World Cup Ski Races Called Off for Good


Thursday, November 30th 2006, 7:58 am
By: News On 6


BEAVER CREEK, Colo. (AP) _ A shortage of snow in Europe and a shortfall of sponsorship dollars in America adds up to a very dry December for World Cup skiers and their fans. In a surprise announcement Wednesday night, Guenther Hujara, director of the men's World Cup, said there wasn't enough sponsorship support for Colorado resorts to hold some of the ski races that have been scrapped by warm weather and a lack of snow in Europe.

Hujara called the impasse one of the most frustrating situations he's ever been in because the Birds of Prey course, where nearly 3 feet of snow had fallen in 48 hours, is in such great shape.

``We all know we have more than excellent course conditions on this hill. Everything is ready. The course is ready. People are ready. Racers are ready. Everything is there, and we can't put races together for next week,'' Hujara said.

For several days, FIS officials had been working with organizers in Aspen and Beaver Creek to stage some of the scrapped events in Colorado.

``It would have been great,'' American star Bode Miller said.

But negotiations came up $350,000 shy of being able to reschedule some races, Hujara said.

``I was extremely optimistic just because the venues were all set,'' U.S. head men's coach Phil McNichol said. ``Even though money makes the world go 'round, you would have thought it would have come together with the venues as good as they are and with how desperate the European situation is.''

Three World Cup stops have already been canceled and the men's races in Val Gardena, Italy, in two weeks also are imperiled by a lack of snow.

``I mean, there's a good chance the World Cup will be on hold for quite a while,'' McNichol said. ``It's just unfortunate. I know the (U.S.) Ski team, I know the Vail Valley Foundation, everyone worked really hard to make it happen and they just don't have the money. No one's going to be left holding the bag for $350,000.''

The disappointing news came on the same day that the men's downhill and super-combi races scheduled for Dec. 9-10 in Val d'Isere, France, were scrapped because of lack of snow, bringing to three the number of World Cup events canceled so far on account of unusually warm European weather.

The season-opening races on the glacier in Soelden, Austria, were wiped out because of heavy rain, and the women's events set for St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Dec. 9-10 were canceled because of a lack of snow. The women also have races in Val d'Isere, but later in December.

``Finding money at the last minute's not an easy task,'' McNichol said.

Hujara made the announcement at the captain's meeting, after which coaches scrambled to tell their athletes that they wouldn't be extending their stay at the Birds of Prey course, where the orphaned men's and women's super-combi races were expected to be rescheduled for sometime next week.

The only scheduled U.S. stops on the World Cup circuit are Aspen for women last and Beaver Creek for men this week. The super-combi, a race which adds the times from the downhill and a single slalom run, is scheduled for Thursday, followed by the downhill on Friday. The giant slalom and slalom are this weekend.