Thanksgiving tradition: Visa Aspen Winternational World Cup races

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on November 23, 2010 12:36 pm

Julia Mancuso trains giant slalom on the women’s World Cup slope in Aspen (Aspen/Snowmass – Jeremy Swanson)

ASPEN, CO – American Olympic gold medalists Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO), Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, CA) and World Cup leader, German Maria Riesch, take center stage Thanksgiving weekend when the Visa Aspen Winternational kicks off the classic North American swing of the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup.

Heavy early season snowfall has already blanketed the Colorado Rockies providing a picture perfect landscape in the fabled ski town of Aspen for Saturday’s giant slalom and Sunday’s slalom. The event will be seen nationally on NBC, Versus and Universal Sports, and beamed to millions worldwide.

Title partner Visa, one of the leading best-in-brand partners of the U.S. Ski Team, is the longest running Team supporter with roots dating back to 1986. The global payments technology company has also supported numerous individual Olympic athletes throughout their careers, including Mancuso.

“It’s great having Visa as such a loyal supporter of skiing and as a personal sponsor of mine for six years,” said Mancuso. “Visa has supported the U.S. Ski Team since before I made the Team.”

“Visa has played a legacy role over the span of nearly a quarter century in providing opportunities for aspiring Olympic athletes and helping to build global awareness of our sport,” said the USSA’s Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Andrew Judelson.

“It’s always special to race in Aspen,” said Vonn. “I know all my friends from Vail will be over to see the best skiers in the world go head-to-head on Colorado snow. My two aunts are coming out from Wisconsin and they haven’t seen me ski since I was 12. Plus my great aunt and uncle will be there along with Thomas’ parents, my friends and then entire Vonntourage. We don’t get that kind of support anywhere else.”

Fans can catch the action with a full television broadcast package featuring coverage on NBC, Versus and Universal Sports. NBC will feature the giant slalom Sunday at 1 p.m. ET with a replay set for Saturday, Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. ET on Versus followed by the slalom at 5 p.m. ET. Universal Sports will air the races on its 24-hour TV network Dec. 6-7 at noon ET.

Also expected to race in Aspen are Olympians Sarah Schleper (pictured right, Vail, CO), Megan McJames (Park City, UT), Hailey Duke (Boise, ID) and Leanne Smith (Conway, NH).

It will mark the seventh consecutive season of women’s World Cup in Aspen, however the classic ski town’s storied World Cup history dates back to 1968, when the former mining community hosted its first World Cup race in only the second season of the tour. Later, thanks to the efforts of local skiing legend Dick Durrance, Aspen hosted the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 1950.

“World Cup ski racing has a rich history in Aspen and is a part of the fiber of this community. It is important for all of us to carry on this tradition and continue to host the very best in the world on our storied slopes,” said John Rigney, Vice President, Sales and Events for Aspen Skiing Company.

“Staging world class events in premier resorts like Aspen allows our top athletes like Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso to help our sport reach an attractive skiing lifestyle market through television exposure on NBC and globally through our worldwide TV network,” said Judelson.

As a continuation of its World Cup legacy, Aspen has created the Champions Grove. Each year a Colorado Blue Spruce will be planted in the Grove to honor the winners of each race. A ceremony will take place on Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the base of the Ruthie’s lift following the women’s free ski training session. Last season’s winners, Kathrin Hoelzl of Germany and Sarka Zahrobska of the Czech Republic, are expected to attend.

Thanks to a favorable blanket of early season natural snow, the U.S. Ski Team took full advantage of a rare shot to train on the race hill Friday and Saturday. The International Ski Federation allows training on the competition slope up until five days prior to a World Cup race, however in recent years, the slope hasn’t been ready in time to host the bonus training sessions.

“It’s incredible skiing here at Aspen,” said women’s technical Head Coach Trevor Wagner as training kicked off. “The girls got in six runs of giant slalom this morning and we just finished setting slalom for a second session. We’ve got the same program running tomorrow – we’re fired up to be here.”

In addition to the athletes, fans will also receive the full Aspen experience with public events scheduled throughout the weekend. Saturday features an autograph signing with the U.S. Ski Team at 3:30 p.m. followed by a free concert featuring Blind Melon at 6:30 p.m. The concert wraps with the women’s giant slalom awards ceremony and fireworks.

Fans will even have the opportunity to go behind the World Cup scenes with free guided tours of the professional ski wax cabins on Saturday afternoon. Tours begin at 3:30 and 4 p.m. from the Mountain Chalet garage entrance.

Aspen Mountain opens to the public at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

2010 VISA ASPEN WINTERNATIONAL

Thursday, November 25
6 -9 p.m.  – Dine Around – Downtown Aspen Participating Restaurants

Friday, November 26
10 a.m.-4 p.m.  – Sponsor Village Open – Gondola Plaza
6 -9 p.m.  – Dine Around – Downtown Aspen Participating Restaurants
7 p.m. – Sneak Preview – Legend of AAHHH’s, a Film by Greg Stump – Wheeler Opera House – Cost $10 Tickets available at the Wheeler

Saturday, November 27
8 a.m.-4 p.m. Free Public Shuttles – Run every 20 minutes from Rubey Park –
St. Regis – Venue
10 a.m.-4 p.m. – Sponsor Village Open – Gondola Plaza
10 a.m. – RACE START: Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1 – Strawpile
11 a.m. – Taste of Winternational featuring complimentary food tastings and beverages from Cloud 9, ASC Catering, Cliffhouse, Ullrhof, Sam’s Smokehouse, Bumps and the Lynn Britt Cabin – Finish Area
11:30 a.m.-  Live Music – Double Diamond Band & Prize Giveaways – Finish Area
1:00 p.m. – RACE START: Women’s Giant Slalom Final – Strawpile
3:30-4:30 p.m. – U.S. Ski Team Autograph Signing – Gondola Plaza
3:30 and 4 p.m. – Guided Public Tours of Wax Room – Mountain Chalet Garage Entrance
6-9 p.m. – Dine Around – Downtown Aspen Participating Restaurants
6:30-8 p.m. – Bud Light Hi-Fi Concert Series featuring Blind Melon – Upper Gondola Plaza
8-8:15 p.m. -  Awards Ceremony for Giant Slalom Winners and Presentation of
Bingham Cup – Concert Stage
8:15 p.m. – Fireworks Extravaganza – Little Nell

Sunday, November 28
8 a.m.-4 p.m. Free Public Shuttles – Run every 20 minutes from Rubey Park –
St. Regis – Venue
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sponsor Village Open – Gondola Plaza
10:00 a.m. – RACE START: Women’s Slalom Run 1 – Strawpile
11 a.m. – Taste of Winternational featuring complimentary food tastings and beverages from Cloud 9, ASC Catering, Cliffhouse, Ullrhof, Sam’s Smokehouse, Bumps and the Lynn Britt Cabin – Finish Area
11:30 a.m.  – Live Music – Double Diamond Band & Prize Giveaways – Finish Area
1:00 p.m.  – RACE START: Women’s Slalom Final – Strawpile
6 -9 p.m. – Dine Around – Downtown Aspen Participating Restaurants

A complete Visa Aspen Winternational schedule is available at www.aspensnowmass.com.

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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