Practice makes perfect, and Aspen Skiing Co. is excited to take what it learned from this past March’s World Cup races on Aspen Mountain into yet another weekend of elite skiing.
In social media posts by the International Ski Federation (FIS) on Thursday, it was revealed that World Cup ski racing will come back to Aspen for a second straight season, this time for men’s tech races on March 2-3, 2024.
Prior to this past winter’s World Cup races — men’s speed events — Aspen had not hosted that level of ski racing since the 2017 World Cup Finals.
“Honestly, we felt the pain of taking six years off by trying to spin this thing back up with very short notice,” said longtime Skico executive John Rigney, who pulls many of the strings behind the scenes to get the major skiing and snowboarding events to Aspen. “Even though this year is pretty short notice to officially get the word that we are on, the momentum we have from doing it this past March will pay dividends going forward.”
The tech races — slalom and giant slalom — will bring a different group of skiers to Aspen than this past March, when it hosted downhill and super-G races. Instead of speed stars like Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Vincent Kriechmayr, who finished 1-2 in the downhill standings this past season, Aspen will likely welcome names like Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, who uses Aspen Highlands for training early each season.
“We’ll get to see the other half of the tour by going with tech races instead of speed,” Rigney said. “This is the kind of event that our entire town takes pride in, so being able to count on it, at least for the next year, not only is it good news, but it’s a feather in the cap of everyone who came out to support it.”
Rigney said the decision to host tech races instead of speed next winter comes mostly from the higher ups at FIS, who face quite the challenge each year in putting together a fair, balanced race schedule. The 2024 stop in Aspen is part of a U.S. two-fer, as Palisades Tahoe is scheduled to host slalom and giant slalom races Feb. 24-25, the weekend before those same racers come to Aspen.
As has become the norm, Beaver Creek will host men’s speed races Dec. 1-3, the only other U.S.-based events on the men’s 2023-24 race calendar. Canada’s Lake Louise, long an early-season haven for the women’s speed skiers, will host men’s speed races Nov. 25-26, a week before Beaver Creek.
“It’s a multi-dimensional puzzle they are trying to pull together,” Rigney said. “It’s complicated. Frankly, we didn’t have any issue with getting tech. I actually think it’s perfect on the heels of the speed event to get tech because you see the other side of the tour and we all know tech races are super exciting right down to the last racer every year. It will be fun. I also think we have one of the best tech courses, one of the best GS courses, in the world. So to be able to show that off is super fun.”
According to the FIS archives, Aspen has not hosted men’s tech races — outside of the 2017 finals — since November 2001. That included two slaloms, the first won by Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic. In the second slalom a day later, American icon Bode Miller rallied to finish second despite wearing bib No. 54. Austria’s Mario Matt won the race.
Prior to the 2017 finals, Aspen had been a regular stop for women’s tech races for many years. The highlight was seeing Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin, who won the last non-finals women’s race on Aspen Mountain in November 2015. Those races effectively moved to Killington, Vermont, which has become a mainstay on the women’s calendar in recent years.
Rigney said Skico is excited to once again have World Cup races occurring in Aspen’s spring, opposed to the darker, colder and possibly snowless early-season time frame.
“That race course on a beautiful March day is going to be the place to be,” Rigney said. “It works really well. It’s after Presidents’ Week, but before spring break starts to ramp up. So, I think it works well on the calendar, not only for us, but for the broader lodging community.”
This past March, Aspen had been scheduled to host two downhills and one super-G over three days, but the first downhill was ultimately canceled after snowy conditions made it nearly impossible to put on a fair race. Only 24 racers started before it was called off; at least 30 need to compete for the race to be official.
It was smooth sailing after that, with Norway’s Kilde — otherwise known as Shiffrin’s boyfriend these days — winning Saturday’s downhill, and Swiss star Marco Odermatt winning Sunday’s super-G. Odermatt, who also competes in GS, was the overall World Cup champion this past winter, followed by Kilde in second and Kristoffersen in third.
“It certainly was a crusher to not get that first downhill official result. But the rest of the weekend was simply awesome,” Rigney said of March’s speed races. “The crews did a great job. I can’t underscore how difficult it is to spin something up after having not done it for six years. So I was really proud of the whole team for rallying to make it great. And the crowds came out. The mood in town on that weekend is as good as it gets anytime of the year.”
The women’s World Cup calendar for 2023-24 only has one U.S. stop, the Killington races on Nov. 25-26. Canada’s Mont Tremblant has joined the schedule with two GS races Dec. 2-3. The early-season women’s speed races that in recent years were in Lake Louise are headed to Zermatt and Cervinia on Nov. 18-19.
Saalbach, Austria, will host the World Cup Finals from March 22-24 for both men and women.
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