Last March, Killington Mountain School student, Ava Mattson, 18, had a chance to race against Mikaela Shiffrin at the GS finals of the U.S. Alpine Championships in Sun Valley. Shiffrin, 21, won easily with a time of 2:17. Mattson, whose father is a ski instructor at Killington Mountain Resort finished 36th with a time of 2:34. Between the two was another Vermont ski racer, Stratton Mountain School grad Alice Merryweather, who was 12th at 2:21.
Today, all three of these women were on the course at what has become known by the hashtag #BeastWorldCup, held at the “Beast of the East” Killington. Mattson was one of three KMS students who got to forerun the course. “It’s the best course I’ve ever skied,” says Mattson, a seasoned veteran on the U18 circuit. The course, as Shiffrin described it, “has no place you can relax. There are a lot of false flats.”
That became quickly apparent on the first run when the fourth-place starter, World Cup and Olympic champion Lara Gut went down on the top half of the course. Photographer Brooks Curran, who was standing at the gate noted, “there was a big hole there and if you were at all late coming into that gate, you’d get kicked out of the course.” That happened to five racers, all on the same gate.
As the temperatures hovered well above freezing the course, hard as nails the night before, softened and the Beast started to chew up even mrore racers. Of the 61 starters, 13 fell or missed gates, resulting in a DNF. Alice Merryweather, in her debut World Cup race, started second to last and was one of them.
Shiffrin skied conservatively, coming in 1:15 back to finish 8th after the first run.
The second run, scheduled for 12:30 will be her chance for revenge as the starting order gets reversed from the finish order.
More than 15,000 people attended, “I think this may be the biggest World Cup crowd ever,” said zone manager Tom Horracks, who has announced at many World Cup and Olympic events. “In Aspen, you practically have to beg people to come out. Vail gets about 5,000. This, this is incredible.”
Killington president Mike Solimano was out handing out the official World Cup programs like they were hot cakes. By 11 am, more than 15,000 programs had been distributed and more were being shipped up. Crowds were well armed with cow bells, face paint and outfits. “This is one huge party,” said one spectator.
More than 1,000 young ski racers, hailing from ski clubs around Vermont led the events with a parade. But when the action started, all eyes were on Shiffrin, Merryweather and yes, Ava Mattson. As Tiger Shaw, president of U.S. Skiing put it, “That’s where our future is. If we want to keep winning, we need to start them young.
* Updated 11/27/16: Tom Horrocks does not work for Killington Resort.