Beaver Creek pulls off a last-minute World Cup triple play.
Given the ominously snowless days that have followed, maybe Beaver Creek’s fast-paced and thoroughly successful efforts to mount a trio of World Cup races originally planned for Val D’Isère—races scrubbed because of crummy snow in the Alps—demonstrate that a victory dance might bring cruel karma.
Yes, the Vail Valley Foundation, Beaver Creek Resort, and nearly 600 local volunteers did the near-impossible, reprepping the slopes, modifying the Birds of Prey course for its first-ever World Cup women’s super-G, and finding rooms for racers, coaches, and ski techs, all on a week’s notice. Media noted that they saw the organizers sweating palpably when International Ski Federation officials dropped the news on November 30.
But VVF President Ceil Folz says she never had a moment of doubt, adding that the super-G win by local hero Lindsey Vonn only made the effort more worthwhile. “We’d been in this position before, when races were cancelled in Whistler or Lake Louise, so we have a bit of a comfort zone, but it was certainly an effort,” she says. “We have a really willing community, and we needed hotels to suddenly give us 500 rooms. The hardest part was the volunteers—they all have jobs and lives, and we needed to ask them to come back for a second round.”
Happily, Beaver Creek’s well-oiled machine sprang into action, and the racing community was treated to Vonn’s super-G win and men’s GS and slalom contests—on top of the three regularly scheduled Beaver Creek races held just a few days before. “I’ve dreamed of racing here since 1999; it’s just awesome to compete on this great course, as I was once a course worker on that slope,” Vonn told reporters.
Folz admits the biggest issue was getting paid for three costly extra days of racing, but says the foundation came out about even overall, thanks to help from international sponsors, local lodges, and Vail Resorts’ in-kind services. “We loved to have the opportunity to show the world what we can do, and that says something about us as an organization and a community, especially with the 2015 championships coming up,” she says.
Vail racers look to dominate—forever.
Vail’s ski-racing past, present, and future converged on one World Cup slalom course in Lienz, Austria, last December.
That’s when Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s (SSCV) Sarah Schleper, 32, retired after her first run on December 29, racing in a short dress and carrying her 3-year-old son across the finish line. SSCV’s Mikaela Shiffrin, a 16-year-old from Eagle-Vail, finished third for her best-ever result. And SSCV’s Lindsey Vonn, who with a record forty-six career wins needs no introduction, cheered them both on.
Schleper, who debuted at Vail in 1995 and went on to compete in 186 World Cup races, has become a symbol of perseverance in the face of injuries and adversity. She credits her stable family life with enabling her to come back after numerous injuries and giving birth to her son, Lasse, in 2008. Shiffrin has cited Schleper as an inspiration in achieving her first-ever World Cup podium, and Vonn has also looked to Schleper over the years.
“I’m so proud of her and so proud to have raced next to her,” Shiffrin says.
Vonn finished eighteenth in Schleper’s last race but has dominated the World Cup season so far, winning for the first time on home snow when Beaver Creek hosted a women’s super-G on the men’s Birds of Prey course earlier in December and leading the chase for what would be her fourth overall World Cup title—an American record.
That level of achievement is all the more amazing given Vonn’s tumultuous personal life, including divorce from her husband of four years, former racer Thomas Vonn, and rumored romantic links to NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. (Vonn insists they’re just friends.)
Shiffrin may be doing some of her own rewriting of the record books soon. She became the youngest female skier to podium in World Cup slalom since Tamara McKinney did it on December 10, 1978.
With Vonn chasing her fourth overall crown and Shiffrin posting podium wins while barely old enough to drive, the Vail Valley’s role in the record books as a breeder of fast women looks to be secure well into the future. —David O. Williams