MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – Last week’s cold temperatures, heralding the start of snowmaking operations on the Telluride Ski Resort, couldn’t have come at a better time, with representatives from the World Cup’s governing bodies in town to prepare for the Fourth Annual Telluride World Cup, December 12-15.
Despite the dearth of snow this fall, the event’s coordinators from International Federation of Skiing (FIS) and U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) had a lot to be excited about as they met in Mountain Village for a site visit last week. The coming event in Telluride will feature a new skicross competition, in addition to the snowboardcross and team snowboardcross events. This year’s event will not feature a Parallel Giant Slalom (PGS) competition, as it has in the past.
Calum Clark, vice president of events for USSA, said that bringing skicross to Telluride is expected to fan the flames of the already blaze currently sweeping across the snowsports world thanks to buzz surrounding this rising new sport.
“The sport of ’cross has already piqued a lot of interest, because it is so exciting and easy to understand,” Clark said. “There has always been a lot of interest on the snowboardcross side, and with the addition of skicross to a resort like this… you’re putting together the classic rising tide.”
Skicross is a relatively new sport that has recently harnessed the interest of the international ski world, thanks to its star-studded roster of ex-Olympic alpine racers, and the fact that it will be the only new medal sport added to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Along with its cousin, snowboardcross (or SBX), skicross (SX) is also considered one of the most thrilling snowsports events to watch, as up to four competitors at a time duke it out on a course littered with an array of jumps, berms and rollers.
This is the first winter the World Cup’s governing bodies will officially stage competitions of different disciplines on the same venues, with the early-season Telluride event marking one of the first ski and snowboardcross World Cup competitions of the 2012-13 season. These events kick start the initial phases of international qualifying for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and will set the stage for U.S. Olympic Team selection in the 2013-14 season.
According to Uwe Beier, the snowboard race director for FIS, hosting a ski competition alongside a snowboard competition is more efficient and saves resources, since only one course needs to be constructed (only minor changes will need to be made for skiers to use the snowboardcross course). Additionally, bringing the two sports to one arena “creates something bigger than it either would have been by themselves,” he says, speaking of the audience expected to tune in to the internationally televised Telluride World Cup.
Both competitions will be broadcast live to Europe, where interest in these sports is highest. The events will also be broadcast on NBC sports channels, to be aired nationally before Christmas.
The television coverage represents a tremendous amount of market value for Telluride as a destination, said Elizabeth Howe, director of Telluride World Cup. The addition of skicross to the event is expected to increase viewership for the race even further, she says.
“It will get even more people looking at Telluride, and from different demographics,” said Howe, who has been overseeing the World Cup in Telluride since its debut here in 2009.
Bringing skicross to Telluride, as well as the timing of the event (almost two weeks before Christmas), could additionally bring more regional spectators to Telluride during a normally slow period.
“I do think it will spark some new interest, and that it will generate more regional travelers coming to visit and see the events,” Howe said.
The anticipation surrounding the skicross debut at the traditionally snowboard-centric Telluride World Cup could only be dampened by a lack of snow. Telluride Ski and Golf has improved the Lower Misty Maiden area’s snowmaking system significantly in recent seasons; however, this season presents a new challenge for the resort, as low water levels could hamper snowmaking operations. The lack of precipitation throughout the region, in April through June of this year, has led to low stream flows and consequently less water than usual in the ski resort’s snowmaking ponds.
Clark says the Telluride World Cup organizing committee is “acutely aware” of the potential snowmaking challenges, “but not alarmed.”
Joe Fitzgerald, the freestyle skiing race director for FIS, says that the FIS and USSA are well aware of the potential for weather challenges when preparing for an early season event such as the Telluride World Cup.
“We have the ability to make the start of the course lower, or to make smaller features, so that the total volume of snow needed is less,” he says, going on to explain that during the site walk on Lower Misty Maiden the committee came up with a “Plan B” for the course’s design, should snowmaking come up short for construction of the regular course.
There is, of course, the option of a “Plan C” event, organizers say: If there simply isn’t adequate snow to make a viable course, the event would be cancelled.
Yet as these senior World Cup organizers confirm, the potential weather challenges that could hamper this year’s course construction would not in any way dampen the group’s enthusiasm for bringing another World Cup event here in the future.
Beier says that as a resort, Telluride holds great potential as a longstanding home for the World Cup.
“There is perfect terrain for slopestyle too… there is a lot of potential here,” he said.
The World Cup requires a veritable army of volunteers to ensure a successful event; the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club will once again spearhead the volunteer effort. For more information or to volunteer, contact TSSC at 728-6163.