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Welcome back, World Cup

Steve Benson

After a year’s hiatus, the FIS Alpine World Cup will return to Aspen in November. The women’s slalom and giant slalom races will be held on Aspen Mountain on Thanksgiving weekend, kicking off the World Cup season.The decision was made late last week, but didn’t become official until Sunday, when officials from the International Ski Federation completed their routine course inspection on Aspen Mountain. Aspen had been a contender since January, when Park City, Utah, announced it would no longer host the event, leaving Beaver Creek as the only American stop on the World Cup tour. Since that time, six other U.S. resorts were considered by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), which creates the domestic World Cup schedule. And for the past several months, the Aspen Skiing Co. “felt fairly confident,” that the USSA would pick Aspen, said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. But he said that feeling changed recently, when it appeared the association was focusing more intently on Copper Mountain and other “high-altitude Summit County resorts.” Such resorts often experience colder temperatures than Aspen and are considered safer bets for early season snowmaking.”It went back and forth a little bit,” Hanle said. “We didn’t think they were coming, then we got the call and they said, ‘Nope, we’re coming to Aspen.'” As for the concerns over the early season snowpack, Hanle said Aspen, which hosted the World Cup in November 2002, has always been prepared in the past and will be in the future.”We have a great snowmaking crew,” Hanle said. “Our guys will jump in and crank it up as soon as it’s cold enough. “There have been some times when we’ve sweated, but it always managed to cool off enough in time, or the gods have opened up the clouds and it snowed.” According to Annette Royle, USSA vice president of events, the decision to come back to Aspen was an easy one, but all of the other options had to be considered first. “Aspen is regarded as a classic World Cup site,” she said. “They’ve delivered consistently, and there’s a great passion for ski racing in the community.”Between Aspen and Beaver Creek, there will be a solid week of World Cup races in Colorado this season. The races begin in Aspen on Friday, Nov. 26, with the women’s giant slalom and commence Sunday, Dec. 5, in Beaver Creek with the men’s slalom. As for the World Cup returning to Aspen in 2005, Royle said “the chances are very good.” “We will always talk to Aspen,” she said. “It’s always good to be here.”Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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