Vail due for ski races? | VailDaily.com

Vail due for ski races?

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – When the Alpine World Ski Championships came to Vail, Colorado for the first time in 1989, the event put the mountain on the world map – now, the community aims to do it again.

Vail, led by the Vail Valley Foundation and partnered with Vail Resorts and other community members, has begun the bid process to host the 2015 alpine championships. Winning the bid would bring the championships back to North America from Europe for the first time since 1999, when Vail last hosted the event for the second time.

Host candidates will be made official in October, and a decision will be made in June 2010 – and Vail fully intends to be one of the contenders, said John Dakin, spokesman for the Vail Valley Foundation.

“You have to remember it’s called the world championships for a reason, and that means it should be held around the world,” he said. “The last time was in 1999, and in our minds it’s overdue to come back to the U.S. and North America. I think that feeling is shared by a good number of people, including the athletes and the media.”

However, the opinions that really matter are those of the 17 International Ski Federation council members, who will make the final decision on the event city.

Getting a majority vote will involve more than just having a great ski mountain and world-class facilities – the issue is strongly political and lobbying for votes is much like campaigning for an election, said John Garnsey, the chief operating officer of Beaver Creek who helped bring the first two championships to Vail.

“The dynamic has really changed since 1989 and 1999, when every country in the FIS had a vote,” he said. “Now only the members of the council vote, and it is much harder. Many council members are from central Europe and have strong allegiances with those countries.”

However, after losing bids for the 2009 and the 2013 championships, some think it might be Vail’s turn, despite tough competition from Cortina, Italy and St. Moritz, Switzerland, who are also vying for the alpine championships.

“There were a number of people, who after leaving the 2013 vote who said, ‘Well, now you’re the front-runner for 2015,'” Dakin said. “We appreciate the sentiment, but we’re not approaching it that way. Everyone knows this is going to be a dog fight. It could come down to one or two votes. But we think we have as good a shot as anybody in the field.”

Vail is well-qualified to be a top contender, said Andy Daly, former president of Vail Resorts and a Vail town councilman.

“We’ve successfully had more world cup races than any other venue, and the championships (in 1989 and 1999) really set the standard for the alpine championships,” he said.

Aside from the prestige and economic infusion that comes with hosting an alpine championship, some remember the world-wide recognition that previous championships brought to Vail.

“When we started campaigning for the ’89 (championships), it was humbling to find out that not that many people in the world knew about Vail,” Garnsey said. “People knew about Aspen, who had hosted an alpine championships, and Squaw Valley and Lake Placid because of the Olympic Games, but not Vail.”

By 1999, everyone knew about Vail, and over half a billion people watched the championships around the world, he said. That year, Vail got a chance to showcase its newly opened Blue Sky Basin, and Beaver Creek showed the world a bigger and better downhill course at Birds of Prey.

Should Vail win its bid this time, the 2015 championships would showcase what some call a new Vail, complete with billions of dollars in new renovations. The plan would be to host the opening and closing ceremonies, men’s slalom and giant slalom qualifying races, women’s giant slalom and women’s slalom in Vail, and the other events in Beaver Creek.

Television deals that come along with winning the bid would broadcast Vail across the world, displaying a new Lionshead and a number of new developments in Vail Village, Daly said.

“It definitely is an opportunity,” he said. “It’s really pretty dramatic what’s happened in Vail, and it will really reinforce the Vail name as a premiere ski resort and help us build our international clientele.”

This summer the Vail Valley Foundation is focused on raising money, setting up inspections for ski race officials, putting together an event proposal, and campaigning for votes.

“If we win this bid, it gives the community something to look forward to, and that’s really important in the day and age we find ourselves in,” Dakin said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.