Marolt: A developer’s threat by any other name is still a bluff
They’re kidding, right? The Federation of International Skiing is going to pull the 2017 World Cup Finals from Aspen if we don’t replace Lift 1A? Ha! What a crock of Wiener schnitzel. It’s the greatest bluff since Napoleon’s army crossed into Austria waiving a white flag and took the country without firing a shot. The odds of FIS changing course with less than two years to go until the scheduled event are exactly zero.
The organizers of the infamously anal-retentive FIS initiate change about as often as they flush a toilet in the United States. They jump the pond just often enough to appease American sponsorship of their dying commodity. The less they have to think about lowering themselves to come here the better. Once they’ve made the decision to stage an event on our soil, they are loath to waste time revisiting it. Am I implying that change happens slowly at FIS? Not exactly; I am telling you it happens at the same speed tectonic plates sail in light breezes.
I will remind you that FIS has sat silently by and watched ESPN’s X Games not merely eclipse the World Cup but basically obliterate it in the eyes of the American public. The X Games have become everything FIS wanted to be in this country, but it was too arrogant to infuse its events with fun.
The result of FIS organizers not checking the pulse of their product often enough to see that its heart has turned as rigid as their decision-making process is that they are the ones who need defibrillation, not us. Look at it this way: Which came first, Aspen or the X Games? While Aspen used the X Games and the X Games used Aspen symbiotically to boost their respective commercial values, don’t you think Aspen had more to give the X Games initially than the other way around? I do.
FIS thinks so, too. It knows Aspen’s history in the ski world. It knows the X Games are strutting across the world’s stage with a healthy swagger thanks to Aspen. How better to cash in on the shining images of both than to stage a big event in the famous town now synonymous with Winter X coolness? FIS knows that an event in our hip skiing town can help turn its tarnished reputation into gilt by association.
Just for fun, let’s burn a split second and go with the ridiculous assumption that FIS would actually go through with pulling the plug on the 2017 World Cup Finals here with less than two years to find a replacement. Where would it go, knowing that it pretty much has to stay in the U.S. to save face and have any chance of keeping its product alive in the potentially most lucrative segment of the global market?
First and foremost, you have to understand that FIS has to have a suitable venue for its marquee event, the men’s downhill. If it doesn’t raise any excitement with this, the entire exercise is a flop. Now, we look at the history of big men’s downhill events in the U.S. to spot potential replacement venues. Let’s see — we had the Olympics at Squaw Valley in 1960, there was a World Cup race at Sugarloaf, Maine, in 1971, Heavenly Valley hosted one in 1977 and there was the Lake Placid Olympics on White Face in 1980. Every other World Cup downhill in the U.S. has been hosted by either Aspen or Vail/Beaver Creek, and Aspen has hosted nearly twice as many as Vail/Beaver Creek. Get it? We are it!
Beaver Creek has done an incredible job hosting the World Championships. This is why it doesn’t want the World Cup Finals moved there in 2017. Remember, the World Championships are a much, much bigger deal than the World Cup Finals. The World Championships are second only to the Olympics in ski-racing importance. The World Cup Finals are basically a fun get-together at the end of the season after most of the titles and overall awards have been decided. Believe it or not, having another more diminutive event in Vail/Beaver Creek is too much and wouldn’t do the image of either the venue or the World Cup any favors.
When you look at things in context, it’s obvious that Aspen Skiing Co. is using the horribly weak threat of potentially, possibly, perhaps, maybe losing the 2017 World Cup Finals to a better venue as a pathetic political ploy to generate fear leading to approval to build another miserable base village at the bottom of Lift 1A. We’re not that dumb. Neither is FIS.
Roger Marolt still thinks moving the bottom of a ski lift farther up the mountain is about the dumbest idea possible for a real ski area. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.