The countdown is officially on for World Cup skiing’s return to Aspen.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard on Tuesday announced the final U.S. World Cup schedule, a lineup that includes the Aspen World Cup from March 3-5 on Aspen Mountain. Those races will include two men’s downhills (March 3 and 4) and a men’s super-G (March 5). March 1 and 2 are scheduled downhill training days.
Aspen has not hosted World Cup alpine ski racing since the 2017 World Cup finals, where superstar Mikaela Shiffrin clinched her first overall World Cup title.
“It’s thrilling to see World Cup racing back in Aspen,” Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President John Rigney said in a news release. “Our community’s alpine heritage and love of skiing runs deep and everyone pitches in to support events that bring the best in the world to Aspen. Having the men on our iconic America’s Downhill track will be incredible. World Cup Finals in 2017 was amazing, but we haven’t seen this level of racing on that course in years. The energy, excitement, the crowds lining the course, and the speed — I believe people will be blown away by what they see on one of the world’s most exciting downhill venues.”
Aspen’s return to the World Cup calendar was first announced back in May. Prior to the 2017 finals, Aspen had been a regular stop for World Cup skiing. As recently as November 2015, Aspen hosted the women’s technical racers with Shiffrin having won the last slalom raced on the mountain outside of finals.
According to the FIS website, the last men’s races on Aspen Mountain, outside of the 2017 finals, were a pair of slaloms in November 2001, won by Ivica Kostelic and Mario Matt. American icon Bode Miller was second to Matt in that second slalom.
The last time a men’s super-G was run in Aspen outside of finals was in November 1998, a race won by Stephan Eberharter. Aspen’s own Casey Puckett was 12th in that race.
The last official men’s downhill was on March 5, 1994, a race won by Canada’s Cary Mullen. Austria’s Hannes Trinkl had won another downhill a day earlier.
Aspen Mountain did host a men’s downhill in 1995, but that controversial race was ultimately erased from the record books as not all the racers were able to finish because of the weather. Unofficially, American A.J. Kitt won and some in his circle still consider him the last to win a World Cup downhill in Aspen outside of finals.
As for the 2017 finals, Italy’s Dominik Paris edged Italy’s Peter Fill for the downhill win. Travis Ganong was the top American, finishing 17th overall. Austria’s Hannes Reichelt won the men’s super-G at the 2017 finals, edging Paris.
The U.S. portion of this year’s World Cup calendar will get underway Nov. 26-27 with the Killington Cup in Vermont, featuring women’s slalom and giant slalom races.
Colorado is next in line with the Xfinity Birds of Prey from Dec. 2-4 at Beaver Creek. Those races will include the same men’s super-G and downhill athletes that should make a return trip to Aspen in March.
“We are so excited to host the Birds of Prey World Cup again this season at Beaver Creek,” said Nadia Guerriero, vice president and chief operating officer of Beaver Creek Resort, in the news release. “As a favorite course of U.S. racers and coaches, we are counting down the days until we welcome the world to our incredible steep terrain, intimate alpine village and exceptional guest service.”
This year’s calendar also includes a Feb. 25-26 stop at Palisades Tahoe in California, with men’s slalom and giant slalom races scheduled.
The Aspen races will be the final speed events for the men until the finals from March 13-19 in Soldeu, Andorra. The women’s speed skiers will race the same weekend as the Aspen event, but in Kvitfjell, Norway.
Prior to Aspen will be this year’s Courchevel Meribel world championships, held from Feb. 6-19 in France.
The season begins Oct. 22 with a women’s giant slalom in Soelden, Austria. The men’s race is a day later. The first races in North America are set for Nov. 22-27 when the men’s speed athletes head to Lake Louise, Canada. The women also race there a few days later.
As part of its schedule release Tuesday, U.S. Ski & Snowboard also announced its freeski and snowboard lineup, beginning with the Dec. 16-17 Toyota U.S. Grand Prix stop at Copper Mountain, featuring men’s and women’s halfpipe. Copper will also host a Visa Big Air competition for men and women those same days.
Then, from Feb. 2-4, the U.S. Grand Prix will return to Mammoth Mountain in California with men’s and women’s halfpipe and slopestyle competitions.
X Games Aspen is scheduled to return to Buttermilk Ski Area from Jan. 27-29. X Games is not part of the World Cup calendar. This will be the 22nd straight year that Buttermilk has hosted ESPN’s signature winter event, with the current contract going through the 2024 competition.
Buttermilk will also host a Revolution Tour event for skiers and snowboarders in February.
The freeski and snowboard world championships are scheduled for Feb. 19-March 5 in Bakuriani, Georgia. Aspen stepped in to host the 2021 world championships at Buttermilk, held without spectators because of the pandemic.
The U.S. also is scheduled to host a freestyle World Cup competition from Feb. 2-4 in Deer Valley, Utah, featuring men’s and women’s aerials and moguls.
By: Austin Colbert I The Aspen Times I October 2022