Beaver Creek readies with one day left
BEAVER CREEK — Come on already, is it here yet?
That would be the rough sentiment of the vast host at Beaver Creek preparing for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships just one day away. While the planning has been meticulous, and years in the works, don’t count on anyone involved catching the Super Bowl today.
“I’m not,” said Kate Peters, the senior marketing and public relations manager at the Vail Valley foundation. “Personally, I think because the Broncos are not in it, people aren’t as upset.”
Naturally, after a relatively snow-free January, it snowed on Saturday, and weather.com has 60 percent chance of snow for Tuesday, the day of the first race, the women’s super-G.
That did not deter the Talon Crew, the group of volunteers who do everything from setting up the safety netting, slipping the courses, both Birds of Prey (for the men) and Raptor (women) to shoveling snow off the two tracks.
“(The Championships) are already here,” joked Steve Prawdzik of the Talon Crew. “We’ve been doing it for a week to 10 days. We can sense the excitement building on the course. Everybody’s super-enthusiastic, working practically to exhaustion.”
The Redtail Finish Stadium is ready. It seats 3,500 and can hold up to 7,000 people with standing room. A VIP building to the west of the courses went up before the Birds of Prey races in December.
The Talons Restaurant, which replaced the old Red Tail Lodge, will serve as home for the media, made its debut in 2013. John Dakin, the chief of press for the event, said that 450 print/Internet media members are credentialed to cover the racing. That number does not include those housed in the new International Broadcasting Center below the stadium.
Bracing for the throng
Vail Valley Foundation organizers have not pegged an official number of spectators they expect for the next two weeks. Peters and Dakin both cited the precedent of the 1999 Worlds men’s downhill, which attracted 20,000 fans, considered to be a record for a ski race in America, around and at the bottom of Birds of Prey.
That the home nation should be much more competitive than in 1999 — Chad Fleischer’s sixth-place finish in the super-G was the top American result 16 years ago — not only spurs on thoughts of larger crowds, but excites all those involved.
“To be able to go into these World Championships with arguably one of the strongest teams in the world with a healthy Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela (Shiffrin) and Ted (Ligety),” said Dakin, continuing to reel off names of the U.S. Ski Team. “We couldn’t have asked for an better promotion from the U.S. Ski Team, the way they’ve provided results this year.”
NBC and its affiliates, NBC Sports and Universal Sports Network, will be televising all the races, giving Beaver Creek exposure nation-wide. Consider too that with races starting at 11 a.m. (speed races) or earlier (the combineds and technical events), the Championships will be in prime time in ski-crazy nations like Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Norway.
“Potentially, we could have 1 billion viewers,” Peters said. “There will be 25 hours of coverage on NBC (and its affiliates). We’re hoping to get a lot of eyeballs on this area.”
Ready for anything
Having the benefit of hosting the World in both 1989 and 1999 gives all involved a lot of experience. That said, hosting an event this large inevitably leads to the unpredictable.
“The goal is to have things dialed in,” Dakin said. “We know there will be challenges. Things are not going to go as planned. There’s always a chance of weather. It’s an outdoor sport, and there are a lot of moving pieces to this event. The key is to be flexible enough to identify any problems and find creative solutions.”
The Championships begin on Monday with women’s downhill training at 11 a.m. at Beaver Creek and with Opening Ceremonies at 7 p.m. in Vail.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.