Will the World Cup return in 2003? | VailDaily.com

Will the World Cup return in 2003?

Hermann Maier of Austria flies off the Red Tail Jump Saturday, December 2, 2000, in the Birds of Prey World Cup Men's Downhill in Beaver Creek Colo., USA. Maier won the race in 1 minute 40.66 seconds defeating Lasse Kjus of Norway, second, and Stephan Eberharter of Austria, third.

But will they be back at the Birds of Prey in 2003?

The fate of those races is up in the air because the International Skiing Federation, or FIS, has slated those races for Thanksgiving weekend. Traditionally, the Birds of Prey races have been held during the first weekend of December.

According to officials at the Vail Valley Foundation and Beaver Creek, holding the races as scheduled in 2003 may not be possible because of logistics and snow quality on that weekend. And if the scheduling issue isn’t resolved between Beaver Creek, the foundation, the FIS and the U.S. Ski Team, that could mean no World Cup in 2003 in the Vail Valley.

“Right now, the FIS calendar has Birds of Prey on Thanksgiving weekend,” Ciel Folz, the foundation’s president, said Thursday. “It would be very difficult for us to provide the hotel rooms, the meeting space and the space on the mountain that an event like this requires. FIS has expressed the desire to come back to Birds of Prey and not miss a year. Everyone’s trying to work it out.”

Folz said the Birds of Prey is on the schedule for the much-preferred first weekend in December from 2004 through 2006. But Beaver Creek and the Vail Valley Foundation would like to avoid a year off at Birds of Prey, where World Cup races have been scheduled annually since 1997.

Aside from the conflict of holiday skiers and the World Cup descending on Beaver Creek during the same weekend, Thanksgiving-weekend races are a problem because of early-season snow conditions.

The extra week makes a difference, according to Beaver Creek Chief Operating Officer John Garnsey.

“We would really be pushing the envelope in getting the course ready for Thanksgiving weekend,” Garnsey said. “The snow on the course is 100-percent man-made. Even this year, we’d have been hard-pressed to have the course ready. The recent warm temperatures are good for heavy snowfall, but not good for snowmaking.”

Losing the World Cup for a year would have a negative effect on local merchants, hotels and restaurants, and it would serve as a blow to the valley’s prestige. Folz said the Vail Valley Foundation is committed to bringing in another event to fill the void if the World Cup does not return in 2003.

“From the foundation’s standpoint, we’re committed to filling that gap,” Folz said. “Again, our fingers are crossed that we will find a resolution. If not, the foundation will be looking for a creative and extraordinary event for that time frame.”

In the meantime, Garnsey said, Beaver Creek and the Vail Valley Foundation have asked the United States Ski and Snowboard Association to lobby the FIS “aggressively” to change next year’s date. Garnsey added a decision on the date should come down late next week.

“Beaver Creek has approached us with their concerns with that weekend,” said Tom Kelly, USSA vice president of public relations. “We’ve talked to FIS and will continue to so. Beaver Creek is an important site for us and we want to continue to have a men’s downhill here.”

If the FIS sticks to its guns on Thanksgiving-weekend races, it’s up to Beaver Creek and the Vail Valley Foundation whether to accept the World Cup in 2003.

“We’ll make that decision then,” Garnsey said. “We haven’t drawn a line in the sand, so to say.”

Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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