Sports » Features

world cup

Downhill deal would secure race World Cup race for 10-15 years A long-term deal to bring men’s World Cup downhill racing to Whistler every December "is in the making." Representatives of Alpine Canada met with the W5 group — Whistler Mountain, the Whistler Resort Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Vancouver Ski Foundation and the Resort Municipality of Whistler — Monday. The Alpine Canada representatives took a proposal back to Calgary and will be recommending their board of governors approve the deal. "We want to make the World Cup part of the Whistler experience," says Mayor Ted Nebbeling, who is involved in the negotiations. "But it means Alpine Canada will not make too much money off the Whistler World Cup for the first five years, but stands to make up to 25 per cent of the profits from the overall event, after the long-term infrastructure debt is paid off." The deal would guarantee Whistler a men’s World Cup downhill in December for the next 10-15 years. The W5 group wants to build a whole season-opening festival around the December World Cup races, with eventual profits from the festival going to a foundation that would fund local projects and charities. However, it will be some time before any profit is seen from the event. The W5 group must secure a loan to cover the $2.8 million in infrastructure required for a December race — much of that cost being for snowmaking down the entire length of the course. According to Bill McNeney of the Vancouver Ski Foundation, Alpine Canada has agreed to accept a lower sanction fee for the first five years, in return for some marketing rights, such as on-hill signs for some of the team’s sponsors and the right to hold fund-raising dinners during the festival. "I’m more encouraged than ever," says McNeney, "but once we get into this everybody can’t be looking for profit until we pay down the debt." The International Ski Federation (FIS) has traditionally awarded races and their television rights to national ski federations, which then charge a sanction fee to the ski areas that hold the races. However, the W5 group has been working with FIS representatives for some time and they want any men’s World Cup downhill race in Canada to be held in Whistler. Alpine Canada, which is under heavy financial constraints, appears to have seen the Canadian World Cup race as an opportunity to make some money. Nebbeling says Alpine Canada tried to hold up Lake Louise as an alternative site for a men’s downhill, but the W5 group feels the FIS want to race at Whistler or not at all in Canada. "Alpine Canada could have ended up with 100 per cent of nothing," Nebbeling says, adding if the race isn’t held at Whistler it would likely go to Aspen or Sun Valley, two American resorts lobbying hard for a World Cup downhill. Nebbeling will go to Spain next month to meet with FIS officials at the World Alpine Ski Championships and fill them in on Whistler’s plans.