The Winter and Summer Olympics both taking place only months apart used to be a common occurrence.
Still, you have to go back to 1992 (Albertville, Barcelona) to note the last time both worldwide competitions were held within the same calendar year.
In 1994, the International Olympic Committee made the decision to stagger the Games every two years, which meant the world no longer had to wait four trips around the sun to witness the seasonal exhibitions.
Now, thanks to the pandemic’s one-year delay of the 2020 Summer Olympics, only six months will separate the Games, with Tokyo giving way to Beijing for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, taking place Feb. 4-20.
That also means for the first time since 2017, the Killington Cup will serve as an Olympic preliminary, with the world’s top female slalom and giant slalom racers descending upon the Vermont resort later this month.
After welcoming an estimated 36,500 spectators across three days, including a one-day record of 19,500 for Saturday’s giant slalom race in 2019, World Cup’s stop in New England makes its much-awaited return in 2021. The popular event was canceled last November, thanks to the pandemic, and again promises to serve as the de facto opening ceremony for the New England skiing and riding calendar.
“Bringing FIS Alpine World Cup racing back to Killington Resort for the 2021-22 Olympic qualification season is an incredible opportunity for the resort and the surrounding community,” Killington president and general manager Mike Solimano said. “More than just world-class racing and a great music lineup, spectators will enjoy a full weekend of festivities. …We’ll utilize every opportunity to build a world-class race venue on Superstar with Killington’s state-of-the-art snowmaking system, positioning us to offer the longest season in the East.”
Tickets for the weekend are now available at www.killington.com/culture/world-cup-fis-ski-racing/tickets.
Actions being taken to prioritize the well-being of the community include first-time ticketing for the entire event, including general admission ($5 per day, $10 weekend) to control attendance. In the past, general admission at the base of Superstar had been free of charge. Killington is aiming to limit crowds to about half of its one-day record of two years ago.
Due to social distancing in the tent, only a limited amount of VIP tickets will be available this year. Premier grandstand tickets start at $90, or $175 for the weekend. Grandstand tickets start at $40, or $75 for the weekend.
Attendees also will be required to show proof of vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours. A percentage from all ticket options will benefit the Killington World Cup Foundation, which supports athlete hospitality and provides grants to bolster winter sports infrastructure and access to winter sports throughout the region.
“It’s exciting to come back together and celebrate ski racing as a community again,” said Herwig Demschar, chair of Killington’s World Cup Local Organizing Committee. “In addition to an already action-packed, fun-filled weekend of ski racing, Killington will offer entertainment and a robust festival village while keeping the health and safety of guests top of mind.”
The biggest racing attraction again will be superstar skier Mikaela Shiffrin, the World Cup and Olympic champion who is a product of Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy.
“I definitely feel like there’s a certain amount of hometown or home area vibe,” Shiffrin said prior to the event in 2018. “Superstar is really fun to ski. It’s good for both slalom and giant slalom and I think it’s really great for spectators because they get to see that entire face. If you’re standing at the bottom of the hill you can watch the Jumbotron, but you can also watch a really good section of the course — probably the most interesting section. So it’s kind of this perfect setup. And it’s always a pleasure to go back there and ski. The crowd is amazing.”
Shiffrin took first place in the 2019 slalom, her signature event, and placed third in the giant slalom behind first-place winner Marta Bassino and Federica Brignone, both from Italy. Brignone went on to win the overall World Cup in 2020.
In the first year of the event, Shiffrin won the slalom and placed second in the giant slalom, a precursor to the Olympics in PyeongChang, where she won gold in the giant slalom and silver in the combined.
More recently, the 26-year-old Shiffrin kicked off her Olympic season with her 70th career win last month at Sölden, Austria, in the giant slalom. With the victory, she became only the third skier in World Cup history to reach the 70-win mark. She trails only Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Lindsey Vonn (82).
Also expected to attend the Killington Cup this year will be defending overall World Cup champion Petra Vlhova, 26, of Slovakia and Lara Gut-Behrami, 30, the reigning giant slalom world champion from Switzerland. American skier Nina O’Brien, 23, another Burke Mountain Academy product, had the best season of her career in 2020-21, grabbing a career-best ninth in slalom and a top 10 in the giant slalom at World Championships. She finished ninth in Sölden to open the season. Paula Moltzen, 27, a native of Minnesota, finished last season ranked 12th in the world in slalom. Twenty-one-year-old AJ Hurt finished 20th at this year’s World Cup opener. The California native studies at Dartmouth College.
All World Cup alpine races, including the stop at Killington, can be streamed on NBC’s Peacock. Check usskiandsnowboard.org/latest for a complete broadcast and streaming schedule. The network will begin its Olympic coverage with the Opening Ceremony in Beijing on Feb. 4.
Eric Wilbur can be reached at [email protected].