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Shiffrin laments loss of Killington due to COVID-19 as VVF scraps Birds of Prey

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August 20, 2020, 9:54 am

Mikaela Shiffrin of Edwards – the second greatest female ski racer of all time with 66 victories – has won on the World Cup circuit in Killington, Vermont, the last four seasons. She won’t have that opportunity this season, with the International Ski Federation cancelling all North American races due to the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Mikaela Shiffrin
Mikaela Shiffrin

“This is a bummer — however, it’s going to feel so incredible next year to race in Killington, to have some sense of normalcy and to get back to all of the things we love to do,” Shiffrin tweeted Thursday. “There’s a lot to do now so that we can get to that point. We are so happy and lucky to be able to ski race this year at all. And, it’ll be that much sweeter when we can come back [to the U.S.]”

The FIS will still hold a World Cup season in 2020-21, but it will be held exclusively in Europe, where the virus is much more under control. The United States has recorded the most COVID-19 deaths in the world at more than 170,000 and counting, with the virus still out of control in many states.

Also cancelled were women’s and men’s races in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, where Shiffrin has won a downhill and a super-G, and the annual men’s races on the Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek, where Shiffrin won a world championship in 2015. Canada has much better control over the virus with around 9,000 total deaths, but was apparently collateral damage as Americans currently are not allowed to travel to Canada.

With students returning to schools that are just as quickly shutting down due to outbreaks, and no real national plan to control or slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, uncertainty is plaguing the entire U.S. ski industry. The Vail Valley Foundation released the following press release announcing the cancellation of the annual Birds of Prey races:

The local organizing committees (LOCs) that host the Audi FIS Ski World Cup in North America each year, together with the national alpine skiing federations of the United States and Canada, and in concert with the International Ski Federation (FIS), today determined to cancel the 2020 North American leg of the World Cup tour due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020-21 Audi FIS Alpine World Cup men’s and women’s calendars will adopt a new structure, and will include races in Europe only. Read the FIS statement here.

The canceled 2020 North American competitions include:

     Lake Louise Audi FIS Ski World Cup in Lake Louise, CAN, Nov. 28-29 & Dec. 4-6, 2020

     The HomeLight Killington Cup in Killington, Vt., USA, Nov. 29-Dec. 1.

     Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colo., USA, Dec. 4-6

Organizers in North America released the following joint statement today:

U.S. Ski & Snowboard, the Canadian Snowsports Association, and the Killington, Lake Louise and Vail Valley Foundation local organizing committees would like to express our gratitude to everyone for their dedication, planning, and collaboration in recent months. Attention to detail and thoughtfulness provided a pathway to hold our events this season, but we all agreed to make this very difficult but necessary decision, in order to prioritize the best interest of our alpine world cup athletes, coaches, technicians, volunteers, media, staff, all our World Cup fans and the Alpine World Cup tour, as a whole.

Although the North American alpine venues and fans will be missed this season, we look forward to the Alpine World Cup’s return to USA and Canada for the 2021-22 season.

The Vail Valley Foundation, which serves as the LOC for the Xfinity Birds of Prey races in Beaver Creek, and which has hosted annual World Cups for decades, and led the hosting of three Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek in 1989, 1999, and 2015, said the decision came after careful consideration with partners: US Ski Team, Vail Resorts and FIS.

“North America’s skiing community has tremendous spirit and resolve, and while we are saddened that, this year, we will not be able to gather in person to witness the iconic feats of athleticism that are the hallmark of the legendary Xfinity Birds of Prey, it is clear this decision is in the best interest of the health and safety of the world cup athletes, coaches, technicians, volunteers, media, staff, all of the World Cup fans, and the World Cup tour itself. We look forward to welcoming the world back to Beaver Creek in December 2021, and thank all of our partners for their hard work, thoughtful discussion, and unity throughout this process,” said Mike Imhof, President of the Vail Valley Foundation.

“Each year, the North American leg of the World Cup tour is a time for our alpine skiing community to shine, not only because of the incredible achievements of our athletes, but in the work of our organizers, our course-builders, our staffers and our volunteers, who never fail to put on spectacular events,” said Tiger Shaw, President and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “We look forward to the time when we can do that again, but our team, our athletes, know that their fans are still behind them, cheering for them all the way during this difficult time.”

