Ski industry professionals understand when the holidays roll around, there’s little hope for a vacation.
But even the sport’s top-tier officials had to cut their long Christmas weekend short to field conference calls, host meetings and try to figure out how to pull off the second round of the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix. Last week, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association announced it was forced to move the event from Northstar California Resort to Breckenridge Ski Resort, saying warm temperatures on the West Coast were hampering snowmaking operations and Northstar’s ability to construct an Olympic-quality venue.
Since making the announcement, Eric Webster, USSA’s Grand Prix tour director, said event coordinators have spent the majority of their time in meetings and on the phone trying to organize the event with a window of just a few weeks. The second leg of the Grand Prix, which has been in the works for more than two years, marks the third of five qualifying events for freeskiers and snowboarders hoping to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
“Northstar is, was and has been an amazing partner,” Webster said Thursday. “We’ve literally been working with them for two and a half years, but fortunately they’ve been awesome about it and Breckenridge’s willingness to take it on has made the whole process easier.”
Breckenridge was an obvious alternate venue, Webster said. For one, it’s in the Vail Resorts family and a lot of Northstar employees who have been planning the Grand Prix stop for years are coming to town to help out. It also doesn’t hurt that the first leg of the Grand Prix was held last week at Copper Mountain. With much of that event’s infrastructure still in place in Summit County, Breckenridge officials are getting firsthand experience in how a Grand Prix event is managed.
However, Breck’s biggest draw stemmed from its having hosted the Dew Tour earlier this month. The Dew Tour marked the first U.S. Olympic Team qualifier for freeskiers and snowboarders, and an Olympic-quality venue already is in place.
“It’s not plug and play,” said Kieran Cain, Breck’s marketing director. “There’s going to be a lot of work that needs to be done, but the state of the venue is really what made us believe we could take this on.
“The pipe and the slopestyle course are both in awesome shape and looking great.”
Although Breckenridge has a lot of positive things going for it, there is one particularly challenging aspect involved in bringing the “Road to Sochi” back for a Colorado encore — holiday tourism.
The Dew Tour is intentionally scheduled for mid-December to ring in the official start of winter, Cain said, but Christmas marks the beginning of the holiday rush. The week of Christmas through the week or two after New Year’s is traditionally Breck’s busiest time of year.
“Right now the biggest thing we’re focusing on is the logistics of parking and finding places for people to stay,” Cain said. “We’ve got all of these athletes coming in, fans, the media, sponsors and volunteers. They need places to stay and conference rooms for meetings, so the real challenge is how do we find space for everybody.”
That detail may take some more ironing out, but Cain is confident Breck has what it takes to pull off another world-class event.
“Sure, it’s a lot of work and only complicated by this being a busy time of year for us, but we really couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring the Road to Sochi back through Breck,” Cain said.
In addition to being U.S. selection events, the Copper Grand Prix and now Breckenridge Grand Prix also double as FIS World Cup events, drawing international freeskiers and snowboarders. Competition at Breckenridge kicks off Wednesday, Jan. 8, and runs through Sunday, Jan. 12.
The final two selection events will be back-to-back competitions in Park City, Utah, for freeskiing, and Mammoth, Calif., for snowboarding.