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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The delicate reorganization of the World Cup calendar

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Image: GEPA pictures/ Mathias Mandl (GEPA pictures)
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Aspen has not proven itself as an organizer – whether and when the US department will appear again on the calendar is open. Two trips to North America had already been criticized this year with regard to the environmental balance. This gives a glimpse of how difficult a win-win calendar redesign will be.

Bad luck with the weather, a rather “simple” route, poor infrastructure, sloppy organization and a manageable crowd of spectators. The fact that the three races in the Rocky Mountains (one of which was canceled due to the weather) was not exactly what FIS President Johan Eliasch wanted to achieve can hardly be argued away. He is pursuing the goal of getting more fans from the USA excited about top-class World Cup sport.

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At the beginning of March, the departments there were better frequented and the basic interest was higher than in November or December, the Briton had claimed at the beginning of the season. A week before Aspen, the World Cup also stopped in Palisades Tahoe in California in February. The technology events there were better organized and sold out according to the organizers, but were equally affected by wind and weather.

“I don’t think it makes sense to travel to America twice like that,” said ÖSV President Roswitha Stadlober during the Alpine World Championships in Méribel. The necessary effort is logistically “amazing, financially madness,” she stated. “If I cumulate all nations, I think that’s a seven-figure amount of additional costs. And I didn’t understand who has the added value,” said Swiss Ski President Urs Lehmann. “I’ve always said that if there is a coherent concept, we support it, but I’ve never seen the concept, how and why.”

Eliasch’s vision is to raise alpine skiing to the same level as global sports such as tennis, golf or Formula 1. To do this, you have to be present in regions of the world other than Europe. World Cups in China are probably only a matter of time, indoor competitions in ski halls remain a fantasy. “It was an idea that (ex-ÖSV president; note) Peter Schröcksnadel pushed a lot,” explained the pugnacious entrepreneur. “Have a summer series of slalom indoors. You could go to Dubai, you could go to Oslo, there are some in London, in the Netherlands.”

At the same time, Eliasch promised more attention to climate protection. Reconciling that seems like squaring the circle, since long air travel accounts for the largest chunk of the carbon footprint. Almost everyone agrees that the start of the season will be later in the future and that the end of the season will consequently also be pushed back a little. In order to take into account the fact that there will be less and less snow before Christmas in the future and only at very high locations.

ÖSV frontwoman Stadlober recently suggested to visit several World Cup destinations in the USA one after the other. “We know that in North America the conditions are just good from October to December. It works, then we’ll do the first block over there,” she said. That would at least reduce transatlantic flights – but it would also alienate established tour operators such as Val d’Isere, Gröden and Alta Badia. “The topic is of course a ‘hot topic’, since every country has its traditional race that is defended with a lot of heart and soul. But nowadays you have to be able to think in this direction,” explained BOKU professor Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider from the Institute for Landscape Development.

Another problem: Due to the increased travel activity – keyword jetlag – the possibilities of the active to regenerate sufficiently between the competitions would further diminish. “Here it would not only be in the interest of sustainability, but also the mental health of the athletes to rethink the race calendar,” said Pröbstl-Haider in the current issue of the ÖSV magazine “Ski Austria”. So maybe less would actually be more, even if a streamlined calendar meant less revenue for the big players in the game.

Source: Nachrichten

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