Bill McNeney is flying to New Zealand this weekend for the FIS Congress and hopes to return with signed agreements for World Cup races at Whistler. McNeney, part of the W5 group and chief of race for the Whistler World Cup events, hopes to return with a signed agreement from the FIS regarding the organization’s 10-year commitment to schedule men’s downhills at Whistler. Mayor Ted Nebbeling went to the world championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain in February and returned with a verbal commitment from the FIS. "We’ve got to get these detail things sorted out, FIS’s interpretation of their commitment," McNeney said. He also hopes to finalize a verbal agreement the Italian company Halva has made to the W5 group (the Whistler Resort Association, Whistler Mountain Ski Corporation, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Chamber of Commerce and the Vancouver Ski Foundation). Halva bought all marketing rights for World Cup races in Canada from Alpine Canada, even though the W5 group had been telling Alpine Canada all winter that they need to be able to sell 30 per cent of the marketing rights themselves in order to make the event work. David Perry of Whistler Mountain met with a Halva representative at the end of March and reached a hand-shake agreement that would give the W5 their 30 per cent. However, nothing has been heard from Halva since. McNeney hopes to be able to meet with Halva representatives in New Zealand. Signed deals are important because the W5 group will likely have to borrow upwards of $3 million to install snowmaking and other infrastructure this summer in time for the December race. Getting a loan from anyone without a signed agreement from the FIS will be next to impossible, but because decisions on equipment and applications for water rights had to be made early the W5 group has committed itself to installing the snowmaking and other infrastructure improvements. "We’re spending money. If this thing goes sideways we’re incurring a lot of debt," McNeney said. The FIS Congress will also be an opportunity for McNeney to meet with officials regarding the latest safety standards and equipment needed on the course. As well, he is scheduled to meet with a representative from Vail to talk about what a bid for the world championships would entail. When Nebbeling met with FIS officials in Spain they suggested Whistler submit a bid for the world championships, which are usually held every second year. Vail hosted the 1989 world championships and will host them again in 1999. Sestriere, Italy is hosting the 1997 world championships. If Whistler is interested in hosting the world championships, possibly in 2003, a bid would likely involve both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.