Women’s World Cups eyed for Vail | VailDaily.com

Women’s World Cups eyed for Vail

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – While Vail has been a well known ski resort for decades, the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships brought the resort the international recognition that Vail visionaries had always dreamed about.

Prior to the 1989 Championships, the amount of international guests taking ski vacations in Vail was minimal. But afterwards, international travelers flocked here in high numbers, said Susie Tjossem, executive director of the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum and a Vail Town Council member.

“Getting Vail on the international map was an important tactic of the early founders and visionaries of Vail,” Tjossem said.

The Vail Valley Foundation announced last week that Vail would not host any ski races during the 2015 Vail Beaver Creek World Alpine Ski Championships. Beaver Creek will host all of the races, while Vail will serve as the celebration center during the two-week international event.

Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation, explained to the Vail Town Council that it would be too expensive to have two finishing stadiums built at each resort, and that expenses for international media covering the event would practically double, as well.

While sensitive to the expense of the event, Vail Town Council members were obviously concerned about the announcement that Vail, a town and ski mountain with a history of ski racing, wouldn’t actually host any races in such a major international event.

The Vail Valley Foundation’s 2015 plans appear to be final, but there’s an ongoing hope among Vail leaders that Vail will someday get back that racing heritage.

Vail Councilman Andy Daly said a complicating factor in Vail’s ability to host international ski racing is the base area of the Vista Bahn chair lift. Vail Resorts’ Front Door project there has encroached on some of the space that is necessary for an appropriate finish area, Daly said.

“What I think most people are concerned about is that we want to make sure we can still host a major international event, even if it’s just women’s technical events, and continue to have world class racing which has been so much a part of Vail’s heritage and history,” Daly said. “We want to make sure that possibility isn’t precluded and make sure whatever needs to be done relative to that race finish area is done.”

Folz told the Vail Town Council that the Vail Valley Foundation has hopes for a women’s World Cup event in Vail in the future, although Aspen currently hosts the one annual women’s World Cup event in the United States.

The tradition has been that there is only one men’s World Cup and one women’s World Cup held in the United States each year, Folz said.

Folz is sensitive to other host cities and said she doesn’t want to chase Aspen down, per se, but that the Foundation will be ready and waiting for the opportunity to bring the women’s World Cup races to Vail should it arise.

“The world always changes,” Folz said. “There may become wiggle room in coming years, and we keep pushing at the door, and we hope that one day that door opens.”

Tjossem said Folz did a good job explaining why the infrastructure for the 2015 World Championships should be at one mountain, while the parties and ceremonies should be held at another. It makes logical sense, but the town also wants to hold the foundation’s “feet to the fire” to get permanent races in Vail, Tjossem said.

“Because (Vail’s) founders had so much experience in Europe, they knew what kind of buzz ski racing has,” Tjossem said. “There’s always been the expectation that somehow, some way, we would do races. And not just smaller races, but we would be able to host the big ones.”

Daly said that prior to 1989, Vail was sort of looked at as a new ski resort with a pseudo-Austrian village that was kind of schmaltzy, he said.

“But once we hosted the (1989 and 1999 World Championships), people’s attitudes changed dramatically,” Daly said. “And so did the amount of international tourism, and Vail become recognized as one of the truly great international resorts.”

Tjossem said the jump in international guests at Vail in 1990, the year after Vail hosted its first World Championships, was huge.

There was also a big opportunity that was lost when Colorado voters said no to the state hosting the 1976 Winter Olympics, in which ski races would have been held at Vail and the then-proposed Beaver Creek Resort.

“Vail and Beaver Creek were always in the picture for the 1976 Olympic bid – they’re one of the reasons Colorado got that bid,” Tjossem said.

John Garnsey, co-president of Vail Resorts’ Mountain Division, said the 1989 Championships absolutely put Vail on the international map and really elevated the resort’s international status.

“Even though Vail was a very popular resort, in Europe and other places around the world it was not that well known,” Garnsey said.

Then came the 1999 Championships, which supported that position as a world class international resort and built upon it, Garnsey said.

“Those two events did a lot to position Vail internationally,” he said.

The effects from those two World Cup Championships is why the company is absolutely interested in exploring potential opportunities for World Cup skiing at Vail, Garnsey said.

“We haven’t collectively come to any conclusions for me to discuss those types of details at this time, though,” Garnsey said.

Folz said the World Cup races have really changed over the years, and she sees Vail’s best arena for future races being at Golden Peak because the United States World Cup races are held early in the season, and Golden Peak has the snowmaking capabilities.

“Golden Peak is a good, easy course to start the season off, which is nice,” Folz said.

Folz said she’d love to be able to secure a women’s World Cup race in Vail, but it’s just too early to say whether it will happen.

Tjossem isn’t so sure that Vail’s lack of races in 2015 is necessarily a bad thing, either. The races are being called “Vail-Beaver Creek,” which is what the bibs will say. Tjossem said the lack of disruption on Vail Mountain during the event will really showcase the skiing there, which could actually be a boon for Vail.

“If you’re watching this internationally, you’re not going to remember that it was on Beaver Creek Mountain. It’s Vail-Beaver Creek,” Tjossem said.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.

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