Letter: Our races will be back | VailDaily.com

Letter: Our races will be back

As many of you reading this will know, last week the Vail Valley Foundation was part of an international group that agreed to forego the North American portion of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup tour, to embrace a current strategy of containing the races to only Europe for the 2020-21 season. This means that our beloved Xfinity Birds of Prey downhill, super G, and giant slalom races, originally scheduled for Dec. 4-6, will not happen this year, nor will the races scheduled for Lake Louise, Canada, or Killington, Vermont.

Since 1997, the annual Birds of Prey event has brought people from around the world to Beaver Creek in an event that has come to signify the beginning of the winter season in the Rockies. NBC Sports and other broadcasters bring the races to a global television audience of more than 65 million viewers, and assembled media tell the dramatic stories of victory, and the agonies of defeat, to millions more in words and pictures.

The event fills Beaver Creek with action, brings our community’s ski racing heritage to the forefront, mobilizes nearly 700 volunteers, and puts our valley on a world stage. The positive economic impacts for our restaurant, hotel, retail, and other industries can be conservatively measured in the millions. The non-economic benefits may be harder to quantify but are no less important. The size and scope of Birds of Prey requires the community to come together for a common objective. One of many examples is, we cannot run World Cup without the tireless efforts of our Ski and Snowboard Club Vail athletes, coaches, and parents.

We know and understand the value of these races to our community, and that’s why we, together with our partners in Canada, in Killington, at the FIS and the U.S. Ski Team, vetted a wide range of scenarios designed to try and bring the races back. Some of you have volunteered your creative thoughts and ideas to us along the way. We thank you for that and want to assure you that we left no stone unturned, and explored every avenue, to host this iconic event.

In the end, the choice was clear. In any of our scenarios, the risks of transmission of the Sars-CoV-2 virus remained too high. The World Cup tour is made up of thousands of individuals, many of whom travel from venue to venue, and safely conducting them through the process of international travel is an unattainable goal at this time.

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Our races are scheduled to return in 2021, and by then we are optimistic that humanity will have overcome the dangerous effects of COVID-19, to a point where international events and large gatherings are once again possible. We very much look forward to welcoming the world back to Beaver Creek, and know our community will be ready and excited to once again shine on the world stage.

We want to thank Vail Resorts, U.S. Ski & Snowboard, the Canadian Snowsports Association, Killington, Lake Louise, and all our friends and partners in the ski racing world, who provided exceptional feedback and guidance throughout this process. We also want to thank all of you in our community who have made our mountains an epicenter of international ski racing for more than 50 years.

Mike Imhof

President, Vail Valley Foundation

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