Shiffrin, Marolt on hand to disusss Aspen hosting World Cup Ski Finals
With nearly the entirety of fall and winter standing between Aspen and the arrival of the 2017 Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals, maybe the reality of what is coming has yet to set in.
But in the coming months, the excitement will continue to build and the magnitude of March’s event will become overwhelmingly obvious.
“The people that moved this town in the beginning were ski racers and they were ski fans. It’s in our genes. It’s in our culture. It’s in our heritage,” said Aspen native Bill Marolt, a ski legend and the former athletic director at the University of Colorado. “Let’s not let it slip through our fingers. This is an unbelievable opportunity for us to tell the world what a great place Aspen is. They know, but it doesn’t ever hurt to remind them.”
Marolt was one of a handful of big names on hand to talk World Cup on Thursday at the base of Buttermilk. Organized by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Aspen Skiing Co., the “Afternoon Blend” included a panel with Marolt, Alpine Ski World Cup founder Bob Beattie and reigning Olympic, World Cup and World Champion slalom skier Mikaela Shiffrin.
The panel was moderated by Olympian and former TV personality Christin Cooper.
“It’s going to be really cool to see how this does play out,” Shiffrin said of Aspen hosting the World Cup Finals. “It might be one of the few World Cup Finals where athletes actually look as fresh as in the beginning of the season.”
Aspen has long hosted FIS World Cup events in November, but March’s finale will be a different animal. This season will mark the first time the World Cup Final has been held outside of Europe since 1997, and it will be the first time the World Cup men have raced in Aspen in 15 years.
One of the few local events to compare it to would be the 1950 World Championships, hosted by Aspen and attended by a 7-year-old Marolt. He remembers the excitement of being around the big-time skiers of that era and hopes this year’s event can bring that same magic back to the valley.
“You always remember the great skiers,” said Marolt, who played a major part in convincing the International Ski Federation Congress to let Aspen host the event. “The key here is volunteering. Everyone in town needs to get involved in whatever way they can.”
Dubbed “The Return of America’s Downhill,” the 2017 FIS World Cup Finals will take place from March 15 to 19 at Aspen Mountain. There will be nine races over five days, men and women, with a $1.3 million purse on the line.
Not to mention all the glory the skiing world has to offer outside of the Winter Olympics.
“There is a lot to look forward to. Nostalgia abounds here,” said John Rigney, vice president of sales and events for Skico. “Some of these folks won’t even know they are coming until a week or two weeks beforehand. So there is that element of competing until the last second.”
The finals will include the top 30 ranked individual men and women per discipline and will test skiers on one of the most notoriously difficult mountains in the country.
“Up until this past year, this past season, I was never sure I would be able to win here because it was so challenging,” said Shiffrin, who last November won the World Cup slalom race to become the first American woman to win in Aspen since 1981. “It looks really, really good on TV. It’s a great show. And that’s what a sport is at the end of the day — it’s entertainment. Aspen, that hill just lends itself to people wanting to see it.”
And roughly seven months from now, the world will get to see just how entertaining Aspen can be.
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The third weekend of play begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with the Bantam B, Squirt A and Squirt B divisions. Because of safety protocols, spectators aren’t allowed.