Beaver Creek: ‘We’ll keep our foot on the gas’
and Lauren Glendenning
BEAVER CREEK – If running a resort is like driving a car, Beaver Creek may need some on-the-go refueling to maintain a hectic pace.
This week, the resort will host a second set of World Cup ski races on the Birds of Prey run, thanks to some bad climatological luck at Val d’Isere, France. Thanks to warm weather and little snow there, the World Cup circus will continue on from Birds of Prey race week Tuesday through Thursday, with both men’s and women’s teams from around the world either coming to, or staying in, the valley.
From a course standpoint, the Vail Valley Foundation, the organizers of Birds of Prey race week, is looking good for the additional races. John Dakin, vice president of communications at the foundation, said the transition from Sunday’s giant slalom into Tuesday’s giant slalom, both men’s races, should be smooth.
The women’s race, however, is Wednesday. Since the women have never raced the Birds of Prey course before, there is more work that has to be done in preparation for that race.
Dakin said the women’s super-G course will start near Pete’s Arena and will head down the Birds of Prey run to just about Golden Eagle. Then it will swing out skier’s left onto Raven Ridge, and then back onto the Birds of Prey at Harrier. The reason for the detour is to circumvent Golden Eagle and the Abyss in order to control speed, Dakin said.
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“Remember, the women have never been on this hill before,” Dakin said.
Beaver Creek Resort started blowing snow on that connection to Raven Ridge last week to prepare it for the new race course, Dakin said.
The women will have a free-ski on the hill Tuesday afternoon, after the men’s giant slalom race. Then the women will inspect the course one time Wednesday morning before the race, Dakin said.
The other logistical concern for more races is the volunteers. Birds of Prey race week operates with about 600 volunteers, and course volunteers are very race-specific. They need to have not only a high skiing ability level, but also an understanding of ski racing, Dakin said.
Vail Valley Foundation President Ceil Folz said the biggest challenge for the added races is the volunteers, but the response since Wednesday’s announcement has been great.
“We use so many volunteers to execute,” Folz said. “We’re still short right now, but we’ll be asking everyone to jump in and help. The percentage of people who have committed another week has been fantastic.”
Where will everyone stay?
At the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, sales and marketing director Scott Gubrud said people at the hotel are scrambling during what’s usually a pretty slow week during the season.
That scramble started on short notice, too. Gubrud said he and other hotel officials started hearing rumblings about the possibility of Beaver Creek getting the Val d’Isere races over the Thanksgiving holiday. That talked died down Saturday and Sunday, he said. Wednesday, the new races were officially coming.
A big hotel is used to big crowds, of course, but there’s usually a bit more notice before a bunch of people show up. Still, the hotel added hours to shifts, brought in people who might not have been working this week, and, perhaps most important, started ordering more food.
While the hotel didn’t have many Birds of Prey teams or officials – the hotel was booked with another group during that event – the Park Hyatt did serve breakfast and dinner to the World Cup crew. That’s going to continue, Gubrud said.
Other lodges and condo complexes are also getting ready for an influx of racers, coaches, officials and others. That’s taken a lot of work.
Beaver Creek Resort Co. President Tim Baker said lodges have been quick to offer rate packages to teams, media and officials. Sponsors have been contacted, and many have agreed to stay around for a few days – although there won’t be a VIP tent this week. And, Baker said, Vail Resorts has also agreed to use its employees for on-mountain labor.
The resort company, which is the de facto government for Beaver Creek, will have to spend some money on transportation and other services, and Baker acknowledges that will require some creative budgeting.
But, he said, the exposure for the resort outweighs those costs.
While it’s anyone’s guess how many spectators a mid-week ski race in the U.S. will draw – Baker predicted a packed house – Beaver Creek’s going to get another shot of press and TV coverage in Europe, where ski racing is a very big deal indeed.
Chris Romer, executive director of the Vail Valley Partnership, which often plays a leading role in bringing events and groups to the valley, said that exposure in Europe is important for a couple of reasons – brand awareness just a few years before the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships, and, in the short term, awareness that there’s snow in Beaver Creek and not the French Alps.
Then, of course, there’s the immediate impact of booking several hundred rooms during a slow week.
“That’s a big, big impact,” Romer said.
Baker said absorbing that impact is a lot of work. But, he added, it’s well worth the effort, both immediately and as a kind of trial run for the 2015 championships.
“I’m glad it happened,” Baker said. “It’s kept us on our toes and shown us what we need to do.
“So we’ll just put more gas in the tank and keep our foot on the gas,” he added.