Vail gets some 2015 races
Aspen, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colo. – The sun came out, really came out, Wednesday, the day Vail got word it would host some racing events during the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships. As far as Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz is concerned, the two events were related.
“It’s just a great day,” Folz said.
Initial plans for the championships had all the racing at Beaver Creek, with Vail hosting just the opening ceremonies and nightly entertainment. Given Vail’s ski-racing history, that arrangement didn’t go over well with many residents, and the Vail Town Council initially balked at a funding request from the Vail Valley Foundation.
But word came Wednesday from the International Ski Federation (FIS) that Vail’s Golden Peak race course had been approved for the championships’ “Nations Team” event. Golden Peak will also host the men’s slalom and giant slalom qualifying races.
“Vail has a long and proud legacy in ski racing dating back to the first season of the FIS World Cup,” said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt, who is also a vice president of the FIS. “The Team Event has proven to be very popular with spectators and television, showcasing the stars of each nation in a head-to-head format.”
Folz said it’s exactly that side-by side, head-to-head format with both men and women competing that has helped the Nations Team races continue to grow in popularity.
“Ski racing’s exciting, but when you can measure the racers’ speed against each other, it’s even more exciting,” Folz said.
Better yet, people in the Golden Peak finish stadium will be able to see the entire course from the bottom of of the hill.
Having both men and women racing at Vail again is another big deal. As men’s ski racing has changed, demanding ever-steeper courses, the men moved to Beaver Creek’s demanding Birds of Prey course.
Aspen has been the only American city to host annual women’s World Cup alpine ski racing for many years. Vail last hosted women’s World Cup alpine races at the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships.
Vail’s loss of World Cup racing combined with the demand for ski-in/ski-out real estate in Vail had caused some to wonder if Vail’s time as a race venue had passed.
But the marriage of Nations Team and Golden Peak could be a fruitful one.
“Nations Team is a significant event now,” Vail Town Council member Andy Daly said.
The side-by-side format works well on TV, he added, making it a great event for American audiences.
While Birds of Prey has become one of the world’s best courses, Daly – a former Vail Resorts executive – believes Vail Mountain could still host World Cup events.
But hosting races will come at a cost for the town. The Vail Town Council has tentatively agreed to contribute $1.25 million to the event over five years – it approved the first $250,000 installment earlier this year – but Folz said the town and the foundation have already talked about increasing that contribution by another $1.5 million.
The increase would help pay for stadium improvements and other costs – if Vail Mountain landed some races.
While Folz and Daly both indicated that a “handshake” deal exists for further funding, Daly said that the town would “work with” the foundation to nail down an exact amount.
Vail Town Council member Susie Tjossem also runs the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum in Vail. She called the announcement about the races a “win-win-win” for the town, the foundation and international skiing.
“It really allows us to maintain our heritage with men’s and women’s racing, in walking distance from Vail Village,” Tjossem said. “It will show people what a great venue Golden Peak has become.”
Craig Denton has lived in Vail since 1975. He remembers seeing Jean-Claude Killy rocket down International in the 1970s and Alberto Tomba attack the mountain in the 1980s.
“This will be fun,” Denton said. “It was awesome when we had the world cup here then. They do a great job at Birds of Prey, but let’s remember what brought us to Vail.”
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