Vail Valley’s Prestigious Powder

Your guide to getting the most out of a visit to Beaver Creek for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships

In 2013, at age 17, Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest woman in U.S. history to win a World Championship. Photo: Jeff Shiffrin

In 2013, at age 17, Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest woman in U.S. history to win a World Championship. Photo: Jeff Shiffrin

When you live in Colorado it’s easy to forget that other states have skiing too. One reason why is because Vail became North America’s ski capital after it hosted the 1989 and 1999 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. The 1989 Championship saw the number of people skiing Vail Mountain jump drastically, and the 1999 Championship boasted the largest crowd in US ski-racing history, laying the groundwork for Vail Valley’s successful bid to host the 2015 Championships.

You can, and should, attend the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek this February 2-15. Not only is it the biggest winter sports event held in the United States since the 2002 Winter Olympics, but it’s also free to spectators and packed with entertaining events and activities.

The Ski Specifics
Here is your basic guide to how the Championships will work. The events are split between speed events and technique events, with men reaching top speeds of more than 80 miles per hour and women hitting speeds of more than 75 miles per hour. The Championships is comprised of five disciplines: Downhill, Slalom, Alpine Combined, Giant Slalom and Super G.

Downhill is the most intensely speed-oriented of all the events, and downhill skiers must master their tuck technique to make themselves aerodynamic. Slalom involves skiing between poles or gates spaced very close together, necessitating insanely tight, short turns. Alpine Combined is one run of downhill skiing and one run of Slalom with the fastest combined time determining the winner. Giant Slalom is similar to Slalom, the primary difference being that the gates or poles are spaced further away. Super G stands for Super Giant Slalom and has more turns than downhill but is much faster than Giant Slalom, with gates spaced at even farther distances.

All of the events for the 2015 Championships are open to spectators, which is incredible considering you can catch sight of top Olympic athletes such as Ted Ligety, who was hailed as reinventing the Giant Slalom event by the New York Times.

Participant Profiles
Naturally, Colorado’s most proud of four competitors with local roots. The first is Mikaela Shiffrin, who was born in Eagle-Vail and is no stranger to the winner’s podium, taking gold in both the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, Austria, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Sarah Schleper, born in Glenwood Springs, will compete for Mexico after coming out of retirement to race Giant Slalom. The change of countries is due to her marriage to a Mexican resident, and her naturalization allows her some additional freedom with competing and coaching.

Julia Mancuso, who has four Olympic medals—the most ever for a female alpine skier—has local roots as well, her mother living in Colorado and her uncle owning a deli in Vail. She has previously won two silver and three bronze medals at the World Championships.

Lindsey Vonn’s family resides in Colorado, where she trained in her teens. She’s won one Olympic gold and one Olympic bronze as well as two gold and three silver in the World Championships. The renowned skier will be one of six women to compete in all five events.

Other notable Americans include Bode Miller, the four-time world champion and six-time podium finisher, and Ted Ligety, who’s previously won gold twice in the Olympics and four times in the World Championships.

Marcel Hirscher of Austria will also compete to defend the overall World Cup title, which he has kept for three consecutive years, while Anna Fenninger (also of Austria) will be be racing after winning the women’s World Cup and Giant Slalom titles in 2014.

Lindsey Vonn has been on the World Cup posium 103 times. Photography: Jack Affleck

Lindsey Vonn has been on the World Cup posium 103 times. Photography: Jack Affleck

Cultural Immersions
But don’t worry if you miss an alpine event or two; there’s plenty of things to see and do, between concerts, artistic performances, films, art exhibits and culinary events as well as the opening ceremonies and nightly medal presentations.

In Beaver Creek, you have the World Championships International Experience Celebration in the International Experience Tent at the center of Beaver Creek Village from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. daily. Inside the heated tent, you can grab some cultural food, beverages and entertainment, all centered on a different participating country for each day of the competition. Another daily event, Après Avon, will take place at Avon Station with live music, performance art and culinary tastings from local restaurants.

