EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - The 2015 World Alpine Championships are now officially the next World Championships in World Cup skiing - the International Ski Federation flag was handed over to the Vail Valley Foundation in Schladming, Austria, on Sunday.While the ceremony was mostly symbolic, it marks a major turning point for the local organizing committee - the World Championships responsibility is now in its hands. Members traveled to Austria for the 2013 World Alpine Ski Championships in waves of three, taking in the experience and energy of championships held in Europe, an undoubtedly different experience than 2015 is likely to be in Vail and Beaver Creek.The contingent included Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation; Vail Mayor Andy Daly; Vail Councilwoman Susie Tjossem; Vail Resorts International President John Garnsey and Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot, to name a few.Tjossem, who's also the chair of the 2015 festival committee and is executive director of the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum, said there were about 50,000 people at each event in Schladming. "The town was just overwhelmed with people," Tjossem said. "The Austrians just did an amazing job of keeping the energy high. The fan base was amazing."While the Vail contingent was there to learn from the Austrians, they learned that the Austrians have also clearly learned from Americans, too. Tjossem said there were a lot of event production aspects that mimicked the way major American sporting events - such as the Super Bowl, the World Series and Stanley Cup playoffs - are organized."Music is everything, and it needs to be in the background all the time," Tjossem said of the mindset of the Schladming organizers. "They never turn it off - the announcers speak over it."Jarnot said the energy in Schladming was incredible. He also noticed a key difference between Schladming and Vail/Beaver Creek right away: In Schladming, everything - from registration to the media center to the stadium and awards ceremonies - exists within about a half-mile radius. "Ours is like the opposite extreme of that," Jarnot said. "What we talked a lot about was achieving the same easy access to everything they had across our entire venue through really good transportation. We learned just how important that's going to be."Jarnot said the committee knew it would be important and has already been working tirelessly to ensure transportation is the best it can be in 2015. A special transportation committee exists within the organizing committee to sort out all the kinks before the event begins two years from now.Jarnot said the Schladming organizers graciously hosted the Vail contingent, teaching what they've learned about what works and what doesn't when hosting an event of such magnitude. Fans stopped them on the street to talk to them about 2015 after seeing the logos which committee members wore throughout the championships.The handing over of the flag now makes 2015 that much more real. The clock is now ticking."We've been focused on February 2015 all along, but yeah, now that this (Schladming) event is going to be over with, there's a sense of urgency," Jarnot said. Tjossem said the committee will have a debriefing as soon as everyone's back in town. Also, in April, the International Ski Federation will be hosting a debriefing of the Schladming event in Vail.There will be a lot of lessons learned, Tjossem said. "You take the Super Bowl and you carry that out for 17 days," Tjossem said. And no organizer has lost sight of one of the most lucrative aspects of hosting a World Championships: the exposure."Having a World Championship means you're a credible ski resort," Tjossem said. "The investment we're making is to be prideful of the ski product we have, but it's really about marketing."The marketing has already begun, too, especially over the course of the championships in Schladming. The committee set out a goal to get noticed on TV a lot in Austria, and Tjossem said they accomplished that.Committee members are in touch with the reality that ski racing in America is nothing close to what it is in Europe. There are some fans, sure, but World Cup ski racers are household names in Europe. That's where the marketing becomes even more important, Jarnot said. "We have a different challenge to get people to come and participate in the event," Jarnot said. "We're going to have to work hard to convince people to come check it out."Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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