Vail Valley Foundation CEO: At Birds of Prey ski races, many kinds of victory (column)
The Vail Valley Foundation was thrilled to welcome the world back to Beaver Creek for our beloved annual men’s FIS Birds of Prey Alpine Ski World Cup, Friday, Dec 1, through Sunday, Dec. 3. Crews are just now putting away the last of the equipment into storage and tying up loose ends, and so we wanted to take a moment to salute everyone who was a part of the event.
The athletes did not disappoint. It was an incredible show of fearless athleticism on arguably one of the most challenging courses in the world. Vincent Kriechmayr, of Austria, opened the weekend by notching his first-ever World Cup win in super-G, the great Aksel Lund Svindal, of Norway, won yet again (his sixth win) in the downhill on Saturday, and the world-beating Marcel Hirscher, of Austria, took top honors in the giant slalom on Sunday. Congratulations to them and all the incredible athletes who competed.
In the press conference that followed the giant slalom, Hirscher said that Beaver Creek’s race week was “maybe the best in the world.” It was high praise from one of history’s best ski racers, and it shows that there are many kinds of victories during Birds of Prey — for ski racers and for those of us who build the event, from the ground up, early each winter.
The praise from Hirscher echoed many other words of commendation from athletes, coaches and officials on the tour. It was well earned by the hundreds of workers and volunteers, and the entire community, who make this event happen.
We are grateful to our World Cup partners at the International Ski Federation, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and Vail Resorts and wish to express our sincere thanks to our tireless and committed volunteers, parents, coaches and athletes of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and, of course, the legendary Talon Crew and all course workers who triumphed over some unique and challenging early-season conditions to present 24 teams from around the world with near-perfect race course conditions.
In addition, we cannot overstate the huge role Beaver Creek Mountain Operations played. Snowmakers, cat groomers and race crew are the reason we celebrated three exceptional days of ski racing.
It was a party in Beaver Creek, with sunshine, warmth and amazing crowds at the races, as well as post-race festivities in Beaver Creek Village as part of the EverBank America’s Winter Opening. On television and social media, in magazines and newspapers (including the wall-to-wall coverage in this publication), the world was watching: The races had nearly 80 million broadcast and media viewers, a wonderful way to showcase our community to a global audience.
So, I’d like to give a tip of the hat to the talented and dedicated staff of the Vail Valley Foundation: Job well done. To Jen Brown, her team and the board of Beaver Creek Resort Co., thank you for your support and partnership.
It was so great to host Birds of Prey again in 2017, we look forward to 2018, and we send our sincere thanks to all those who contribute to its success.
Mike Imhof is the president and CEO of the Vail Valley Foundation.