Aspen needs volunteers for Winternational ski races in November | AspenTimes.com

Aspen needs volunteers for Winternational ski races in November

A racer gets on edge to negotiate a gate during last year's World Cup ski races in Aspen. Winternational returns this year on Nov. 28 and 29 with a women's slalom and giant slalom.

The women's World Cup ski races at Aspen Mountain next month will have the same look and feel as prior years, but the NorAm races in March will be used as preparation for the 2017 Alpine World Cup Finals, according to Aspen Skiing Co.

Skico Vice President of Sales and Events John Rigney said there will be no major changes to the courses, the race arena or spectator viewing areas during Winternational, when the fastest women skiers in the world compete in a giant slalom and slalom in Aspen on Nov. 28 and 29.

Adjustments were made in prior years, such as moving the VIP seating farther up the hill at the base of Lift 1A to provide a better view of the lower part of the course.

There will be some subtle changes this year that probably won't be noticed by a casual race fan, according to Rigney. Work is being performed on the timing shack at the lower part of the mountain to modernize it, he said. More space will be provided below the finish line for national team personnel, media and other functions.

The International Ski Federation awarded the 2017 World Cup Finals to Aspen in June 2014. The finals are the third-biggest event in World Cup ski racing behind the Olympics and World Championships, so Aspen will host bigger crowds, more media and more support staff for the national teams. The Olympics are held every four years and the World Championships every other year. The World Cup Finals are held every year.

The bigger spotlight requires bigger preparations.

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"We just need more space for everything," Rigney said.

The World Cup Finals will be held in the U.S. for the first time in 20 years when they come to Aspen March 15 through 19, 2017. The top 30 men and women point leaders will compete in downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom and the nations' team event.

To help prepare for the mammoth event, Aspen Mountain will host the NorAm races almost exactly one year before the World Cup Finals. The NorAm races are for up-and-coming international racers. They're a level below the alpine World Cup races.

Rigney said the same disciplines will be held during the NorAm races as at the finals, so it will be good to get experience in dialing in the start times, the rapid turnover between races and issues such as sun exposure to the courses.

"We'll be toying with everything from location to facilities," he said.

But right now, the focus is on Winternational in November. A volunteer rally will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Limelight Hotel. Members of the community can learn about the World Cup races, ask questions and sign up for various on- and off-hill volunteer duties. Light food and drinks will be provided.

The formal name of the November event is the 2015 Audi FIS Ski World Cup at the Nature Valley Aspen Winternational. Volunteers at Winternational will have priority for volunteer roles at the March 2017 World Cup Finals.

All volunteers at Winternational also will be invited to a special social gathering with complimentary beverages at the end of the races both days. All volunteers who work more than 12 hours will receive a custom Helly Hansen Winternational jacket and entrance to a thank-you party with dinner and drinks after the races.

To view the detailed World Cup schedule as well as more information about the event, visit http://www.aspensnowmass.com/while-you-are-here/events/aspen-winternational.

scondon@aspentimes.com