French COVID-19 lockdown puts World Cup season in doubt
The schedule is less certain
We start by saying that a month is a lifetime in the world of coronavirus. We’ve learned that much since March.
One month ago today was the first of what would be three presidential debates. I do not pick the first presidential debate to bring up politics, but just to say who would have thought that President Donald Trump would have tested positive for COVID-19 later that week and the ensuing tumult?
According to CNN, California and Nevada were loosening restrictions on gatherings. We had survived the summer surge. The NFL was warning its teams to “remain vigilant” with regard to the virus after the Tennessee Titans had positive tests. (How’d that work? Hint: Not well.)
Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, warned about a new wave of COVID cases with the winter approaching.
One month later, the president seems well out of danger with his health, a third wave seems to be spreading across the U.S., while France and Germany are also bracing for another outbreak. The former is locking down again, while the latter is limiting public gatherings.
We only bring this up because of the question, “What happens in another month?”
In a little more than a month, France is scheduled to host the first of four World Cup stops in December. Ironically, the first of those four are men’s giant-slalom races in Val d’Isere on Dec. 5-6, the weekend we usually host Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek.
The tour is meant to be in Val d’Isere three straight weekends in December — women’s and men’s speed races follow the GS races — while the women also have tech races in Courcheval.
What happens if France is still locked down?
Don’t go there
Well, we could revert to the original calendar and move those races right back to Lake Louise, Alberta, Killington, Vermont and Beaver Creek?
No, for several reasons.
The first is that COVID-19 is going strong on this side of the pond. No. 2, the European teams were happy to use COVID-19 as an excuse to make 2020-21 essentially a European tour this season. They hate having to fly over here. (European racers are still offended that Beaver Creek hosted the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.)
And then, there are the logistics. You can’t just reassemble World Cup events on a month’s notice. Yes, Beaver Creek and North American ski resorts are making snow, but it takes an army of people to run these races from parking attendants to forerunners to race crews to have a World Cup.
Not happening, people.
But what happens if Val d’Isere or Courcheval can’t host? Does the International Ski Federation (FIS) try to move eight races, not an insignificant portion of the schedule, somewhere else? Does FIS start canceling events? Is a World Cup season a season if there are only 20 events? (For your information, there are meant to be 38 events for the gents, 34 for the ladies and 11 at worlds.)
What if …
COVID spreads in Europe? All of the World Cup races in December and January are in France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Germany. We’re talking seven countries clustered together geographically.
In February, the worlds are in Cortina, Italy, in a country that has experienced considerable COVID-19 trauma already. A quick note here: Last summer, Cortina asked FIS to postpone the championships to 2022 after the Beijing Olympics. FIS said no.
Since I love trivia and am required to cite it: The 1995 worlds in Sierra Nevada, Spain, were the last time the event was moved — to 1996 — because of a lack of snow.
The bottom line is that we have no idea what this year’s World Cup season will look like. Will there be events in France? Will the worlds happen? Will there be the traditional stretch of Wengen, Switzerland, and Kitzbuehel, Austria, in January?
Let’s hope a lot can still happen in a month.
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VAIL — The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”