Beaver Creek prepares for big season |

Beaver Creek prepares for big season

Melanie Wong
At Beaver Creek on Monday, construction workers stand atop the main grandstands at the finish line for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. The stands—three-times the size of the usual stands for the Birds of Prey races—are capable of seating 3,500 people and can hold up to 8,500 when including standing room.
Anthony Thornton | |

Beaver Creek/Vail World Ski Championships by year


255 hours of television coverage

2,750 Vail stadium capacity

3,000 Beaver Creek stadium capacity


400 million people watching

350 hours of television coverage

2,200 Vail stadium capacity

2,800 Beaver Creek stadium capacity


750 million people watching (expected)

900 hours of television coverage

1,300 Vail stadium capacity

3,500 Beaver Creek stadium capacity

Source: Vail Valley Foundation

BEAVER CREEK — If you haven’t seen Talons at Beaver Creek lately, you might not recognize it.

In a matter of a couple months, the finish area that will serve both the Birds of Prey World Cup race in December and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, has become a race village and stadium of international proportions. A crew of about 75 people has already erected towering metal beams, bleachers and a standing area that will accommodate about 8,500 spectators. Also flanking the finish corral is a slick-looking, two-story, 20,000-square-foot VIP viewing center that dwarfs the neighboring Talons restaurant and deck, and the skeleton of a jumbo screen that will broadcast live images of the racers as they speed down the course.

Tucked behind the bleachers is an equally large building that will house the 13 international television networks that will be broadcasting the World Championships. Needless to say, fewer than 100 days from the Championships and just more than a month away from Birds of Prey, Beaver Creek is in race mode.

“This is an event unlike any that Beaver Creek has ever held in the past,” said Jen Brown, of Beaver Creek communications. “It’s exciting even for the people working here and who are watching it as it progresses to see how quickly it’s taking shape.”

This will be the third time Vail and Beaver Creek have hosted the Alpine World Championships, and organizers say the impact of the event will be bigger than it ever has been — and not just in terms of stadium size.

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According to the Vail Valley Foundation’s John Dakin, the first time Vail and Beaver Creek hosted the event in 1989, the event got 255 hours of national and international television time. In 1999, the event reached an audience of 400 million with more than 350 hours of network programing.

In 2015, the Championships will broadcast in more than 70 countries with more than 900 hours of coverage, reaching an audience of 750 million people. It is not only the largest U.S. ski racing coverage in history but the one with the most extensive social media presence, he added.

Combination lift nearly ready

While the stadium may be one of the more obvious changes for the coming season, skiers and riders will also undoubtedly notice the new Centennial Lift (Chair 6). The new combination gondola-chair lift is in the final stages of preparation and will take visitors up the mountain on opening day.

The lift features five chairs, which hold six people each, alternating with one 10-person gondola. The combo-lift will increase uphill capacity by 35 percent, said Brown.

Much like the new Vail Chair 4, the loading area will feature gates for each passenger and a conveyor belt loading system. Currently, all the cabins and chairs are installed, with crews testing for safety and load limits during the next week.

Improvements continue up the mountain with new snowmaking equipment that resort officials say will create fresher conditions on the slopes throughout the season.

Fresh off six inches of snow at mid-mountain, Beaver Creek crews were in their second day of snowmaking this fall.

“(The Championships are) a great opportunity to showcase all the improvements on the mountain, from the new snowmaking equipment, to Talons, to the new combination lift. A lot of preparation has been done from the moment we got the Championships is 2010,” said Brown.


Other mountain improvements include a new sweets shop at the old ski patrol station near McCoy Nordic Center. The Candy Cabin will have bins of candy and confections designed to curb the sweet tooth during a day on the hill.

Throughout the season, ski school will also be incorporating the 2015 theme into their lessons. Instructors might ski over with clients to see the races, discuss what they can learn from watching the best in the world and try their hand at the EpicMix Race Course.

While the VIP center, grandstands and TV media headquarters will be dismantled at the end of the ski season, Brown points out that visitors will continue to enjoy many of the Championship improvements — such as the new combo-lift, improved snowmaking and the new Raptor course — well beyond this snow year.

“Guests will be able to enjoy the benefits for a long time to come,” Brown said.

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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