The Big Stage: An inside look at the 2017 World Cup Finals in Aspen
The fastest ski racers in the world descend on Aspen in March
Aspen is no stranger to hosting World Cup ski racing, but expect a bigger spectacle for the World Cup Finals in March.
The grandstands will be bigger. The VIP space will be swankier. Shuttles will run frequently to whisk people to the venue entrance on Monarch Street. Wagner Park will be transformed into World Cup International Village. And, of course, Aspen will throw a hell of a good party.
The races during the March 15-
19 event will be free to attend. The finish area at the base of Lift 1A will
be the best place to catch the action, with grandstands, a jumbotron and timing board.
Additional grandstands will be set up to provide “at least double or triple the capacity” of the seating for regular World Cup races, according to John Rigney, Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of sales and special events.
The old stands held fewer than 1,000 people. The new stands will hold between 2,000 or 3,000 spectators.
The VIP area will remain to the ski racers’ right at the finish line, providing good sight lines up some of the courses. The plan is to increase the capacity of the VIP viewing area from about 300 to 600, Rigney said. VIP seating will go on sale early in the winter, he said. The finish area will provide particularly great vantage points for the Nations Team Event, where racers of both genders race giant slalom side by side.
“You’re going to have perfect line of sight for the national team race,” Rigney said.
Organizers also want to install a jumbotron at Wagner Park and one at another of Skico’s ski areas, mostly likely Snowmass, Rigney said.
There will be spectating opportunities along the edge of the course, but details were still being worked out as of press time. Lift 1A, also known as the Shadow Mountain Lift, and the course will be closed to public skiing during the event.
The beauty of the race schedule is spectators can also plan on plenty of time on the slopes, Rigney said. The races start early enough on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday that they should be finished at 12:30 p.m. — leaving plenty of time for spring skiing, he said. The technical events on Saturday and Sunday will run later in the day.
On each of the five days, the awards ceremony will be held at the race arena right after the competition. That day’s winners will be recognized and the globes awarded for the season titles in downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom and overall.
There are photo opportunities and interviews with the ski media.
“The awards sometimes last as long as the races themselves,” Rigney said.
The organizers hope to bring the racers to Wagner Park as frequently as possible. At a minimum, they will be there for autograph sessions and bib draws.
The World Cup International Village will feature international cuisine and beverages for sale every day along with merchandise from 3 to 9 p.m. There will be three performances in the Bud Light Hi-Fi Concert Series during the Finals.
Rigney advised people who plan to come to town for the event to book early. Between 15 and 20 percent of all rooms will be absorbed by guests associated with the World Cup Finals — racers, coaches, support staff and media, according to Rigney.
“I think it will be a very busy week” for the lodging community, he said.
For spectators driving from out of town, the best bet is to park at the Intercept Lot at the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road, and then take a bus into Aspen. Shuttles will make a circuit at stops around town and take viewers to the edge of slopes. They will be required to walk to the stands and viewing area, but the carpet — or at least rubber matts — will be rolled out for them.
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