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At Killington, the grandstands and glass-fronted VIP tent are in place at the bottom of the Superstar trail. The B-net started going up Tuesday. Tractor-trailers hauled in loads of race venue infrastructure and paraphernaila, including the JumboTron and a couple extra Pistenbullys. The top of the Killington Access road has been converted to a one-way loop.
It’s starting to feel like World Cup racing really is going to return to the East for the first time since 1991. On tap: a pair of women’s tech events—GS on Saturday (first run 9:30 a.m., second at 12:30 p.m.) and slalom Sunday (same start times). Forecasts call for winter temps and chances for snow through the weekend.
It’s a first ever for Vermont, and Green Mountain race fans—like the VARA junior racers who’ll be open festivities with a parade at 8:45 a.m. Saturday—are fired up.
“It looks like it’s gonna be world-class,” says Killington-bred skier and Salomon rep Mike Aicher. “It’s really impressive the amount of snow that’s been made and all the stuff they’ve been bringing in. I think by Wednesday and Thursday it’ll really start looking like a World Cup race venue.”
The last time the World Cup visited (1991, Waterville), a Maine girl and recent Burke grad, Julie Parisien, won the GS. Imagine the excitement if a girl with strong Vermont and New Hampshire ties can win it. “It was so special to be racing in the East,” says Parisien. “I’d love to see another athlete have that at Killington, to win in front of people who know you and supported you.”
Chances of that, of course, are extremely good. Mikaela Shiffrin, Parisien’s fellow Burke alum, is a clear favorite in Sunday’s slalom—she might even serve up one of her trademark field-destroying margins of victory. In GS, she has only one career win. But how much is homefield advantage worth?
The other big question: How many race fans will show up for their first White Circus fix in 25 years. Lacking a precedent, it’s hard to guess. Beaver Creek, where next week’s races have been cancelled, can pull some 10,000 for a Saturday men’s downhill. Killington enjoys proximity to Boston and New York, and demand is pent up.
“I’ve heard people saying between 10 and 15 thousand,” says Aicher. “We’re all trying to figure it out. There’s never been a World Cup in the modern era so close to major U.S. metros, and it’s also the only World Cup that’s going to happen in North America this year, with Beaver Creek and Lake Louise both cancelled.
“With so many families in the Northeast who ski and race, and then having Mikaela Shiffrin being a Burke grad, there’s going to be a lot of people and a lot of positive energy.”
If you’re going, Killington has lots of good information on what to expect.