For the first time in 16 years, Aspen will host the best male ski racers in the world March 15-19, 2017, when the season-ending World Cup Finals are held on Aspen Mountain. And the best women in the world — who regularly come to Aspen every November — will join the men.
The annual World Cup Finals often determine the season-long discipline title winners, and sometimes the overall World Cup champions. The last time the United States hosted the finals was at Vail in 1997.
However, Aspen was no slam dunk, as European nations vied to keep the event closer to home during the annual International Ski Federation (FIS) meetings in Barcelona, Spain. Former United States Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt, an Aspen native and FIS Council member, was instrumental in securing the event.
“The selection of Aspen for World Cup Finals illustrates the confidence the FIS Council has in Aspen as a classic World Cup community,” Marolt said in a press release. “Our team at the USSA has worked closely with Aspen and FIS for several years in preparing an outstanding bid to welcome the world to America.”
Aspen narrowly beat out Andorra and Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
The last time men raced Aspen a very young Bode Miller was second in the slalom, one of his American men’s record 33 World Cup victories. The oldest man to ever win an Olympic alpine-skiing medal in Sochi earlier this year, Miller has indicated he wants to keep on racing.
All five disciplines – slalom, giant slalom, downhill, super-G and combined – will be contested at the Finals in 2017, marking the return of the speed events of downhill and super-G for the first time since the women raced speed in 2007. Legends such as Bill Johnson and Franz Klammer have previously won speed events at Aspen.
If she’s able to return from a knee injury that cost her last Olympic season, Vail’s Lindsey Vonn would certainly be among the favorites on the women’s side, although she’s yet to win a race at Aspen during her record-shattering 59-win career.
Aspen has a long history of World Cup ski racing and hosted the first World Championships outside of Europe in 1950.
“Aspen became an iconic brand in the late 40s by attracting world class athletic and cultural events, beginning with the 1950 FIS Championships in what was then a sleepy little town,” said Mike Kaplan, president and CEO, Aspen Skiing Company. “Fast forward to present day and this community exudes vibrancy and the pursuit of excellence and we are incredibly excited to host the world’s best athletes in the Roaring Fork Valley in 2017.”
The World Cup Finals will attract a global broadcast audience of tens of millions as NBC provides extensive coverage of the five-day event, including live broadcast and digital streaming.
“As a club athlete racing at Aspen, I would always dream that someday I’d be able to race a World Cup on my home mountain,” said downhill racer Alice McKennis of Glenwood Springs, who’s also coming back from injury next season. “But as a female speed skier, it didn’t seem likely. Now, it is extremely motivating to know that if I work hard, I’ll be able to race World Cup downhill and super-G on home snow in 2017.”