World Pro Ski Tour Returns to Aspen Mountain with Influx of European Racers

World Pro Ski Tour Returns to Aspen Mountain with Influx of European Racers

Two years ago, when the World Pro Ski Tour (WPST) last came to Aspen, it was a field dominated by U.S. athletes. Fast forward to the present, and CEO Jon Franklin is thrilled to point out how the script has been flipped, with Europeans really starting to prioritize the tour on their race schedules.

“We noticed today that in the past where 70% of our racers were American, we are up to the opposite. Now it’s 70% European. So, we’ve got people from all over the world, which is cool,” he said on Thursday, on the eve of WPST’s return to Aspen. “The word is starting to get out that the World Pro Ski Tour is a big deal. The word ‘world’ in World Pro Ski Tour is applicable now.”

So, for those still in the dark, what exactly is the World Pro Ski Tour? Well, it’s a form of head-to-head ski racing — as opposed to the standard race against the clock format of the World Cup — that was especially popular in the 1970s and ’80s. Hoping for its renaissance, the current WPST was launched in 2017 after more than two decades of dormancy. Franklin came on board as CEO for the 2020 season, which was cut short because of the pandemic.

The history of WPST goes back to 1969, when Aspen’s own Bob Beattie helped found World Pro Skiing, which saw legendary skiers such as Billy Kidd, Spider Sabich, and Jean-Claude Killy compete in races. And yes, many of those races took place right here in Aspen.

“It’s so cool having our racers from this era race on the same slope that the legendary racers like Jean-Claude Killy and Billy Kidd and Spider Sabich raced on back in the ’60s and early ’70s. From a tradition standpoint, we would love to come back here every year,” said Franklin, who himself lived in Aspen for a time beginning in 1979.

“Anytime I come to Aspen, it feels like coming home,” he said. “I was here over Christmas for a couple of days with my kids, and I think my kids are starting to feel the same way. They love coming to the Mountain Chalet, they love Aspen Mountain.”

This weekend on Aspen Mountain will be the first of three stops this season for WPST, the others being Bear Valley and Taos. There will be four total races in Aspen – two on Saturday and two more on Sunday, with two each for the men and women. The super slalom course, located at the bottom of Aspen Mountain, will be reset after the first day.

There is $100,000 in prize money on the line this weekend, and the lineup is expected to include a handful of Olympians and current or former World Cup racers. But what really makes WPST unique is anyone can compete, with the qualifiers on Friday helping to narrow down the participants for Saturday’s head-to-head races.

“That’s one thing I love about the tour — NCAA champions, World Cup skiers, Olympians, journeyman racers, and Aspen Valley Ski Club kids can all compete against each other, head to head,” Franklin said.

Spectating is free. Racing can be seen from the side of the Little Nell run — you’ll need a ski pass and skis/snowboard to access this part — or from the base of Ajax, next to the Silver Queen Gondola, where a ski pass isn’t needed.

Qualifying begins at noon on Friday, with racing starting at 11 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. An awards ceremony will follow the conclusion of racing later in the afternoon both days.

 

By: Austin Colbert I The Aspen Times I January 12, 2024


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