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World Cup ski event closing in Park City

Resort says it can’t afford to continue hosting the race

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Erik Schlopy of Park City begins his first run of the Chevy Trucks America's Opening World Cup Men's Giant Slalom race this past November in Park City. Schlopy later fell on the run and was transported to the bottom on a toboggan. Park City has hosted Wor

Erik Schlopy of Park City begins his first run of the Chevy Trucks America’s Opening World Cup Men’s Giant Slalom race this past November in Park City. Schlopy later fell on the run and was transported to the bottom on a toboggan. Park City has hosted World Cup racing for 17 years.

Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News

PARK CITY — Citing high costs and poor timing, Park City Mountain Resort announced Friday it will no longer be one of the first stops on the elite World Cup ski tour.

In fact, if the International Ski Federation can't come up with a date later in the season, World Cup racing in Park City will follow the same path as the town's early silver mining.

The resort has hosted the opening World Cup — called America's Opening — for the past 17 years.

"We've been talking with the U.S. Ski Team for the past two years to see if we can't come up with a later date," said Vern Greco, president and general manager of Park City Mountain Resort, "so this is no surprise. It's very difficult to hold an early season race.

"Combining the elements of risk, marketing and cost, it's no longer possible for us to hold an early season race like this."

America's Opening has been held in November, with only two exceptions, for the past 17 years. Because of the Olympics, the race was not held in the winter of 2002, and because of poor snow conditions, it was not held in 1999.

Park City has — usually even under the most adverse of conditions — been able to produce enough snow, either by natural means or with man-made snow, to hold the event.

Based on Park City's race record, the United States has been able to hold 90 percent of the early World Cup events in recent years. By contrast, the European record for the same period is less than 60 percent.

Greco said that in order to prepare the two ski runs for giant slalom and slalom races for the event, "it takes between 15 and 20 percent of our total snowmaking ability for the season.

"Because it's so early in the season, we're not able to give the public the best possible skiing conditions, and we end up opening with conditions that are less than what the competition is offering."

Bill Marolt, president and CEO of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, said he would be looking for a new location in the United States for

a World Cup race in 2004-05.

"This has been a difficult decision and, for us, a disappointing one, but we fully understand," he said. "We would like to maintain the number of races here in the U.S. Our goal is to review the process and figure out what we need to do to maintain a race schedule. We'll have to look hard at how we do things, and FIS (the ski federation) is going to have to look at the business part and look for a better way to deliver value."

Greco said if the ski federation, the governing arm of World Cup ski racing, was able to come up with racing dates later in the season, "we'd snap them up in a heartbeat."

Kip Pitou, president of Ski Utah, said holding the races in Park City has been a positive thing for Utah skiing. "It has positioned us as having top world-class ski areas. On the other hand, we understand the risks involved and fully support Park City in its decision. Hopefully, if the dates are available, World Cup racing can return to Park City at some point in time."

America's Opening has been an important event for the U.S. team over the years. Not only is it an opportunity for the U.S. team to showcase its talent to an American audience, but it allows the U.S. racers to compete under more favorable conditions, that is, in an environment they feel more comfortable in before heading over to Europe for a long string of World Cup events.

This past November, Bode Miller, the star of the 2002 Olympics, thrilled spectators by winning the World Cup giant slalom. It was the first win by an American ski racer on U.S. soil in more than 22 years.

Park City had been scheduled to hold America's Opening through 2005.

Deer Valley is scheduled to hold a World Cup freestyle event Jan. 30-31.

The three resorts involved in World Cup racing in the United State are Vail and Aspen, in Colorado, and Park City.

E-MAIL: grass@desnews.com