Fresh off her win in the first Women’s World Cup slalom of the season 11 days ago in Finland, American skier Mikaela Shiffrin made a pit stop in Vermont last Monday, taking the opportunity to inspect the site of her next challenge — this weekend’s World Cup races at Killington Mountain Resort, the first World Cup racing event to be held in the East in a quarter-century.
“There’s a lot of spotlight on Mikaela,” says Herwig Demschar, senior vice president of international business development for Powdr Corp., the company that owns Killington. “It gave Mikaela a little bit of a taste for how excited people are about ski racing coming back to the East.”
It’s little wonder why Shiffrin serves as the poster child for the event, even with fellow skiing superstars such as Julia Mancuso and Lara Gut slated to attend. A native of Vail, Colo., Shiffrin graduated from Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy, one of the country’s most prestigious ski academies, in 2013. With an Olympic gold medal and a stratospheric rise on the World Cup slalom circuit, she is already one of ski racing’s brightest stars at the age of 21.
She’s also the perfect ambassador for the World Cup’s return to the East, even seeing as she happened to be born some four years after competitions were last held at New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley.
As former head coach of the U.S. women and Austrian men’s alpine teams, this return has been Demschar’s quest for the past five years. “I always thought, ‘Why don’t we promote the East more?’” he explains. “Especially because there are most of the ski clubs, most of the ski academies that produce athletes to for ski racing. Why don’t we go back to this place?”
Scheduling the races for late November posed its own challenges, particularly during what has been an unseasonable run toward the event. In preparation, Killington began blowing snow on its Superstar trail in early October, and as of last week, there was an average of two to three feet on the course, says Demschar, who was, at the same time, pleading with last week’s rain to limit the damage.
Any concern that the event might have to be cancelled due to conditions of the course though were alleviated last Thursday, when the FIS confirmed the races a go after an “official snow control.”
“This positive snow control news from FIS reinforces what we already knew – that Killington has ample snow on Superstar to host the world’s fastest female ski racers, and our mountain operations team has the knowledge and horsepower to make more snow in the early season than any other ski area in the country,” Killington president and general manager Mike Solimano explains. “Thanks to the hard work of our snowmaking team during every cold weather window this fall, we can now breathe a quick sigh of relief before jumping into the final stretch of preparation for this massive event.”
It will also mark the first World Cup event to be held in Vermont in almost 40 years. The thirst for the Cup’s return became evident in June, when Killington sold out of VIP tickets for the weekend in a matter of six hours. Free general admission for this weekend’s races is available to the public, with standing room with a jumbo screen-viewing point near the base of Superstar.
“It kind of confirmed my feeling that people in the East are really excited about ski racing and want to watch the event,” Demschar adds. “I’m very confident that we’re going to be able to show the world that we can do stuff here in the East too.”
VIP tickets are sold out, but there will be a general viewing area that will be set up at the bottom of the trail. Just show up. The resort will be open for skiing elsewhere other than Superstar area. Free parking served by expanded shuttle service will also be available for the entire World Cup weekend. First runs begin at 9:30 a.m. each day. A free Concert featuring O.A.R. takes place Saturday immediately following second race runs, approximately 2 p.m. at the K-1 Base Area.