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Alpine Skiing's 'Super Bowl' Means Big Investments For Vail Valley

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Nathan Heffel
/
KUNC
This mural in Avon, Colorado is adjacent to a new hotel being constructed for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships

Towns across the Vail Valley are accelerating construction projects in anticipation of the "Super Bowl of alpine skiing," the 2015 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships. While the valley is no stranger to the event, there's still a lot of work to be done.

"Since the inception of the World Championships in 1931 there have only been 23 resorts around the world that have had the opportunity to host this once," said Vail Valley Foundation spokesman John Dakin. "This is our third time."

That unprecedented opportunity means investments in infrastructure, technology and services. The hope is that it will not only benefit the races, but the valley over the long haul as well.

The World Alpine Ski Championships will span the towns of Vail and Avon as well as the Beaver Creek ski resort. Most of the actual race events will occur on the Birds of Prey and Raptor race courses at Beaver Creek. The newly constructed Red Tail Finish Stadium there will hold 10,000 spectators with views of both courses.

Avon's Director of Economic Development, Susan Fairweather said the town of roughly 6,000 is pulling out all the stops for the championship, spending $7.1 million on new construction projects including $1.9 million on the new Main Street Mall and $3.7 million on a new performance pavilion on the shores of Nottingham Lake.

"We have construction going on, we have major developers such as the Wyndham coming into town, and we've got an international audience coming in through Avon," Fairweather said.

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Nathan Heffel
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KUNC

Beyond all the construction, the Vail Valley Foundation's John Dakin said there's another consideration since the last times the valley hosted this event in 1989 and 1999: technology.

Helping the world see the events unfold online has necessitated large scale improvement in cell service, as well as a new broadcast center. Dakin adds the completed projects will remain, improving communication across Vail and Beaver Creek, which have notorious cell service.

"All of the infrastructure stays. So, if you ski Beaver Creek on February 17 of 2015, you'll have the same cell phone service that was there for the two weeks of the World Championships, that is going to be part of the legacy of these championships," he said.

When it comes to the February championship, Avon will serve as a transportation hub and after race transitional area with daily festivals and events. Organizers are referring to Vail as "party central," since they are hosting the opening ceremonies and the nightly medal presentations.

Unlike tickets to the Winter Olympics that can run into the thousands of dollars, Daken said the World Championships are completely free.

"Free races, free transportation, free nightly concerts, free fireworks, there's a lot of things that are free," he said. "It could be a really amazing time to come up and ski Vail or Beaver Creek."

While Daken hopes Coloradans attend, Avon's Susan Fairweather said finding a hotel room for the games is quickly becoming difficult.

"Everything here is booking up, we're seeing just amazing, above average advance room nights being reserved, and we expect this town to be at full capacity," she said.

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Nathan Heffel
/
KUNC

The aviation director at the Eagle County Airport, Greg Phillips, is expecting a moderate uptick in commercial passenger traffic before and during the championships. There's also the likelihood of more private planes arriving during a typically slow time at the airport.

"That could be really busy," Phillips said. "And so we've been trying to monitor with them their bookings, because typically people go ahead and plan and notify them well in advance and you know right now, we're not seeing a big influx, but it's still pretty early."

Beaver Creek will have a test run for the World Championships December 5 with the Audi Birds of Prey World Cup men's downhill race. The 2015 FIS World Championships kick off February 2 with the Ladies Downhill Training and the opening ceremonies in Vail.

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