“Last year we had the biggest attendance at a women’s World Cup in history,” said Killington Resort CEO Mike Solimano. “And guess what, next year we do it again!” Kilington announced this afternoon that it is on the FIS schedule to host the women’s World Cup slalom and giant slalom races again in 2017 and 2018. “Two years seemed like the right amount of time,” Solimano said.
Killington plans to enter a two-year race agreement with USSA to bring World Cup racing back to Vermont and Killington’s place on next year’s World Cup calendar is expected be confirmed during meetings of the International Ski Federation (FIS) in Portoroz, Slovenia in late May. Pending FIS approval, the next World Cup at Killington would take place November 25-26, 2017, Thanksgiving Weekend.
For the past 10 years, Colorado has been the only U.S. site of a World Cup race and Aspen has traditionally held one of the early-season events. However, last year Aspen was awarded the 2017 World Cup Finals, and that opened the November spot. U.S. Skiing president and former Stowe skier Tiger Shaw was instrumental in successfully pitching new venues in Killington, Vt. to take that spot, over Thanksgiving in 2016, and Squaw Valley, Calif., for an event in March, 2017.
Among the reasons Killington was originally successful, said Shaw, were its “phenomenal snowmaking and ability to attract crowds from the major urban centers. I don’t know of any World Cup venue where you can actually see the course from the access road,” Shaw said in an interview with VT Ski + Ride last fall.
But the event turned out “even better than we possibly could have expected,” said Solimano. Killington’s event drew crowds of 14,000 and 16, 000 on each of the two days of women’s slalom and giant slalom races. Squaw Valley drew an estimated total of 20,000 over the weekend. FIS officials called it “groundbreaking.”
By contrast Aspen’s 2017 finals, where Mikaela Shiffrin secured her win of the season slalom title and the overall World Cup crystal globe (she finished second in Giant Slalom for the season), drew about 5,000 people.
One of the breaking points in the Aspen decision was the fact that its 45-year-old lift, Lift1A, is slated for an upgrade but plans have yet to be approved by the town. “The appetite is there to come to Aspen, no question,” Lewis told the Aspen Daily News, “The question is whether the appetite is there in Aspen for World Cup racing to come.”
By contrast, on Town Meeting Day Killington voters approved a $100,000 line item to help Killington Resort offset the costs of hosting and marketing the World Cup. “It’s an expensive proposition we’ll have to look at carefully and work the numbers on,” said Killington Marketing Director Rob Megnin after last fall’s event.
Still, the 2016 event was deemed an overall success by most who attended. “We had more people than we ever dreamed of,” said Killington communications director Michael Joseph, “but it was never too much – it was just comfortably crowded.” While U.S. Skiing has put out the number at 30,000 spectators ,Joseph notes the resort’s estimate was 16,000 and 14,000 over each of the two days (many of those being the same people). “I’ve never seen a bigger crowd than we can handle: if every one of those people told 10 of their friends to come, we could still handle it—and we have more water for snowmaking than we can ever use.” Joseph aid in an interview on March 23. “I say, bring it on!”
The proposed November, 2017 World Cup would include women’s giant slalom and slalom races, attracting athletes such as U.S. Ski Team superstars Julia Mancuso and Mikaela Shiffrin.
As with last year’s FIS World Cup, the proposed 2017 and 2018 World Cup races at Killington would be broadcast worldwide to over 60 nations, along with national broadcast coverage across the US. The event is anticipated to bring millions of dollars in economic impact to the state of Vermont.
“Establishing a multi-year World Cup schedule here at Killington is an incredible opportunity to bring even more visibility to the resort and our community, which has been extremely supportive of our efforts to bring these races back. I was blown away by the sheer size of the crowd last year, and the enthusiasm I witnessed leads me to believe that we’ll bring in even more spectators this year to watch the fastest female ski races in the world take on the Superstar trail,” says Mike Solimano, president and general manager of Killington Resort and Pico Mountain. “We used every cold period in October and November to build a world-class race venue on Superstar, and getting the job done so early in the season showcased our snowmaking system as an industry-leading powerhouse.”
Last November’s races in Killington marked the first World Cup in the eastern US since 1991 when the U.S. Ski Team’s Julie Parisien won the giant slalom at Waterville Valley, NH.
The USSA has had a long relationship with POWDR producing World Cup and Grand Prix events at Copper Mountain and Park City Mountain Resort, and the collaboration for Killington’s World Cup in 2016 solidified The Beast of the East as a strong venue for World Cup alpine ski racing in addition to the regularly hosted FIS Cup and USSA races.
The resort has promised to add more facilities and buses. “We also want to make sure that there are more opportunities for young people to interact with the athletes,” said Solimano. “We nailed it last year but we’re just going to keep brainstorming on how we can make it even better.”
“Last year we accomplished all of our goals, which were to promote eastern skiing and Killington to the global audience. It was very powerful to see the local and regional communities come together to support World Cup racing,” says Herwig Demschar, chair of Killington’s World Cup Local Organizing Committee and VP of International Business Development at POWDR.
“We have a blueprint for successful races to build on, and we are going to throw a party you don’t want to miss,” adds Demschar.
Opening and this photo: Brooks Curran