The Big Stage: An inside look at the 2017 World Cup Finals in Aspen |

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

Slalom Day 2 2015 Nature Valley Aspen Winternational - Aspen, CO
Sarah Brunson/U.S. Ski Team
2017 Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals Schedule   March 15 America’s Downhill Racers will kick out of the start gate just below the top of Ruthie’s chair and quickly pick up speed as they head toward the technical Aztec pitch. The course will then drop into Strawpile with the finish at the base of Lift 1A. Top speeds will near 75 mph. March 16 Men’s and Ladies’ super-G The course will start halfway down Ruthie’s, just above Snowbowl, and then follow the same track as the downhill. March 16 Nations team event The start is at the bottom of Corkscrew Gulley. This event has members from each country racing head-to-head in a dual-paneled slalom race. The team event is set-up as a bracket style, with the top competing nations ranked based on Nations Cup points at the end of the last World Cup race prior to the event. At the end of the day, there will be two teams battling for victory and two teams fighting for third. This crowd-pleasing event is not to be missed during the World Cup Finals week. March 18 Men’s giant slalom The giant slalom start will be located at the top of Spring Pitch. March 18 Ladies’ slalom Slalom will begin at the top of Strawpile. March 19 Men’s slalom Slalom will begin at the top of Strawpile. March 19 Ladies’ giant slalom The giant slalom start will be located at the top of Spring Pitch.  

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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