Killington Gears Up To Welcome Best Women Skiers For World Cup
The International Ski Federation formally approved snow conditions at Killington for this weekend’s World Cup races. Now work crews are busy putting the finishing touches on grandstands, VIP tents, camera platforms and other infrastructure needed.
It’s the third time the international women's skiing event will be held at the Vermont resort and upwards of 40,000 spectators are expected.
The FIS (International Ski Federation) Alpine Ski World Cup is the top international circuit of alpine skiing competitions for both men and women. This year, women's World Cup racers have already competed in Sölden, Austria, and Levi, Finland. The race in Killington will be the third in the womens' World Cup circuit, after which racers will head to Lake Louise, Canada. The race season is scheduled to end in March and competitors are ranked based on their cumulative finishes.
While the weather has cooperated for Killington so far this month, crews at the resort continue to work nonstop to ensure the right race conditions on the slopes.
Superstar Trail, where this weekend’s slalom and giant slalom races will take place, is a work in process. That process started in October, when temperatures dropped enough for the resort to begin making snow.
Jeff Temple, director of mountain operations at Killington, said on a typical slope they’d space snow guns 50 to 75 feet apart.
“On this trail, we actually run about 18 feet,” said Temple. “The snowmakers often joke that they can touch one gun to the next and it gets a little crowded, but that’s what we need to get the intensity in the limited amount of hours that we have between October and this race.”
Two bright red snow grooming vehicles make their way slowly down Superstar's steep headwall. They’re kept from sliding downhill by steel winches.
Temple said the grooming machines have been working on various parts of the slope nonstop. “What’s happened over the last couple days is it’s been groomed out,” he explained. “The terrain's been built in with terrain features, [like] some rolls that the racers like to see.”
“And then we’ve windrowed it, just like you would a field, and so it’s all opened up. And today, crews will walk all the way down it and just douse it with water. And then right after that,” added Temple, “we’ll get grooming cats back on it and tighten it all up, till it out, so that water starts to set up inside.”
Watch a video of Superstar Trail being groomed:
Elite racers want the hardest surface they can have, explained Temple, so to create that they'll actually inject the slope with even more water near the end of the week.
“We have these bars that go all the way across the slope," Temple said. "And crews walk every 4-to-6 inches over [an] eight-hour period down the trail, and water is actually forced into the surface through high-pressure nozzles.”
“And it actually creates a whole series of, like, icicles or cones below the snow’s surface,” said Temple, pointing up to the slope. The racers ski on top of those, he explained.
“We’ve been getting some natural snow this week and last week, and you really don’t want that,” said Temple, admitting that it’s ironic for someone in his business to not want natural snow. But he said for a World Cup race, “you want to scrape that off and have that surface as hard as you can have.”
Imagine a hockey rink nearly the length of the Empire State Building flipped on its side — Temple said that’s what racers will be hurtling down this weekend. And, he said, it's breathtaking to watch.
“It’s so cool to see the racers coming down and you’ll see some spray coming up from their skis. And, you know, on television or if you’re in the stands, it looks like some snow that you would kick off your skis, but they’re actually shaving that ice, it is so hard at that point,” said Temple, shaking his head.
"It's so cool to see the racers coming down and you'll see some spray coming up from their skis. And, you know, on television or if you're in the stands, it looks like some snow that you would kick off your skis, but they're actually shaving that ice, it is so hard at that point." — Jeff Temple, Killington Ski Resort
Temple has been working at Killington for decades, and with three World Cup races, he said the resort knows what it needs to do to host an event of this caliber.
And as someone who works behind the scenes to make it happen, he said the real the reward for him is seeing so many young kids in the stands watching.
“Especially the young girls, looking up to their rock stars from around the world," Temple said. "And that’s a reward to me that we’ve pulled it off and it’s inspiring all that next generation of racers.”
More than 70 World Cup skiers from 20 countries will compete this weekend, including Olympic gold medalist and Burke Mountain Academy alum Mikaela Shiffrin, who finished first in last weekend's World Cup slalom race in Levi, Finland. International champions like Sweden's Frida Hansdotter and France's Tessa Worley will also race.
The giant slalom event will be held Saturday at Killington and the slalom race on Sunday. Free musical concerts will be held both days as well.
The weekend’s festivities are free to the public and kick off Friday with fireworks, a concert and other events. You can find a full schedule here.