The International Ski Federation announced last week that the North American stops of the Alpine World Cup Tour would be canceled and rescheduled to venues in Europe. Although there will be no domestic alpine events this winter, the Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup is still on the schedule:
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the sports world ever since the first event cancellations and season suspensions began in March. The Alpine Skiing World Cup was no different.
The last 16 races on its calendar were canceled because of the pandemic and brought the season to an abrupt end on March 12.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) has done a traditional North American swing of its Alpine tour in late November and early December for decades. Park City was a host of one of those events, called “America’s Opener,” for years but has not hosted an Alpine World Cup since the 2003-2004 season.
North American stops on the 2020-2021 calendar included races in Lake Louise, Canada, Beaver Creek, Colorado, and Killington, Vermont, before the cancellations were announced on Aug. 20.
The American stops in particular have attracted some of the largest crowds of the tour in recent years. Park City-based U.S. Ski & Snowboard CEO Tiger Shaw tells KPCW that although he regrets losing the domestic events, coordinating travel and health restrictions across continents could actually put the entire World Cup Season in jeopardy.
“There was an overall strategy of trying to figure out the very best way to ensure the success of the alpine World Cup,” Shaw said. “Alpine is very European-centric. There’s a large number of Europeans on the Tour, the game is really played in Europe. Our U.S. and North American stops are very important, but at the same time, there were so many complications with coming and going to North America with Canada having quarantine restrictions, Vermont having quarantine restrictions, Colorado very able. All the organizing committees at the three resorts did a heck of a job planning and getting ready to stage it and then in the final equation, it just made sense to really work strategically with the FIS and forgo our events this year.”
Shaw says deciding early to cancel North America’s alpine events gave the FIS ample time to find alternate venues. As of right now, the North American stops will be rescheduled to venues in France and Switzerland in December.
The alpine tour hopes to adopt a “bubble” concept for this winter, similar to the systems in place for many professional sports leagues competing right now. Shaw says a system that combines testing, quarantine, and re-testing will be used to keep athletes and staff safe as they move from venue to venue in Europe.
“So it’s really mimicking the concept of both of what (Formula One) has been successful with, moving from site to site, and the ‘bubble’ concepts of the pro sports here in the U.S. and some in Europe,” he said. “Using all of those best practices to keep everybody safe and in control and in a small geographic region and reducing the amount of travel.”
In contrast to the alpine events, Shaw says snowboard, freeski, and freestyle events are not impacted by this decision and all North American stops on those tours, including the Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup scheduled for early February, are still happening – for now.
Shaw adds that due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the ever-evolving response to it, things may change in the coming months but organizers are steaming ahead with their planning efforts.
“Again, it’s fluid. Like most are saying, ask me what I’m doing in a couple of weeks and I can tell you,” he said. “Ask me what we’re doing in two months, I’ll have to get back to you.”
The Alpine World Cup season is scheduled to begin on Oct. 17 and 18 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races in Soelden, Austria. The Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup is scheduled for Feb. 4-6 in 2021.