By Karen D. Lorentz
It can cost a million dollars or more to host a World Cup ski event, with the total expense varying by the number of events and competitors as well as any extra expenses (i.e., not required under FIS World Cup rules) that a host resort takes on.
A host resort like Killington, venue for the recent Audi FIS Ski World Cup Giant Slalom and Slalom events, is responsible for the overall costs with a smaller fixed contribution coming from the National Ski Association, which is the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) in the case of events held in the U.S.
USSA — also a parent organization of the U.S. Ski Team — decides which venues it would like to see host World Cup events. “The normal process is that USSA works directly with FIS, as well as USSA’s desired host sites, in the months leading up to the finalizing of the World Cup calendar,” USSA Vice President Tom Kelly explained in an email.
The 2017-18 World Cup calendar will be finalized next May.
During World Cup action at Killington, Kelly told the press that USSA had been eager to bring Alpine World Cup races back to the East. Indicating the appropriateness of an Eastern venue, Chief of Race Ted Sutton noted “50 percent of all the athletes in the whole USSA program come from the East.”
Powdr Vice President Herwig Demschar, who was chairman of the Local Organizing Committee, and Killington President and GM Mike Solimano were positive about the success and smooth running of Killington’s first World Cup events. Demschar noted that even the coaches and competitors would like to come back, citing the record-breaking crowds, which inspire confidence among racers and organizers.
While a host area benefits from the publicity and prestige of providing a successful event — it was broadcast to 2.1 million people in 60 countries — they still must weigh the expense, work involved, and benefits prior to discussions with USSA and the International Ski Federation (FIS) regarding future events, which is what Killington is currently doing in concert with Powdr officials.
Costs, considerations behind decision-making
To get a better understanding of what goes into that decision-making, it is interesting to consult the FIS rules and regulations that dictate everything from how to make applications to hosting a World Cup to course requirements to a long list of other expenses a host site must pick up—the list even includes what foods must be served to the teams and when.
One of the biggest expenses is the preparation of the race course and training runs. Killington began snowmaking in October whenever temperatures permitted and was able to lay down the requisite base that allowed the FIS to give the green light for the races on Nov. 17. While some thought it crazy to attempt an early season race, Killington’s snowmaking expertise, plus additional, expensive air compressors the resort brought in, made it doable. By contrast, the Dec. 2-4 Birds of Prey Men’s Downhill, Super G and GS racers were cancelled at Beaver Creek, Colo., for lack of the early season requisite cold to make snow and had to be rescheduled to Val d’Isere, France.
Another major expense is the tab for competitor accommodations rooms, meals, transportation and various extras like meeting rooms and places to tune skis. Those costs extend to the racers’ entourage of trainers, coaches, and technicians, per an FIS allotment formula based on number of team members competing; and they include training days as well as event days. Solimano noted that the requirement of providing free lodging at the Grand Hotel meant the resort had to pay the owners of the rooms for their use, as Killington does not own the rooms.
Killington Resort also incurred costs for the festival village — tent rentals, set ups, et cetera — and paid for O.A.R. to perform a free concert after the GS race; the latter was not an FIS requirement but was provided as an extra, Solimano said.
Add costs for bleachers, security, emergency medical support team, shuttle buses, and a media center — equipped with everything broadcast and print journalists and photographers needed to file stories — as well as a press area for post-race interviews, and the expense list adds up!
These expenses are in addition to Killington staff and the prize money, for which Solimano said the resort was also responsible.
Competitors’ share: $240,412
FIS rules require a host venue to provide 120,000 Swiss francs ($120,206 US) per race with the top 30 finishers getting a share of that in decreasing amounts.
The winner of each event got $45,077; second place, $20,034; third, $10,017; fourth, $7,012; fifth $5,009; and so on with last place (30th) receiving $501.
Mikaela Shiffren’s fifth in GS and first in Slalom earned her $125,215 for about four minutes of race time (plus weeks of training, travel, et cetera).
Demschar said top competitors can make $4-$5 million a year so no wonder four-event speedster Lara Gut took her giant slalom DNF in stride! The top competitors can make $300,000 to $600,000 in prize money annually, while their total take can add up to millions given sponsorships and endorsement deals.
Beyond the money, future events
Audi is the official World Cup sponsor, and there were Audi autos displayed along the Access Road as well as several models on exhibit at the festival village.
However, Stephan Maeder, owner of the Audi, Volkswagen, and Subaru dealerships in Rutland, said he was “not required to participate by Audi but as a businessperson I wanted to support the races; I was excited to be part of the biggest event this state has ever seen,” he added.
Asked if he expected to see more business from the exposure, Maeder said he might, but he participated because “It was the right thing to do.”
As a former ski racer and now an Alpine official for the Bromley Outing Club, Maeder said his ski racing family also attended, staying in a condo for the weekend and going out to eat.
Calling Killington’s hosting a “win-win-win for the region, racers, and resort,” Maeder isn’t alone in hoping the World Cup will return.
If Killington does decide it would like to host future events with USSA, there needs to be an opening in the FIS World Cup schedule to be considered. With USSA officials like President Tiger Shaw and Kelly wanting to see Alpine World Cup events continue to be held in the East, it is possible (and maybe even likely) that a Killington repeat might happen.
Either way, the success of the events has reinvigorated the region and, hopefully, re-injected confidence in the New England ski and snowboard industry. And the value of that is priceless.