Planning for FIS World Cup entails experience, expertise, commitment
By Karen D. Lorentz
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles on Killington hosting the World Cup races on November 26-27, 2016.
It’s the first World Cup event to be held in the East in 25 years (the last was at Waterville Valley, N.H., in 1991). This is the first in Vermont since 1978, when Stratton hosted the event. The Audi FIS World Cup Women’s Giant Slalom and Slalom races couldn’t come at a better time.
Benefitting from Killington’s renowned expertise in snowmaking, the event will bring attention not only to Killington, Vermont tourism, and the entire Eastern ski industry, it will also serve to inspire athletes and boost the morale of skiers after last season’s less than stellar weather.
However, many are wondering how Killington can attempt such a feat so early in the season given last year’s temperatures. Others comment to Jeff Temple, director of mountain operations and facilities maintenance for Killington and Pico, that he must be “praying for snow.”
But Temple explained that his hopes differ. “I don’t care if one flake of snow falls, I need cold,” he said. Temple is confident of what the Killington team can produce if given those co-operating temps. That confidence stems from experience, expertise, and commitment. Experience Temple has experienced Killington’s operations prowess since joining the area as a lift operations supervisor in November 1980. Since then he’s held various jobs in lifts, snowmaking, and maintenance, becoming VP of mountain ops in 1997. When Powdr took over in 2007, his position expanded to include planning and compliance.
Part of his confidence comes from his own hands-on experience as well as his management perspective. It’s a perspective that includes his enjoyment of a challenge — “It’s what makes me tick,” he admits, adding he likes the amount of responsibility he has and “loves the technical challenges.” Planning for the World Cup is a challenge he thrives on, along with the dedication of the people he works with. Expertise Planning for the World Cup at Killington began last January and includes a study Temple conducted as part of efforts to provide the snow that will be needed on Superstar where the races take place. He “looked back 15 years at temperatures, threw out the outliers, and arrived at average temps from Oct. to Thanksgiving,” he explained. To provide the acre-foot of coverage needed for the course, he took into account the amounts of water and air required to make snow at various temperatures. He translated that into snowmaking hours to come up with a plan. That plan requires more snowmaking infrastructure and particularly more compressed air. So as not to take away from efforts to open the resort to guests with snowmaking on high elevation North Ridge (and moving down from there as temperatures get colder on lower sections of the mountain), he added more air capacity as part of the World Cup budget. He has also set up two teams; one will focus on Superstar and the World Cup and the other on the usual resort opening.
He also looked at piping on Superstar and “enhancements needed to take advantage of every cold moment to make snow,” he continued.
That meant more hydrants and adding additional temperature monitoring stations as well as dividing the trail into elevation zones since the peak is colder earlier than the base due to the elevation difference.
Keeping the snowmaking system charged so as to take advantage of cold temperatures also necessitates a careful manpower plan, as do the vagaries of temperature inversions, fall radiational cooling, and utility management — using less electrical power when peak loads in the region necessitate ski areas reducing their consumption. “Using experience, data analysis, system performance data over a number of years,” and the knowledge that Killington has a “passionate group of tenacious snowmakers,” Temple is confident the resort will be ready, he said. The grooming/snowmaking leadership team of Greg Hiltz, Dave Lacombe, and Steve Reynolds, who also thrive on challenge and their expertise from years of experience, enhance that confidence. Behind the scenes “We’re providing the logistical hill muscle,” Temple added, noting Killington Cat drivers will deliver the course fencing and groom while other team members focus on the top area or village below. Killington crews will prepare the snow on the hill in accordance with FIS regulations and experts. A course expert will ride in a grooming machine, making sure the hill is prepared to FIS specifications and give the groomer instructions as needed. Another crew of experts will mark and place gates for the race course. Already, a Killington crew has buried communication cables for the television cameras and videographers who will film the event and other infrastructure details are being seen to. Venue planning and preparations for the “village” — grandstands, tents, jumbo TV wall, bleachers, entertainment stage, mix zone (interview area), free spectator area for 7500 people, etc. — at Superstar’s base is ongoing. The overall event setup will take two to three weeks in November and will involve 300 volunteers in addition to Killington’s growing staff of workers to handle a gazillion tasks and details, from medical staffing to post-event concert. Thus far, all indicators suggest this event will be very popular: grandstand tickets sold out in a matter of hours and the call for volunteers has already been answered by more than 300 resulting in a waitlist.
Commitment Killington corporate parent Powdr Corp and USSA CEO Tiger Shaw are integral supporters of this event. Noting an organizing committee meets monthly and communicates by phone and email as well, Temple said Killington staff work well with outside experts and this enhances the overall commitment and confidence in putting on an event everyone can be proud of. Shaw has already praised Killington as a powerful partner and world-class venue that can provide a professional event of this scale, noted Killington Communications Manager Michael Joseph.
“Pulling it all off “ will be a source of pride not only for those involved, notes Temple, but also inspiration for the many ski academy athletes attending from around the East. Joseph added that U.S. World Cups have been hosted in the West and this event can once again put the East on the World Cup venue map. It will showcase Killington’s and the East’s world-class terrain as it is televised to over 70 countries, something everyone in the East can be proud of, he concluded.
Photo by Karen Lorentz
Jeff Temple stands by a preliminary map of the Superstar venue for World Cup events at Killington over the Thanksgiving weekend.