Beaver Creek breaks ground on new women's downhill course

A couple years ago, when FIS chief race directors Günter Hujara and Atle Skaardal performed a walk-through of the then-proposed women’s speed course at Beaver Creek, they joked that portions of the run may be too steep for downhill, but just right for BASE jumping.

Vail Resorts and its partner the Vail Valley Foundation broke ground Monday on international ski racing’s newest venue, which will play host to the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, as well as a World Cup test event scheduled for December of 2013.

The yet-to-be-named ladies’ track will start on Flat Tops, then follow the run past the top of Chair 9 (Birds of Prey) before entering Peregrine through a new cut at the top of the trail.

The course then drops down upper Peregrine toward the Golden Eagle Pump House before making its way into the largest section of new trail, which will be cut below the pump house between Golden Eagle and Peregrine.

The track then rejoins Peregrine, follows the run to Red Tail and merges with the Birds of Prey men’s course at the Red Tail Jump above to the finish arena.

“We’re excited to be able to get to work on what will be a major component of the 2015 World Championships,” said Vail Valley Foundation spokesman John Dakin. “I think it’s huge because obviously there’re not that many new downhill courses being built around the world and certainly not in the United States. We’re going to have, we believe, two of the world’s premier speed tracks.”

The new course, which will serve as the arena for women’s downhill, super-G and combined downhill, was proposed as part of the bidding processes for both the 2013 and 2015 championships because Golden Eagle, the men’s course at Beaver Creek, does not conform to FIS regulations for a women’s event.

The ladies will race GS and slalom on a modified Raven Ridge located on the adjacent Grouse Mountain. All of the 2015 courses will funnel into the same finish area at Red Tail Camp, which will also be revamped for the championships.

The design process was several years in the making with Beaver Creek officials working side by side with FIS professionals, crawling over rocks and logs to really get a feel for the course. Every perspective was considered, from how the course would ski to how it would look on television.

On May 3, Vail Resorts’ officials received final U.S. Forest Service approval for the construction, which also signaled the beginning of a 45-day public comment period. The clearing is slated for completion within 18 days, while the finish reconfiguration is expected to be complete by this coming winter, just in time for annual Birds of Prey race week.

With all the hard work and resources being injected into the project, race fans can’t help but wonder if Beaver Creek is aspiring to host an annual women’s World Cup event.

“I think that remains to be seen,” Dakin said. “That is the discussion and a decision that will be made by the foundation, by Vail Resorts, USSA and FIS. There are no long-term calendars that have been done past 2015. There are a lot of components that need to be taken into account.”

And with the Denver Olympic Bid Exploratory Committee voting unanimously last week for the city and state to “enthusiastically pursue” a bid to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, don’t think that prospect isn’t on the back of everybody’s mind, as well.

“We’re building this course for 2015 and hopefully beyond. What that beyond looks like is anybody’s guess,” Dakin said. “If this course is what everybody thinks it will be and Denver should happen to be the U.S. candidate, it’ll be another feather in Colorado’s cap to entice the IOC.”

The new racecourse is scheduled to make its international debut Dec. 14-15, 2013 as the World Cup women travel to Beaver Creek for Downhill and super-G competitions.

The 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek are scheduled for February 2-15. The event is expected to showcase athletes from over 70 nations and an international television audience approaching 750 million people will watch the two weeks of racing and festivities. —Geoff Mintz



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