule calls for them to travel to Lake Louise, Canada, the following weekend, and then head for France.
The proposed schedule has the men going from Park City to Vail on Nov. 27 and 28 for a men’s downhill and super-G. That’s the time slot Aspen held this season when it hosted men’s super-G and giant slalom races.
From Vail, the men are scheduled to go to Whistler, British Columbia, for a downhill and super-G on Dec. 4 and 5.
Beattie said he believes there’s a chance Aspen could end up with the race scheduled in Whistler. Early-season races simply don’t work well there, he said. The Whistler downhill was canceled for the third straight season due to poor weather last November.
Beattie is hopeful that U.S. and Canadian officials can work together to schedule that race where it works best in North America, rather than risk losing it to Europe in the future. Of course, Canadian officials might prefer finding another venue in Canada that works.
Norton and Beattie said that after several days of lobbying in Vail, the Aspen contingent left no doubt with skiing officials that they want World Cup ski racing back.
“We know that the U.S. Ski Team guys know we want to have another event,” said Beattie. “We drove them insane.”
Norton said the Aspen contingent had easy access to FIS officials, as well. They indicated that Aspen’s difficulties in securing a race are logistical, not philosophical.
“They stated how well we did this year” with the exception of the spectator area, said Norton.
Warm early-season temperatures prevented the Skico from making as much snow as planned at the finish area when World Cup ski racing returned to Aspen last November for the first time since March 1995. Without the snow, an even surface couldn’t be built for spectators or the press.
Norton said the Aspen contingent lobbied hardest for men’s races, but made it clear they would be happy to host either men’s or women’s competition.
The Aspen contingent included Aspen Mountain Manager Rob Baxter and Jim Hancock, the chief of race in Aspen. Several people interested in Vail’s off-mountain organization also attended.
Norton said U.S. Ski Team and FIS officials will likely talk more about next season’s schedule before the World Championships conclude, so Aspen could learn its fate by early next week.
One reason for hope, said Norton and Beattie, is Aspen’s connection to U.S. Skiing and Snowboarding Association President and CEO Bill Marolt. The Aspen native has some influence over what venues are selected in the United States.
“There’s no question he’s a great supporter and a great fan,” Norton said.
Beattie said Marolt is an excellent concensus-builder. If anyone can convince Canadian officials to give up a race for the greater good of North America, it’s he, according to Beattie.
“I bet when all is said and done, we’re on the schedule,” concluded Beattie.
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