Second World Cup downhill added to Birds of Prey race schedule at Beaver Creek
VAIL — Lake Louise’s loss is Beaver Creek’s gain.
The Xfinity Birds of Prey World Cup races at Beaver Creek will offer a double dose of men’s downhill after Friday’s World Cup downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, was scrubbed due to heavy snow.
The additional downhill at Beaver Creek was confirmed Saturday night by Birds of Prey organizers. Lake Louise held a previously scheduled men’s downhill Saturday, and is scheduled to host a men’s super-G on Sunday.
The updated Birds of Prey schedule will commence with downhill training days on Tuesday, Nov. 30, and Wednesday, Dec. 1, followed by super-G races on Thursday, Dec. 2, and Friday, Dec. 3. Two downhill races will follow on Saturday, Dec. 4, and Sunday, Dec. 5.
“We are very pleased to be in a position to add a downhill race to our Beaver Creek program,” said Mike Imhof, the president of the Vail Valley Foundation. The Vail Valley Foundation is the local organizing committee for the Birds of Prey races at Beaver Creek.
The races on the famed speed track at Beaver Creek did not take place in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 compressing the World Cup calendar.
“We want to express our thanks and gratitude to all of our partners, volunteers and friends here in Beaver Creek, and on the World Cup tour, who have managed the last-minute changes required to host this additional race,” Imhof said. “It will make for an exceptionally exciting weekend of racing in Beaver Creek.”
The idea of the race being added to the program was conceived shortly after the cancellation of Friday’s men’s downhill in Lake Louise.
“For something like this to go through, everyone involved has to agree it’s the right decision,” said Tom Boyd, the director of public relations and communications with the Vail Valley Foundation. “We have to make sure we’re going to continue to hold the incredible, high quality, best in the world-type race that we’re used to holding. So, it’s a process that we needed to go through to make the right decision.”
Everyone from the International Ski Federation, Vail Resorts, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Ski and Snowboard, the Vail Valley Foundation, Lake Louise race directors and other organizers on the tour had to give the go-ahead. It’s a decision Boyd said is indeed the right one.
“It’s going to be fantastic here,” he said. “Great for the World Cup, great for the athletes, great for our community, and great for ski racing as a whole.”
In an Olympic year, Boyd said the worldwide television audience could eclipse what he says is normally 100 million, another element which needed to be considered when finalizing the scheduling change.
“You say to yourself, ‘OK, how are we going to schedule this, how is it going to be broadcast?” he said. “A lot of it has to do with figuring out that schedule and making sure your media coverage and your television coverage is going to be on point and is going to work for everybody.”
Ultimately, Boyd said race organizers were confident in the team of volunteers and partners in pulling off an extra downhill, which is the most exciting discipline to watch on the World Cup circuit. Men’s racers hit speeds in excess of 80 mph and soar as far as 140 feet through the air off the Golden Eagle jump.
“The Birds of Prey is an exceptionally big event and the opportunity to do two of those is, I think, really exhilarating for everybody in the ski world,” Boyd said.
Birds of Prey has held replacement events in the past, including a men’s giant slalom on Dec. 6, 2011, a women’s super-G on Dec. 7, 2011, and a men’s giant slalom on Dec. 8, 2011, which all replaced events scheduled originally for Val d’Isère, France.
There is also a precedent for holding multiple downhill races at Birds of Prey. The inaugural 1997 event, as well as the 2003 edition, saw two contested. In both years, Hermann Maier won one of the races, and in 2003, American Daron Rahlves won the other.
“We look forward to hosting exciting speed racing at Beaver Creek each year and are thrilled to add another downhill race to our program,” said Nadia Guerriero, vice president and chief operating officer of Beaver Creek Resort, in a statement. “We’re glad to offer ski racing fans from near and far the opportunity to experience world-class racing up close.”
“It was the right decision to cancel the men’s downhill yesterday in Lake Louise, but it is great that athletes can keep the momentum going in North America with this additional race being added to the program in Beaver Creek,” said Brian Lynam, race chairman of the Lake Louise World Cup, in a statement.
Tuesday, Nov. 30, 11 a.m.: Downhill training
Wednesday, Dec. 1, 11 a.m.: Downhill training
Thursday, Dec. 2, 11:45 a.m.: Super-G
Friday, Dec. 3, 10:45 a.m.: Super-G
Saturday, Dec. 4, 11 a.m.: Downhill
Sunday, Dec. 5, 12 p.m.: Downhill
“The level of detail in an event like this — there’s a lot,” Boyd said. “Transportation, food, course inspection, course workers and volunteers. We have over 500 volunteers that work this event with us. They’re incredibly important to the Vail Valley Foundation, as is everybody involved, and it’s really thousands of people who take part either as fans or volunteers or coaches or athletes.”
Imhof echoed Boyd’s gratitude and excitement over the collective parties coming together, stating, “We are especially grateful for the support from Vail Resorts, U.S. Ski & Snowboard, Beaver Creek Resort, FIS, and Infront, and all of the workers and volunteers who make this event one of the best in the world, year after year,” he said.
With all of the parties giving the green light, Boyd said he can get excited about hosting a great event.
“Once again, the world’s spotlight will be shown on Beaver Creek, Colorado,” he said. “Everybody around the world is going to get to see just what an amazing place this is, and to me, that’s maybe the coolest part.”
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