Nadia Guerriero, Vice President and COO of Beaver Creek Resort, host mountain for the event, agreed that the cancelation is in the best interest of all parties. “We very much appreciate our partnership with the Vail Valley Foundation and their decision to prioritize the health and safety of all the athletes, coaches, employees, volunteers and many more who support Xfinity Birds of Prey. We look forward to welcoming back the event in December 2021,” Guerriero said.  

For more information, visit bcworldcup.com.

And here’s the full press release from U.. Ski and Snowboard:

The 2020-21 FIS Alpine World Cup men’s and women’s calendars will adopt a different structure due to impacts from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
After extended discussions among FIS, the national ski associations and the local organizing committees in Canada and the USA, together with their stakeholders, all parties have come to the joint decision that the Alpine Skiing World Cup tour will remain in Europe in late November.

Traditionally, the tour comes to North America during this time of year.
For the women, this schedule shift impacts the HomeLight Killington Cup in Killington, Vt. (USA) giant slalom and slalom events on Nov. 28-29 and the speed week in Lake Louise, Alberta (CAN) on Dec. 1-6. For the men, this impacts the speed weekend in Lake Louise, Nov. 25-29 and both speed and tech events at the Xfinity Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek, Colo. (USA) Dec. 1-6.

The FIS Alpine World Cup will return to these sites for the 2021-22 season.
The objective of FIS is to carry out a full World Cup competition program, protecting the health and welfare of all participants to the best extent possible. The temporary realignment of the FIS Alpine World Cup Calendar in 2020-21 caters to this goal by focusing on athlete safety, reducing travel, and providing competitors with a detailed competition calendar. All parties jointly agreed to make this decision early to aid in developing the adjusted calendars during the next month before the FIS Technical Committee Meetings in late September.

Decisions for all other FIS World Cup events will be made independently and based on an assessment of each unique set of circumstances, including the risks and travel requirements related to each event and host country, as well as time needed between competitions to accommodate for COVID-19 protocols.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard, the Canadian Snowsports Association, and the Killington, Lake Louise and Vail Valley Foundation local organizing committees would like to express their gratitude to everyone for their dedication, planning, and collaboration in recent months. Attention to detail and thoughtfulness provided a pathway to hold their events this season, but all agreed to make this very difficult, but necessary decision, in order to prioritize the best interest of the alpine world cup athletes, coaches, technicians, volunteers, media, staff, all of the world cup fans and the Alpine World Cup tour, as a whole. The extensive preparation work provides a roadmap to move forward with planning other potential North American domestic events. Although the North American alpine venues and fans will be missed this season, all parties look forward to the Alpine World Cup’s return to the USA and Canada for the 2021-22 season.

The adapted calendars, to be approved in late September, involve the rescheduling of the alpine North American competitions at European sites. 
These will include events in December, with Val d’Isere (FRA) adding two events for the men. The planned giant slalom races will be moved up one weekend to Dec. 5-6, making room for an added downhill and super-G on Dec. 12-13.

The women’s tour will add a downhill to its traditional weekend in St. Moritz (SUI) on Dec. 5-7. Additionally, Courchevel (FRA) will host a two-race technical weekend in December.

“The North American races are always a very special two weeks for the entire FIS World Cup tour and we are very disappointed that we could not find a way to have them on this year’s Alpine calendar,” said FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis. “But if there is a silver lining, it is seeing how all of our stakeholders involved with the FIS World Cup are working together. The willingness of several National Ski Associations, Organizers and resorts to step up, alter their schedules and plans, shows that we truly are a united ski family that is working toward the common goal of carrying out a full and successful season. The engagement and commitment shown by the North American organizers and National Associations throughout the past months continues with both USA and Canada already turning to preparations for their central roles with FIS Freestyle, Freeski and Snowboard events that take place later in the season.”

The Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season will kick off in Soelden (AUT) on Oct. 17-18 for the traditional giant slaloms on the Rettenbach Glacier. The next stop on the tour will be the debut of host resort Lech/Zürs (AUT) on Nov. 14-15, which will feature a men’s and a women’s parallel race.The revised calendars with the latest adaptations will be approved following the FIS Technical Meetings from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 for ratification by the FIS Council on Oct. 3, and will be published on the FIS website at that time.

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