Canceled North American World Cup ski races include Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek |

Canceled North American World Cup ski races include Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek races annual early-season staple for 20 years

By Ross Leonhart
Vail Daily
Marco Obermatt of Switzerland passes the second gate before the finish during the Xfinity Birds of Prey FIS Ski World Cup men's super-G race in December 2019 in Beaver Creek. Obermatt took first.
Chris Dillmann /

VAIL — The International Ski Federation announced Thursday morning that it is canceling its North American ski races for the 2020-21 season, including Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek Resort, and keeping its World Cup competitions in Europe.

For the men, races canceled include the speed weekend in Lake Louise, Canada, planned for Nov. 25-29, as well as both speed and tech events at Beaver Creek planned for Dec. 1-6. The World Cup organizers plan to return to these sites for the 2021-22 season. For the women, the cancellations impact the giant slalom and slalom events at Killington, Vermont, planned for Nov. 28-29, and the speed week in Lake Louise planned for Dec. 1-6.

In an FIS news release Thursday morning, organizers cited “protecting health and welfare of all participants to the best extent possible” for its decision.

Markus Waldner, FIS men’s chief race director, said in the release that the desire and motivation to hold the races as scheduled for all parties was strong. He added that the training setup and races in the United States and Canada are very much appreciated by teams. But ultimately, he said the “unique logistics and situation” for the early season Alpine races “has current travel restrictions and corresponding quarantine regulations in both directions, which led to this joint decision.”

The World Cup event has been an annual early season staple for ski fans in the mountains of Colorado for two decades. In 1999, the Birds of Prey racecourse made its debut at the World Championships in front of 20,000 fans, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, after the 1989 World Championships helped put Vail and Beaver Creek on the world stage.

In one summer, 1997, the Birds of Prey course was constructed at Beaver Creek.

“What the challenging thing on Birds of Prey is you need a different attitude to ski,” said course designer Berhnard Russia, who earned Olympic gold and silver, World Championship gold and nine World Cup downhill wins for Switzerland in the 1970s. “Out of the starting gate you have to be very light and very smooth. And once you come over the Brink, and it changes from heaven to hell. From one moment to the other you have to change your technique completely.”

It became a place where Americans would shine — 11 wins between 2003 and 2014 — which no doubt helped draw the crowds that have flocked every year. 

“It’s our big home race. It’s the only race we (men) get to have in the United States,” said American Ted Ligety in 2008. “It’s very important for us. It’s nice to be able to go to a race here where your friends and family can show up. Beaver Creek is obviously awesome for all events.”

Last year, American Tommy Ford thrilled American ski racing fans when he won the giant slalom.

In 2016, the Birds of Prey races were canceled due to snow conditions.

Mike Imhof, president of the Vail Valley Foundation, said in a statement the decision is “in the best interest of the health and safety of the world cup athletes, coaches, technicians, volunteers, media, staff, all of the World Cup fans, and the World Cup tour itself.

He added the foundation looks forward to hosting the event in December 2021. The Vail Valley Foundation has helped host the annual World Cup races for decades, and led the hosting of three Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek in 1989, 1999 and 2015.

Nadia Guerriero, vice president and chief operating officer of Beaver Creek Resort agreed that the cancellation is “in the best interest of all parties,” and the resort looks forward to hosting the event in December 2021.

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