Copper Mountain cancels December’s Grand Prix World Cup as cases rise
DILLON — U.S. Ski & Snowboard announced Friday morning that the International Ski Federation Freeski and Snowboard World Cup events scheduled for Copper Mountain Resort from Dec. 17-19 are canceled due to “the current, dynamic situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado.”
Copper Mountain Resort spokesperson Taylor Prather wrote in an email that the resort made the decision to cancel hosting the event because the resort’s top priority is “to protect the well-being of the Copper community.”
“We feel it is the right decision for our local community, and is consistent with our Operation Stay Safe plan,” Prather wrote. Copper is currently slated to open its lifts to the public Nov. 30.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard officials said the organization is working closely with the International Ski Federation and other domestic resort partners to find replacement venues for the first stop of the U.S. Grand Prix as well as the big air event that also was scheduled for Copper.
The Grand Prix cancellation comes while Copper Mountain is currently hosting American and club ski race training and the U.S. Alpine Ski Championships — a replacement event for national championships canceled in the spring due to COVID-19.
Prather said Copper is confident in the resort’s ability to continue hosting the ski race training because existing protocols follow all local and state public health guidance, such as monitoring capacities within facilities and buses, cleaning and disinfecting, screening employee health, physical distancing, wearing face covering and ensuring separation between teams on and off the mountain.
Snowboard World Champion Chris Corning of Silverthorne on Friday morning described the news as “a bummer.” The 21-year-old added that athletes like him became more hopeful the Grand Prix would take place at Copper next month because the International Ski Federation is hosting a freeski World Cup event in Stubai, Austria, this week.
The always-candid slopestyle and big air snowboarder said he felt the contest could have “easily” been held because of the outdoor, spaced-out nature of freeski and snowboard events.
“Basically, when you do a contest, you talk to three people, and it’s outside,” Corning said. “The whole wearing your mask outside … there’s not been one case of a mask outside and spreading the virus walking past somebody. It just doesn’t happen. But if you’re within 6 feet for 15 minutes, you might get it. It kind of sucks.
“Just tell people, ’Don’t talk. Don’t get too close to somebody.’ Just like we have been doing for a long time outside,” Corning said. “The judges may be the hardest part, but they are making it work in Europe.”
Summit County-based U.S. pro team rider Chase Blackwell said the news “puts everything up in the air.” That said, Blackwell said he thinks U.S. Snowboard and Copper have athletes’ and guests’ best interests at heart.
“At this point, with the numbers rising and whatnot, it’s probably the safest call,” Blackwell said. “But I’m looking forward hopefully to some more contests this season and looking forward to the Copper pipe being open. Once they get the pipe open, we’ll be able to ride the pipe and train.”
Corning also expressed concern that the Grand Prix cancellation news could be a sign of things to come, mentioning the possibility of local ski resorts closing, a development he is afraid of in terms of the ramifications for people living and working in ski towns.
“Unfortunately, with everything going on with the government, and things like that, they are wanting to lock everything down again,” Corning said. “If they do end up locking down the mountains and all that stuff again, we’re all dead. We’re not going to make it through that. All of Vail, Summit — everything’s going to be gone. Nobody is going to have a job. A lot of people that live up here, they can’t afford that. The amount of money we lost last time wouldn’t be half as much as we’ll lose this time cause it’s the actual season.”
Despite the Copper news, U.S. Ski & Snowboard President Tiger Shaw added that the organization “remains hopeful and confident” in its ability to work with its resort partners for the remaining domestic American World Cup events planned for 2020-21.
Shaw said decisions for all of those other domestic FIS World Cup events will be made “independently and based on an assessment of each unique set of circumstances at each stop.” Shaw said that includes the risks and travel requirements related to every event, host county and host state.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.