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Killington World Cup Gets the Green Light Despite Mother Nature’s Curveballs

A snowmaking arsenal and a last-minute cold front mean the Killington World Cup will run as scheduled this year—a relief after a long list of race cancellations.

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After several weeks of record-high temperatures in Vermont, many thought the Killington World Cup would be added to the (long) list of race cancellations this season. As the days—and hours—ticked by, everyone with the World Cup on their radar obsessively checked weather apps and webcams.

But never doubt the Big K. After receiving a positive snow control from FIS (International Ski Federation), it’s confirmed: the Heroic Killington Cup will go on over Thanksgiving weekend.

Although Killington is known for opening every fall while flowers still bloom in other parts of New England, the ability to host this year’s World Cup was a close call.

After the remnants of Hurricane Nicole blew through the weekend of Nov. 12-13, bringing heavy rain and yet more balmy temps, cold air moved down from Canada with no time to spare. On Sunday, November 13 at 3:45 p.m.—less than two weeks before the first run of the women’s World Cup giant slalom—Killington’s mountain ops team fired up the first snow guns lining Superstar, Killington’s marquee trail and site of the World Cup slalom and giant slalom.

For comparison, the first year Killington hosted the World Cup (2016), the resort opened on Oct. 25—a full month before the races. Last year, it opened Nov. 3.

Killington World Cups snowmaking
Snow guns furiously spew snow onto Superstar slope, venue of the Killington World Cup giant slalom and slalom races on Thanksgiving weekend.

The snowmaking team had already placed 120 guns, spaced 18 feet apart (compared to the usual 50 feet) down the roughly 2,500-foot-long Superstar slope, as well as on neighboring Skylark, the training hill for World Cup racers. To begin the snowmaking blizzard, they just needed the wet-bulb temperature to drop to 26 degrees Fahrenheit (wet bulb temperature takes into account relative humidity). Snowmaking is ideal at temps under 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but Killington’s mountain ops team kept the guns running even when daytime temperatures rose into the 30s last week. By that point, the crew would take anything close to freezing.

The course crew needed more than just snow. They needed time.

Beyond the 100 hours needed to blow enough snow for the races, the groomers usually take up to two weeks to push, plow, till, and inject the snow with water to turn it into a safe race surface, explained Ben Finn, demo and training program manager for Prinoth North America. Killington uses three Prinoth winch snow cats (necessary to groom the two steep pitches that ramp up to 50 degrees) and one free groomer to prep Superstar and Skylark for the World Cup, and they’ll work long hours this week.

Killington World Cup crew shovel snow
The Killington World Cup prep team is used to dealing with Mother Nature’s quirks. Some years there’s barely enough snow, others (like in 2019) there’s almost too much snow to get the races underway.

“Everything depends on the weather and temperature,” added Finn. If it does not rain prior to the World Cup, crews will have to manually water the course “as if they are watering a garden.”

Then the race hill and training slope need time to set up, and the temperature plays a big role there, too. Fortunately, once winter blew into Killington last week, it stayed, providing temps in the teens through this past weekend. With those cold temps forecast to continue through at least Thanksgiving, the Killington World Cup is a go.

“I can confidently say that the entire Killington community is excited, and maybe a little relieved, to hear the news of FIS approval for racecourse snow preparation,” said Herwig Demschar, Killington World Cup organizing committee chairman and a senior vice president of Killington’s parent company, POWDR. “After such a warm fall, and with several races canceled elsewhere in the world, receiving the FIS approval is a testament to Killington’s powerful snowmaking system and expert team.”

The athletes breathed a sigh of relief, too.

“It’s one of those races that the weather doesn’t necessarily make it easy,” said Mikaela Shiffrin, who has won the Killington slalom five consecutive times. “I think you can ask any of the course crew what it is like to prepare the Killington slope just prior to those races. It’s not easy. And a lot of the years we’ve been there, it’s right up into the last minute that they’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?’

Related: Mikaela Shiffrin and teammates reveal their favorite and most-dreaded World Cup courses

“But they’re always able to get it off because of the professionalism and the motivation and just general love for the sport.”

Now that the Heroic Killington Cup has received the green light from FIS, things will really jump into motion. This week, 260 volunteers arrive, including enough local ski racers (and former ski racers) and coaches to create 14 race crews. They will finish setting up the base area, fencing, banners, and slip the course.

Crowd at Killington World Cup Races, 2019
Crowds have flooded the stands for the Killington World Cup since the inaugural race in 2016. (: Jack Arrix/U.S. Ski and Snowboard)

The thousands of fans who throng Killington every year for the World Cup will start showing up Friday, Nov. 25, for the bib draw that evening. On the morning of Saturday, Nov. 26, the “celebrity” gatekeepers arrive—Olympians and retired U.S. Ski Teamers like Barbara Ann, Marilyn, Lindy, and Bobby Cochran (all related to current U.S. Ski Teamer Ryan Cochran Siegle).

Shiffrin and the rest of the World Cup stars arrive early this week, too—many pulling into Killington after three flights from Levi, Finland (host of this past weekend’s women’s World Cup) to Boston or Montreal, then a three-hour drive to Killington. Despite the long travel, almost all of them call Killington their favorite World Cup.

“It’s a magical race because of the atmosphere we get and the crowd and the whole vibe around it,” said Shiffrin. “It’s absolutely one of my favorite events of the season.”

“It’s probably no secret that Vermont can be a little bit challenging with the weather or just the East Coast in general, we all know that,” she added. “But even then, the volunteers and the course crew and the organizing committee and Killington always get the maximum they possibly can out of the surface, the conditions, and put on the best race they possibly can.”

Shiffrin, who arrives in Killington fresh off a double victory in Levi, will look to start off as strong in the first giant slalom of the season (and claim her first Killington GS win) on Saturday, Nov. 26, while also defending her title as reigning Killington slalom champ on Sunday, Nov. 27.

How to Watch the Women’s Killington World Cup Races

  • The sixth annual Killington World Cup takes place Nov. 26-27, 2022 on Killington’s Superstar track
  • Stream the first run of the women’s World Cup giant slalom live at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, Nov. 26 on Outside Watch, or the Outside TV app, available on AppleAndroidRoku, or Fire TV streaming devices
  • Stream the first run of the women’s slalom live at 10:15 a.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 27 on Outside Watch, or the Outside TV app, available on AppleAndroidRoku, or Fire TV streaming devices
  • Outside+ members have unrestricted access to the live stream of the second runs of both events on Outside Watch or the Outside TV app, plus on-demand streaming after live coverage ends

See the full schedule and learn more about how to watch the Killington races on Outside Watch here.