Waxing on the World Cup
How could you be a skier in the East and not come to Killington for the World Cup?
Remember that first World Cup, back in 2016, when it was OK to hang out with thousands of other people? Not that anyone expected thousands to flock to Killington that year. It was the first alpine World Cup held in the Northeast since the days when Alberto Tomba, the Italian Stallion, ruled sports headlines. So who knew who might show up? It was, after all, Thanksgiving weekend.
Would the women’s alpine World Cup races attract as meager a crowd as the Dew Tour events held at Bear Mountain back in the aughts, when a few drunk hardy fans booted up the sides of the superpipe, looked over the rim and said, “Whoa,” before stumbling back a step or two? Or would the World Cup attract a Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge-type crowd—more about the partying than the competition?
Little did we know that more than 30,000 fans would make the pilgrimage to Killington that year (and for the next four), drawn by the chance to see Mikaela Shiffrin and her ilk ply their craft on Superstar and to soak in the vibe. That many people had not gathered in one place in the Green Mountain State since Phish played down the road from Vermont’s largest landfill in 2004.
I still remember seeing a silver Chevy Cruze parked on the steep hillside below the Upper Snowshed parking lot at that first Killington World Cup. The sedan sat precariously beside a Jeep Wrangler, a Lexus SUV and a couple of Subarus. At least those car owners found parking closer to the action than the poor souls who had to trudge up Killington Road from the Lookout.
And remember the lines for the two rows of porta-loos?
Credit to Killington for figuring out crowd management. World Cup v. 2 brought even more people to The Beast but shorter lines and less mud. How could you be a skier in the East and NOT come to Killington for the World Cup? For the next three years, I coveted my VIP parking pass as if it were a winning lotto ticket.
It wasn’t just us fans who loved the World Cup at Killington. The ski racers loved it, too. In Europe, women’s skiing—really, women’s anything—is still considered a sideshow, with a few thousand fans showing up for their races (as opposed to the men’s World Cup that brings out the hordes). At Killington, the women’s races were the main event. And the crowd cheered for everyone, from the Croatians to the Americans to Captain America roaming the stands.
It was the crowd, Mikaela once said, that carried her down the hill—and to four slalom wins in a row on Superstar.
Rumor has it that the U.S. men’s alpine team was jealous. They have the Birds of Prey World Cup in Beaver Creek, Colorado. But only a few thousand fans battle traffic on I-70 from Denver up to the Vail Valley, bus it to the Beav’s base area from parking lots below and then hike halfway up the mountain to the racecourse. At Killington, you can park your car, hop on a bus, and you’re there. For free! Hell, if you are lucky enough to score parking at Snowshed or Ramshead—or a VIP pass for the KBL lots—you can almost watch from your car.
Of course, that was all in the Before Times. World Cups in North America were canceled last season due to the fu#$%& pandemic, and uncertainty remains. Not that gathering that many people in one space was exactly healthy, even back then. One year, right after the Killington World Cup, my daughter came down with the first diagnosed case of the flu in Rutland County. But catching the flu...those were the good ol’ days, right?
Despite the Covid-19 risks, the World Cup tour was actually held in Europe last winter, proving that the show could go on—safely. And the show will return to Killington once again this year. Hooray!
So grab your vaccination card or print out your negative Covid test result, and head up to Killington (anti-vaxers, you’ll have to watch from home). I’m going to wear a mask, too. Even if it muffles my cheering.