When Killington’s starting gate burst open for the 2016 Audi FIS Ski World Cup in November of last year, it marked New England’s first world-class ski race in a quarter-century. An estimated 30,000 spectators cheered on women in the slalom and giant slalom. The event was such a success that the Vermont ski resort, the U.S. Ski Team, and the International Ski Federation (FIS) quickly renewed it for 2017 and 2018, with the next installment scheduled the weekend after Thanksgiving this fall.
World Cup events typically have been awarded to western destinations, such as Aspen and Vail, where higher elevations help ensure good snow and allow for longer runs. But snowmaking technology has come a long way in recent years, and those advances provided the confidence to host an international event. “It was a real leap of faith, but we convinced them we could pull it off,” Rob Megnin, Killington’s director of sales and marketing, says of the discussions with U.S. and international ski officials.
To prepare for 2016, Killington’s snowmaking team ran as many as 120 snow guns simultaneously on Superstar Trail, the black diamond run where both races were held. That’s approximately one snow gun for every 20 feet, or double the equipment used for a typical weekend.
This year’s event, November 25 and 26, will feature nearly 100 of the top female skiers in the world competing in giant slalom and slalom. Although tickets sold out in less than a day after going on sale in September, about 7,500 additional spectators will be let in for free each day (visit killington.com/worldcup for more information), and NBC Sports will broadcast the event. “There’s significant demand for ski racing in the Northeast,” Megnin says. “It’s alive and well.”
Local skiers benefit beyond the race-weekend excitement: The snow base Killington put down last November extended the public season, and officials expect the same this year. Even after the rest of the mountain had closed, skiers were out on Superstar Trail on June 1 for the first time in 15 years.