Telluride’s World Cup Enters Skicross Era
by Martinique Davis
Dec 04, 2012 | 1743 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BUBBLING OVER - Lindsey Jacobellis celebrated her snowboardercross victory at last year's Telluride World Cup. The Olympic silver medalist and seven-time X Games champion will be back for the 2012 event beginning Dec. 12. (File photo)
BUBBLING OVER - Lindsey Jacobellis celebrated her snowboardercross victory at last year's Telluride World Cup. The Olympic silver medalist and seven-time X Games champion will be back for the 2012 event beginning Dec. 12. (File photo)

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – It has been called one of the most exhilarating new disciplines to emerge from the sport of freestyle skiing, and for the first time ever, skicross will take the stage alongside its equally audacious sister sport, snowboardcross, as Telluride hosts the World Cup Dec. 13-15.

For the first time in World Cup history, top-ranked athletes in two different disciplines will converge on the same course – though in separate competitions – providing back-to-back snowboard and skiing action for an international television audience.

Athletes will compete on the same jumps and banked turns on Telluride’s lower Misty Maiden, where they will pursue the thrill of victory, and a look ahead to an even bigger stage, the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

“Our U.S. resorts will play a key role in the leadup to the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in 2014 with strong World Cup events that will form the basis for our team selection,” U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt said in a press release.

The Telluride World Cup will be the first U.S.-hosted skicross World Cup since 2010, the year it became an official event on the program of the Winter Games in Vancouver.

Skicross, like its slightly older cousin, snowboardcross, has steadily gained popularity thanks to its rapid-fire tempo and hair-raising crashes. Athletes race derby-style down a meticulously sculpted course, pursuing one another while simultaneously contending with the jumps, berms, and rollers that stand between them and the finish line.   

Skicross is a subset of the FIS Freestyle Ski Discipline, with athletes using a combination of freestyle and alpine racing skills. Four skiers bolt from horse gates at the start of each race, with the top half of the field moving onto the next round, leading ultimately to quarter-finals, semi-finals and final rounds.

The bulk of skicross competitors come from the alpine world, with such ski racing luminaries as Olympians Casey Puckett and Daron Rahlves being the early leaders in the sport and helping it gain traction with a worldwide audience.

The Telluride event will be broadcast live to Europe, where there is a large and passionate audience for both snowboardcross and skicross. The events will also be broadcast domestically before Christmas.

Calum Clark, the USSA’s Vice President of Events, was in Telluride earlier this fall for a site tour with World Cup organizers. “For the USSA, taking this event live to the world dramatically increases our ability to reach a large audience. There is already a good audience with the snowboardcross events, and now skicross brings a new and different audience,” he said.

Although the Sochi Games will mark only the second time skicross has made the Olympic stage, the sport’s roots go back to early ski history, when alpine ski races used “mass starts.”

According to USSA, the mass start was employed for the famous Inferno downhill, generally recognized as the first formal downhill, in Mürren, Switzerland, in 1928. Modern variations of the mass-start concept were first used in snowboard races, and now in skicross since the late 1990's. Skicross was first recognized by the International Ski Federation (FIS) in 2003 and was integrated in its freestyle category.

Members of the World Cup’s organizing committee agree that Telluride has the perfect combination of elements to become a go-to host resort for future ski- and snowboardcross World Cup events.

“The uniqueness of this location is its ability to host an international competition early in the season, thanks to its altitude . . . and its recent investments in snowmaking,” said Joe Fitzgerald, the FIS Freestyle Skiing Race Director. Early-season races are vitally important for World Cup athletes hoping to gain momentum for Championship events later in the season, he explained, and to host early-season races “you can go north or you can go high . . . this place [is] a very unique and great location to host a World Cup.”

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