By Reese Brown
U.S. Alpine racer Resi Stiegler on-course at Killington.
By Karen D. Lorentz
For those who don’t follow ski racing, the FIS World Cup series is quite a big deal. It’s a rare opportunity to see the best in the world compete in various ski disciplines right here in Killington. Prior to last year, it had been 25 years since a World Cup Alpine race had been held on the East Coast. Pent up demand in New England—which has more ski racers than any other area of the country—drew 30,000 spectators over the two-day event last year. Those numbers dwarfed even most European races, where ski racing is always a popular spectator event. Here’s a brief background of FIS ski racing, to help put the race in perspective.
FIS was founded February 18, 1910, in Norway when 22 delegates from 10 countries joined together to form in the International Skiing Commission. The group—with 14 member nations—became formally known as the International Ski Federation (Fédération Internationale de Ski) on Feb. 2, 1924, during the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix, France.
FIS Nordic World Championships in cross country and jumping were held annually from 1924 to 1939 (when World War II was starting).
The Alpine (Slalom and Downhill) World Championships were held 1931-1939. In 1932 a combined category was added. Along the way, Olympic medals counted as FIS medals.
After the war, the championships were held very two years (even numbered) and then starting in 1985, in odd-numbered years. The Giant Slalom was soon added as a third discipline and Super G and Alpine Combined were added in 1987.
The first FIS World Alpine Championships held in the U.S. were at Aspen in 1950.
Today, 128 national ski associations comprise the membership of FIS, and FIS is the international governing body for skiing and snowboarding for the FIS international circuit of Alpine, Cross Country, Freestyle Nordic Combined, ski jumping, and snowboarding.
Founding the FIS Alpine
Ski World Cup
In winter 1966 a group of ski racers began the Europa Cup race series as a way to determine a season’s best racers. (Killington’s Leslie Smith, then 14, competed in the Europa Cup in Europe and a win catapulted her onto the US Ski Team, 1976 Olympics, and 1978 World Cup at Stratton.)
European journalist Serge Lang, French coach Honore Bonnet, and US Alpine Ski Team Director Bob Beattie suggested the series idea be expanded to an FIS Alpine World Cup at the FIS World Championships held at Portillo, Chile, in August, 1966, and the World Cup became an official FIS event in spring 1967.
(Beattie was the head coach for the US Ski Team from 1961 through 1969, founded the World Pro Ski Tour in 1970, and also was a commentator for ABC Sports.)
The first Alpine FIS World Cup races were held in Europe in winter 1967. The first World Cup races held in North America took place at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, N.H., March 10-12, 1967. The world’s top ski racers competed in three events and attracted some 20,000 spectators for three days of racing. The next stops were Vail and Jackson Hole for men’s and women’s GS and Slalom events.
The overall title in 1967 was based on the best three Downhills, best three Giant Slaloms and best three Slaloms. Jean-Claude Killy won 12 competitions out of 15 and the overall title with 225 points. Nancy Greene of Canada was the overall female winner with 176 points, a squeaker over Marielle Goitschel of France with 172 points. Killy and Greene took the next season also.
Today, Alpine ski competitors have five World Cup disciplines that they can participate in, in a season that starts in October and ends in March.
Eventually, FIS World Cups were added in Freestyle and Donna Weinbrecht, who honed her bump skills on Bear Mountain’s moguls, won five Overall World Cup championships and took 46 individual World Cup mogul events, a record another Vermonter, Hannah Kearney, tied.
Snowboarding FIS World Cup events were added in 1994-95, expanding to now include Snowboard Cross, Giant Slalom, Parallel Giant Slalom, and Halfpipe.
Big Air was added to the World Cup calendar as an official discipline for 2001-02.
FIS Alpine World Cup in the East
FIS Alpine World Cup events were last held in the East in 1991 at Waterville Valley, N.H., and in Vermont in 1978 at Stratton Mountain – until, that is, the Audi FIS Women’s World Cup GS and Slalom events were held Thanksgiving Weekend 2016 at Killington.
The 2016-2017 season marked the 50th anniversary of FIS World Cup racing and the first time an event was hosted at Killington. As the competition enters its 51st season, it is part of a larger series that attracts more attention to snow sports, and with the second hosting at Killington, the 2017 Audi FIS Women’s World Cup GS and Slalom events are good for skiing, Killington, and the greater Rutland Region.
“Fifty percent of all the athletes in the whole US Ski & Snowboard program [a parent organization of the U.S. Ski Team] come from the East,” according to last year’s Chief of Race Ted Sutton.