World Cup ski racing is returning to U.S. soil next winter with more races and the strongest presence seen on this side of the Atlantic since 1996. That includes bringing the World Cup Finals, the last stop of the season, to Aspen, Colorado, in March. The last time the Finals left Europe was in 1997.
In addition to the traditional Bird's of Prey race at Beaver Creek, the FIS added to the itinerary a women's slalom and giant slalom at Killington, Vermont, and Squaw Valley, California, and all four events—downhill, super G, giant slalom, and slalom—for both men and women to the Aspen Finals. A total of 16 races will start in the United States.
"We want to bring ski racing to the mainstream and use this as another stepping-stone for the sport." —Calum Clark, USSA
The FIS and USSA collaborated on this shift to encourage a bigger ski racing following in the U.S. Where World Cup ski racing is largely followed and celebrated in Europe, Americans haven't quite caught on. But that's changing. VIP tickets to the Women's World Cup slalom and giant slalom in Killington sold out in less than six hours after going on sale and the ski resort is building a larger, free general admission zone for an additional 7,500 spectators.
"It's really about sparking that next generation of alpine ski racers," says Calum Clark, USSA vice president of events. "We want to bring ski racing to the mainstream and use this as another stepping-stone for the sport."
Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn, and Julia Mancuso will join the lineup, starting at the Killington races, scheduled for November 26-27 on the Superstar trail off Skye Peak. The last time the World Cup arrived in New England was in 1991 at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. This year's event will be Killington's first time hosting the World Cup.
"As we started working through this process, Killington began coming up further and further ahead. It has a base area finish and an incredible snowmaking system," Clark says.
Later in the season, the World Cup will travel to California, where another women's slalom and giant slalom are scheduled for Squaw Valley on March 9-12, 2017. Squaw Valley hosted the World Cup in 1969, nine years after hosting the Olympics, and next year's World Cup events will take place on the historic course down Red Dog on the lower mountain. The giant slalom course will dive 1,267 feet from the top of Snow King peak, running down the Lower Dog Leg, where the slalom course begins. Both courses will be visible from the base and finish area.
"We want to invest in the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows race teams and the next generation of skiers," says Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth. "There is nothing like the inspiration that kids draw from watching a World Cup ski racer come through on their home slope."
The Squaw stop will be familiar terrain for Mancuso, a four-time Olympic medalist and World Cup racer who began her career on Squaw's race teams when she was a child. "Inspiring the next generation, for me that’s the best part about bringing the World Cup back to Squaw," says Mancuso. "I am so excited to have the race at home and to bring that front and center in front of all the kids."
Immediately following the Squaw stop, the White Circus will pack up and travel to the Finals in Aspen. The event will echo the 1950 FIS World Championships in Aspen, which was the first time the championships were hosted outside of Europe, thanks to negotiations by Dick Durrance, the Aspen Ski Club, and the Aspen Ski Company. The 2017 World Cup Finals will be held on Aspen’s traditional and storied race course—Ruthie’s, and specifically, down the Aztec and Strawpile pitches.
“The Aztec is well on par with some of the toughest World Cup tracks,” says Aspen local and World Cup skier Wiley Maple.
All races will funnel into downtown Aspen, and the town will host celebrations in Wagner Park.
“We want to give a nod to our history. Not just skiing in Aspen, but to 50 years of World Cup racing,” says John Rigney, vice president of Aspen Ski Company. “Ski racing is part of this community’s rich history. Skiing is part of our DNA. Bringing an event of this caliber to Aspen Mountain is a huge honor and it’s a testament to our community, the mountain, and its people.”
Julie Brown contributed to this story.