In late 2015, I received an email informing me that Killington, my home mountain – the place where I invest my time and energy and where I’m raising my family to appreciate and love winter sports – was added to the 2016 Women’s World Cup schedule by FIS, the International Ski Federation. The prospect of this Killington “first” sent a shiver down my spine as I imagined what it could mean for us.
Those feelings of anxiousness and optimism ebbed and flowed within me over the next year, ultimately spiking into pure joy as Mikaela Shiffrin, a product of New England’s skiing culture, crossed the finish line at the bottom of Superstar on Nov. 27, 2016. She secured her victory in Killington’s first ever World Cup Slalom by nearly a whole second; an eternity in ski racing.
During the run up to our first World Cup, newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio stations and television broadcasts promoted Killington, reaching an audience well over 100 million with a message of a free event on a scale like nothing ever seen in Vermont winter sports.
Over 1,000 youth racers and their parents paraded into the venue on Saturday morning before the races began, representing Vermont’s many storied ski academies and showing us that there is indeed a next generation ready to inherit the winter sports mantle and carry it forward.
As I reflect on our World Cup Weekend, I recall the sound of our record-setting crowd, the shared euphoria we all felt, the hands in the air and the hugs between strangers. These are a few of the elements that set Killington’s World Cup apart from other stops on the globetrotting ski race circuit.
In the days following, emails flooded in to my executive team colleagues and me from racers, coaches, national team administrators, organizers and sponsors congratulating and thanking us for the incredible end-result of our hard work.
The many notes of congratulations appreciated the energized and enthusiastic crowd, to be sure, and nearly all remarked about the cohesion they felt throughout the town of Killington and the sense of arrival the town of Killington provided.
Some comments, included:
“Dear Mike, I was proud to be an American this past weekend. We set a record for attendance to a women’s World Cup and I was treated like a superstar which was very empowering for me.” – Lila Lapanja, U.S. Ski Team
“I honestly have to say that it´s one of the most memorable races I have ever skied.” – Nina Loeseth, Norwegian Ski Team (finished 2nd in GS)
“It looked like one of the best-organized and best-attended races I’ve ever seen (and I worked Alpine for ESPN, ABC, and CBS for 7 winters in Europe, Japan, and the US)” – Jack Edwards, Voice of the Boston Bruins on NESN
“This becomes one of the great moments in my life of skiing. Thank you for a wonderful show! What a TEAM you have and what a supporting COMMUNITY to pull it off flawlessly” – Preston Smith, founder of Killington Resort
“There is a little rumor that Killington might want to host the race again and I hope that is true because that was one for the records and I bet you will top that one the next time!! SO exciting to have World Cup racing back in the East!!” – Mikaela Shiffrin
As part of the World Cup host agreement, the host venue is required to provide all food and lodging for athletes and coaches, plus, all prize money ($260,000), infrastructure, security, and of course the snow surface.
Our total costs for the event exceeded $2.5 million and many generous sponsors helped offset costs, but Killington Resort still incurred over $1.2 million in net costs once the World Cup dust settled.
Our parent company Powdr, led by CEO John Cumming, is a big supporter of U.S. Ski Racing, and was very supportive of our World Cup bid beginning years before racers ever hit gates on Superstar. Now Powdr is helping ensure that costs from the 2016 World Cup are not passed onto our guests or season pass holders by underwriting the event.
Our goal in hosting a future World Cup event is not to make a profit or even break even, it is just to reduce our substantial production costs to make it sustainable for years to come.
Building on the success of our first World Cup, we have asked the Killington Select Board to include $100,000 from the 2018 budget’s 1 percent Option Tax Fund, which will help provide hospitality services for our next World Cup race. The 1 percent option tax has grown by over $200,000 in the past five years, largely as a result of the investments by our resort into summer operations. Therefore, we feel justified in asking for these resources to help offset costs associated with a World Cup event.
Aside from the proposed local 1 percent option tax funds, which are meant to support local economic development, we are securing additional contributions from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, Ski Vermont, the state of Vermont and its tourism agencies, plus a title sponsorship, among other sources of funding.
These races showcase our small mountain town and gorgeous mountain resort on a global stage to hundreds of millions of potential visitors and position Killington–a moniker shared by the town, mountain and resort–as a world-class destination.
I can’t imagine a single marketing effort we could undertake that could provide such powerful, far-reaching and long-lasting positive impacts for our shared name and identity.
On behalf of Killington Resort, the Local World Cup organizing committee and the hardworking and talented team assembled here, I want to thank all of the business owners and employees, retailers, ski technicians, chefs, servers, bar tenders and every single individual and entity that contributed to the tremendous success we shared over Thanksgiving Weekend.
We could not have produced such an exciting and joyous event without you, and won’t be able to host future races of this magnitude without your continued support.
Mike Solimano, president and general manager of Killington and Pico Resorts