World Cup appetizer
The traveling circus that is FIS World Cup ski racing is in the valley this week for the annual Birds of Prey races at Beaver Creek. The races are always exciting, but this year’s Birds of Prey is a bigger deal, since it serves as prologue to ski racing’s biggest show outside of the Olympics, the Alpine World Ski Championships, coming to Beaver Creek and Vail in February.
As a rule, Americans don’t much care for ski racing outside of Olympic years, but ski racing is a very big deal elsewhere. We always welcome a good-sized contingent of foreign teams, media and fans for Birds of Prey, but this year, there’s more than the next stop on the tour on their minds. Racers, coaches and ski techs will be studying the course with February in mind, and the traveling media will be looking for stories to tell when the Big Show returns in a scant 60 days.
While the Europeans pay close attention, there’s a lot to prompt Americans to switch over from football, basketball or hockey, at least for a few moments. There may be more Americans than ever at the top of their respective disciplines, and, of course, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin are embraced as the Vail Valley’s own.
The valley seems ready to welcome the world, too. Have you seen Avon’s roundabouts between Interstate 70 and Beaver Creek? That thoroughfare is welcoming and wonderful, especially at night. We’ve been critical of the way the town’s been doing its business lately, but what people actually see when they arrive is looking good. Even Post Boulevard between I-70 and U.S. Highway 6 looks good — not sparkly and welcoming, but the street no longer looks like a road headed straight into some sort of zombie apocalypse movie.
Vail won’t host any of the headline-grabbing races, but its lodges will be filled with participants. And, as always, the town is its usual beautiful winter-welcoming self just about everywhere you look.
A lot of work, money and volunteer hours have gone into the championships. This week’s races are really the first glimpse at that work, the appetizer before the main course.
It looks fantastic, and we’re confident the Vail Valley Foundation and Vail Resorts will do their usual bang-up job of running things on the mountain.
Good work, everyone.