Following a season that was brought to an abrupt halt by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federation International de Ski (FIS), the governing body of ski racing, has announced it is looking at a new World Cup event for launch in spring of 2021. Among the sites under consideration for the debut event are three Vermont ski areas.
“For several years, a committee has been looking at the many challenges World Cup ski racing is facing,” said FIS President Gian Franco Kasper. “We have seen too many races canceled or moved because of lack of snow and as global warming continues, this will only get worse, shortening the season,” he said in a release.
In addition, the committee has been looking at how to broaden the appeal of ski racing. “We know this can be a tremendous spectator sport —the crowds at the Killington World Cup have been proof of that—but we need to continually innovate and learn from what is being done by Red Bull, the X Games and other factions of the ski world,” the 76-year-old outgoing president of FIS said.
The new event, according to insiders, will be held a year from today, on April 1 of 2021 and address both these issues. “One of the best-loved disciplines in skiing has never had an international competition and we are finally going to create a World Cup trophy for the pond skim,” the release said.
While the history of pond skimming has not been documented, it is an event that traditionally draws huge crowds at ski areas around the world. “This spring, with resorts closed and social distancing in place we really saw a pent-up demand for it,” said NBC announcer and former World Cup downhiller Doug Lewis. “I mean, I heard of people digging ponds in their backyards to practice and setting up lawn chairs. It’s great that FIS will finally provide a venue for this and it will really boost the end of the ski season.”
The event is likely to be held in at one of three Vermont locations that have submitted proposals. “We’ve always wanted to put in an outdoor pool at Mount Snow’s Carinthia Parks,” said spokesperson Jamie Storrs. “We are now considering something like an Olympic distance size.” The pool could also be used for freestyle training in the summer.
Killington Resort also submitted a proposal to use the pond directly in front of the Killington Grand Hotel, with the bridge across it serving as the judges’ booth. “We have the perfect venue for this and already have a history of putting on a great World Cup event,” said president Mike Solimano. “Besides, who else has the King of Spring?” he said, referring to the speedo-clad, cape-wearing Killington icon.
Sugarbush Resort is the final contender. “Nobody does it better,” said Win Smith, the general manager and former owner of the resort. “We’ve been hosting pond skims for decades—and our local brewery, Lawson’s Finest, has already stepped up and offered to sponsor,” said Smith. Smith, himself, usually foreruns the course in full costume and has the discipline nailed.
The Cochran family has already built a trench for training at their ski hill in Richmond, Vt. World Cup racer Ryan Cochran-Siegle has been secretly practicing there for the last three weeks, along with his cousins Robby and Tim Kelley and other members of the Redneck Racing squad. Jay Peak is considering modifying a section of its waterpark so that Burke Mountain Academy racers will be able to train there year-round.
The event will be judged using some of the traditional pond skim criteria: speed, style, and costumes, with a special award for ‘epic fails.’ Vail Resorts, which has hosted a pond skim world championship in the past, has trademarked the name Epic Fail and will be sponsoring the Epic Fail trophy.
“What’s interesting is how this will help bring skiers of all disciplines together,” said Lewis. Top contenders from a variety of disciplines are expected to enter including Candide Thovex, Mikaela Shiffrin and World Cup slopestyle champion and Stratton Mountain School senior, Mac Forehand.
Lindsey Vonn is also considering coming out of retirement. “This sport will be so much easier on your knees and body and there will be far fewer injuries,” she predicted. Rumors have it the former Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue model is also looking into waterproof body paint.
When asked if he might also consider a run for the trophy, Glen Plake had just three words to say: “I got this.”
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