Skico expects Aspen to retain 2017 World Cup Finals at FIS meeting | AspenTimes.com

Skico expects Aspen to retain 2017 World Cup Finals at FIS meeting

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.

Aspen Skiing Co. executive John Rigney is hoping for a boring time at the International Ski Federation's annual Autumn Meeting in Zurich this week.

Boring will mean everything is going as expected for Aspen and the Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals in March 2017.

Representatives of resorts that organize World Cup skiing events regularly attend the FIS fall meeting, according to Rigney, Skico's vice president of sales and events. Reached by email while en route to Switzerland on Tuesday, Rigney said it is important for him to touch base with people involved in the alpine ski-racing world, stay informed on rules and calendar updates and meet with FIS officials.

"There are a ton of meetings, but the real benefit lies in catching up, face to face, with all the folks involved in World Cup," Rigney wrote. "And maintaining key relationships."

I’m not expecting any material changes to our plans from these meetings, but you never know.John Rigney, Skico

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Aspen is scheduled to host women's technical ski events in November and the men's and women's World Cup Finals in March 2017. Aspen won't host women's events in November 2016 because it wants to concentrate on hosting the finals later that season. The finals are the third-most prestigious event in alpine ski racing, behind the Olympics, held every four years, and World Championships, held every other year.

Aspen was awarded the 2017 World Cup Finals in June 2014, but reports surfaced almost immediately that some FIS officials wanted the event awarded to a different resort if Aspen doesn't make progress in replacing Lift 1A and improving the surrounding base area. However, in a trip to Aspen in July, Atle Skaardal, FIS race director for women's World Cup events, seemed to downplay the threat.

"I don't think that's a topic we're spending any energy or time on right now," he told The Aspen Times. "We want to have this happen here."

But Skaardal also stressed that Aspen and every other host of World Cup events must meet certain standards to match the FIS branding. The standards include safety infrastructure, adequate chairlifts and modern base facilities.

The base surrounding Lift 1A is worn and shabby, in the eyes of many people. The slow, old double chair is entering its 44th winter of service. But Skico said it won't replace the chairlift without knowing the development plan for properties around the base. A handful of projects are planned or are being discussed, but none is under construction.

The FIS website says the FIS Technical Committee meetings will be held through Oct. 3.

"Committees from the various FIS disciplines will meet to put the finishing touches on plans for the upcoming season and take a preliminary look ahead to new elements for future consideration," the FIS said.

Rigney said Tuesday he had no reason to believe Aspen's status for hosting the World Cup Finals has changed.

"I may be asked to give updates on a variety of issues, but much of the broader material is covered by our Organizing Committee in advance of the meetings," Rigney wrote. "Then it's just seeing what pops up. I'm not expecting any material changes to our plans from these meetings, but you never know."

"And that's why I'm leaving Aspen at a time of year when nobody in their right mind would leave," he added, referring to the recent weather and fall colors.