World Cup slalom, giant slalom event comes to Killington
Months of bad sliding will come to a spectacular end this weekend when the fastest women gate skiers on the planet come to our area for World Cup slalom and giant slalom competition Saturday and Sunday at Killington.
This will be the first time a World Cup event has been held in the Eastern United States since 1991, when Maine native Julie Parisien won the giant slalom and flamboyant Italian racer Alberto Tomba won races at Waterville Valley, N.H. The Mahre brothers, Steve and Phil, were the winners in 1978, the last time there was World Cup competition in Vermont.
The giant slalom competition will start Saturday at 9:30 a.m. on the Superstar Trail above the main Killington base area. The second of the two run competition is set for 12:30 p.m.
On Sunday, the schedule for the slalom competition is the same.
Admission is free, and spectators are welcome. Killington is hoping for a big turnout. There will be perimeter parking and shuttle service to the competition. Surrounding the races will be entertainment and autograph signings. The World Cup will be a festival.
Killington has a lot riding on this competition. Big money has been invested to pull of the event in hopes are that this will be a statement that world class alpine ski racing can be held in the Eastern U.S., close to major population centers.
Can Killington pull it off? For those of us whose major outdoor concern right now involves working off the Thanksgiving meal, take note that Killington has marshaled 140 snow guns and round-the-clock operations for weeks now to cover about 50 acres needed to make sure there will be enough snow to hold the competition.
It has paid off.
Last week, international World Cup sanctioning officials certified that the races could be held. This is not automatic. While the World Cup season is officially underway with competitions already in Austria and Finland, traditional early-season North America races have been cancelled, including the famed Birds of Prey downhill at Vail. The reason: Lack of adequate snow.
The World Cup schedule each year is a crowded one. If a race is cancelled, in all likelihood it will not be rescheduled during that season. The reason Killington has races this winter is because Aspen, Colo., which normally hosts the World Cup at this time will be the site of the World Cup season championships in March.
Could Killington or other places in the East squeeze into a spot on the regular race schedule in future years? A lot will depend on how well things go this weekend.
While having the races in Vermont is a big deal, much of the excitement surrounds the presence of 21-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin, a graduate of Burke Mountain Academy in Northern Vermont and the best slalom skier in the world right now. Shiffrin is the reigning Olympic gold medalist and world champion in slalom, and with her win in this season’s opener in Levi Finland, she now has 20 World Cup victories, the most ever by an American woman in slalom.
Shiffren and Swiss star Lara Gut, the defending women’s overall world champion, are race favorites. American super racer Lindsey Vonn and past Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso will not be at Killington. Both are recovering from injuries.
For those who prefer race watching from the comfort of home, the second run of the Saturday and Sunday races will be broadcast on NBC, starting both days at 3 p.m.
While Killington has had some general skiing available for more than a month, most areas in our region are still looking ahead for first turns.
Both Whiteface and Gore are slated to open today, but terrain open will be limited. Most other areas will not be ready until December. However, the combination of a few cold nights and modern efficient snowmaking can do wonders in preparing ski trails. So don’t rely on your backyard to tell you when skiing is available at you favorite area. Call ahead and get a real-time report.
As bad as last winter was for Alpine areas, cross country skiing opportunities were even more limited.
Most Nordic areas rely exclusively on natural snowfall so coverage was an issue, especially when rain followed snow, leaving icy conditions at best. This winter Gore Mountain at its North Creek Ski Bowl site will have a new 4.24K cross country trail layout with three quarters of that covered by snowmaking and lights for evening runs. The area expects 1.4K to be open this weekend. The new trails are located behind the Ski Bowl Lodge and feature terrain for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers.
While this is a great new facility for recreational cross country skiers, it will be a leap forward for competitors, especially Section II high school racers, who should be able to avoid scheduling problems caused by lack of coverage in recent seasons.
Unfortunately, for those who have enjoyed tubing at the Ski Bowl in recent years, the sliding lanes are gone, replaced by the new Nordic layout.
HALL OF FAME
The class of 2016 to be inducted in April in the Ski Hall of Fame includes two local women among a solid contingent of Easterners.
The Post twins, Ellen Post Foster and Marion Post Caldwell, who grew up in Averill Park, are among 10 voted to the Hall of Fame this winter. The Post girls were freestyle champions in the 1970s and since then have been active in teaching and writing about skiing.
Other Easterners named to the Hall this year include extreme skiing pioneers Dan and John Egan, ski jumping champion ad television commentator Jeff Hastings, National Ski Patrol historian Gretchen Rous Besser, and ski show impresario Bernie Weichsel. Columbia County native Michael Berry who has been president of the National Ski Areas Association since 1993 was also named. The formal induction ceremony will be held in Stowe, Vt., in early April. The Hall of Fame headquarters is located in Ishpeming, Mich.
Phil Johnson can be reached at email@example.com