Vail Valley Foundation bidding for prestigious alpine, freestyle
Swinging for the triple crown of international skiing, The Vail Valley Foundation is now revving up an unprecedented bid to host the world championships of alpine and freestyle skiing – and snowboarding – over a two-week period in 2009.
“Nobody’s ever tried this before. Nobody’s ever thought of this before,” Vail Valley Foundation director Ceil Folz told the Vail Town Council this week. “Hopefully, we’ll have three world championships, rather than one.”
Vail hosted the Alpine Ski World Championships in 1989 and 1999 and, Folz said, the races galvanized the valley like no other event – before or since. In 1999, for example, more than 2,000 volunteers spent between 50 and 100 hours preparing for and working at the races.
“We haven’t had that same kind of effort since,” Folz said.
The foundation submitted its bid for the alpine championships in May and plans to submit proposals for the freestyle and snowboarding events in December. The decision for all three competitions will be made in June 2004.
Making the rounds
Folz, meanwhile, is making the rounds of local governments attempting to shore up financial backing for the event. She has asked the Vail Town Council for $800,000 over four or five years.
By comparison, in 1999, the town contributed $700,000 for just the alpine world championships.
Vail Mayor Ludwig Kurz said the Vail Town Council appears eager to support the events.
“It sounds like you have support from behind this table,” Kurz told Folz at this week’s Town Council meeting.
Folz said she will seek support from other governments in the valley, including Beaver Creek, Avon and the Eagle County Board of County Commissioners. She said she also will seek backing from the state of Colorado and the federal government, both of whom supported the 1999 races. Other groups that have supported the bid in concept include the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, the Vail Chamber and Business Association, the Beaver Creek Resort Company and the town councils in Eagle and Minturn.
The Alpine World Championships attract about 800 athletes – including the world’s best skiers – from about 40 countries, while the other two events draw about 300 competitors each. There is intense competition to host the events from other North American resorts, such as Whistler in British Columbia, and European ski resorts, Folz said. Resorts in France, Germany and Austria also are bidding for the 2009 championships.
“There’s so much desire from around the world to host the championships, it makes it a tough bid,” Folz said.
The 2003 races were held in Switzerland, and the next two, in 2005 and 2007, also will be held in Europe, in Italy and Sweden, respectively. The 2010 Winter Olympics will be in North America, at Whistler. Currently, no other resorts are bidding for the snowboarding championships, and the freestyle circuit is not actively soliciting hosts for the 2009 races, Folz said.
To host the event, sponsors would give organizers – in this case the Vail Valley Foundation – about $30 million to set up and operate the races. Folz said much of that money would be spent in the valley, purchasing everything from tents to electronic equipment.
About $16 million was spent in the valley in 1999, with another $4 million spent in the rest of Colorado, Folz said.
The 1999 World Championships, however, did not spark a boost in international guests after the races ended. During the following two years, the dollar was at an all-time high and Colorado sweated two meager snow years while Europe was buried in powder – both perhaps factors that kept Europeans away from the Rocky Mountains, Folz said.
The 2009 races also could give the entire valley a goal to work toward, Folz said.
`A brand-new community’
Meanwhile, there are several renovation and redevelopment projects being designed, particularly in Vail Village and Lionshead, and the world championships could provide an impetus to complete the work.
Vail Resorts alone plans to renovate Lionshead, re-design the base of Vail Mountain in Vail Village and build two luxury hotels. A Four Seasons Resort is also planned for the entrance of Vail Village and several other area hotels are renovating, Folz said.
“Let’s be a brand-new community when the world championships come back here,” Folz said.
And while Vail remains the most recognized ski resort in North America, that image may be slipping as resorts like Whistler are having success attracting younger skiers and snowboarders, Folz said.
Hosting the alpine races together with the snowboarding and freestyle competitions would be an ideal mix of the “fresh and the traditional,” Folz said, and help re-entrench Vail’s international image as an vibrant resort.
“It will be a while before the Winter Olympics come back to the U.S.,” Folz said. “This will be very similar to having that segment of the Olympics here.”