If you are into classical music and opera, a performance that might stand out from the rest is at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, where Russian opera superstar, Anna Netrebko, will be holding a gala performance.

Sierra Nevada has been named the official beer of the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships. You can sample their beers at the Winter Beer Camp, where instructional tastings will happen periodically to help those unfamiliar with the American craft brew scene.

Rest at the Best
For a world-class event, you want world-class lodging. The Chateau at Beaver Creek is the most luxurious place you can stay, situated 20 feet off the slopes, with lockers and boot dryers. Welcome baskets with Veuve Clicquot arrive in each lavishly furnished room upon arrival, and, for a chance from the cold weather, guests can head to its spa and partake in the steam room and hot tub.

The Westin Riverfront boasts Mikaela Shiffrin as their “resident gold medalist” on-hand, giving periodic talks about all things alpine skiing. With a four million dollar recent upgrade, The Westin Riverfront is offering a “Mikaela Shiffrin Way” ski package, which includes accommodations in a one-bedroom condo, one private Ski Conditioning training session at The Westin’s Athletic Club, a 100-minte Rocky Mountain Sports Massage at the on-site Spa Anjali—named #4 in the US by Conde Nast Traveler—dinner for two at Maya by Chef Richard Sandoval, two one-day lift tickets to Vail or Beaver Creek, valet parking and a race fan amenity package including a cowbell and snacks.

Cuisine between Competitions
Be sure to dine at Grouse Mountain Grill where the quality of the locally sourced dishes is tops. The pretzel-crusted pork chop stands out, with its bacon jus and caramelized cipollinis. Or make your way to Beano’s Cabin, where a sleigh pulled by a snowcat serves as your chariot to the restaurant. When you arrive, you’re tended to by a talented bartender and attentive staff. The food changes seasonally, but this past summer saw such memorable dishes as a Berkshire Whiskey-Glazed Pork Porterhouse and a Duo of Colorado Lamb.

The Competition by Numbers
As the largest winter sports event in the U.S. since the 2002 Winter Olympics, the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships will show off the colorful state of Colorado to millions. Here are the championship details by numbers.

– Two mascots will serve as Vail Valley’s ambassadors, Pete the Mountain Lion and Earl the Raccoon.
– 29 gold medals have been awarded to Austria—more than any other country—for all Vail Valley World Cup races since 1967 (excluding World Championships). The U.S. placed third in gold medal counts, with 16 total.
– 70 countries will broadcast the championships on television.
– 700 athletes from 70 nations will compete.
– 750 million viewers will tune in to watch the championships during the two-week television broadcast.
– 2,500 volunteers will make the event run smoothly from start to finish.
– 8,800 spectators will cheer on race fans at the newly completed Red Tail Stadium complex, the main competition venue for the championships.

Need-to-Know Ski Schedule
Here is a brief run-down of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships schedule. For more information, visit Please note: All events take place at Red Tail Stadium in Beaver Creek unless noted otherwise.

Opening Ceremonies: February 2 at 7 p.m., Championships Plaza/Solaris, Vail
Women’s Super G: February 3 at 11 a.m.
Men’s Super G: February 4 at 11 a.m.
Women’s Downhill: February 6 at 11 a.m.
Men’s Downhill: February 7 at 11 a.m.
Men’s Alpine Combined: February 8 at 10 a.m.
Ladies Alpine Combined: February 9 at 10 a.m.
Nations Team Event: February 10 at 4 p.m.
Lades Giant Slalom: February 12 at 10:15 a.m.
Men’s Giant Slalom: February 14 at 10:15 a.m.
Women’s Slalom: February 14 at 10:15 a.m.
Men’s Slalom 10: February 15 at 10:15 a.m.
Closing Ceremonies: February

UP NEXT: Serenity at The Sebastian – Vail

, ,