Aspen overcomes opposition to gain 2017 World Cup Finals


Mikaela Shiffrin training on the Aspen World Cup hill. Jeremy Swanson, Aspen/Snowmass

Mikaela Shiffrin training on the Aspen World Cup hill. Jeremy Swanson, Aspen/Snowmass

BARCELONA, Spain — After protracted and often ardent discussions in meetings and hallways, FIS Council Member Bill Marolt was successful in securing the 2017 World Cup Finals for Aspen, Colo. It will be the first alpine final event staged by the resort and the first held in the United States since Vail last hosted in 1997.

On March 15-19, 2017, the Finals will bring the top-ranked World Cup athletes from both the men’s and women’s tours to Aspen for competitions in downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom and the nation’s team event. It will mark the first time the men’s tour has come to Aspen since 2001, and it will be the first speed event for either gender since 2007.

The effort  to win the bid was not trouble-free for the resort. Working in conjunction with USSA, Aspen had been promoting and explaining its bid for the past 18 months. Robust Central European opposition was at the heart of the debate. Neither the World Cup Committee nor the Alpine Committee supported Aspen. In the end, it was the FIS Council that made the last minute decision in a secret ballot vote.

“I know I have never worked harder on anything,” said Bill Marolt, past President and CEO of USSA, sporting a wide grin. According to observers, Marolt delivered a very reasoned discourse citing reasons the Council should react favorably to the Aspen bid.

Marolt, who grew up in Aspen where his father was a miner, has been an enthusiastic supporter of the resort and sheparded the process along with USSA’s Events Director Calum Clark and Aspen’s Vice President of Events John Rigney.

“This is outstanding news for Aspen Snowmass,” Rigney exclaimed. “Our community has avidly supported ski racing for over 60 years and the World Cup Finals brings tremendous excitement, a giant spotlight, and the best athletes in the world to Aspen yet again. We can’t wait.”

Aspen received little help from the various committees to which it presented its case. The World Cup Committee, chaired by Erick Demetz, did not allow for any follow–up comments during the first presentation where representatives of the World Cup overall sponsor, Audi, and SRS, the association representing ski hardgoods companies who support racing in all FIS disciplines, had hoped to speak in favor of the resort.

The American resort met the same turndown attitude after its presentation at the Alpine Committee as well where Swiss chairman Bernhard Russi called for a vote, stating that he would — quite predictably — vote for Lenzerheide, Switzerland prior to even conducting the ballot.

“At that point I had pretty much thrown in the towel,” said Clark. “Nothing was going in our favor.”

The FIS Council listened to Marolt who discussed the potential marketing opportunities as well as pointing out the inappropriate procedures followed by the committees.

The addition of Aspen brings a strong series of top-level FIS events to the United States. The country will host the World Alpine Championships at Vail/Beaver Creek in February 2015. Aspen’s FIS Alpine World Cup Finals will take place March 15-19, 2017. The three resorts which call Park City home: Deer Valley, The Canyons, and the Park City Resort, will host the World Championships for freestyle, freeskiing and snowboarding in 2019.

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