VAIL, Colorado (Reuters) - With cheerleaders, college football-style tailgating parties and a variety of musical entertainment, the 2015 world championships at Beaver Creek are all about big business with a unique American twist.
More than 120,000 fans are expected to attend the two weeks of ski races in the Vail Valley that conclude on Sunday and event organizers have arranged a wide-ranging program, on and off the piste, to give everyone attending “something special.”
Whether it is Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies, Austrian folk singer Andreas Gabalier, thrills and spills on the ski slopes or a ‘Vail-gating’ party for fans on arrival, there is been no shortage of entertainment on offer.
“We wanted to put our U.S. brand on these championships so we thought we would treat them a little bit more like we treat our other big sports, like football,” Ceil Folz, president of the 2015 world championships organising committee, told Reuters.
”We have an official cheerleading squad and at our opening ceremonies we had a marching band and an ‘a cappella’ group.
“We also have a thing called ‘Game Day’ before our football games and so we’ve set up an equivalent of that here called ‘Race Day.’ We’ve really borrowed a lot of things that we do in other U.S. sports.”
Tailgating has become an integral part of both college and professional football in the U.S. with food and drink parties conducted on and around the open tailgates of vehicles parked outside stadiums and arenas.
The Vail Valley version of tailgating was created to give fans at the world championships an instant party atmosphere.
“As people pull up into our parking lots, we’ve got food and beverage and we’ve got music going on,” said Folz. “We want to make sure that, from the minute people arrive here, they feel like they are at something special, at a party.”
The economic impact of the world championships being held in Colorado has already been significant, and Folz expects a total boost of around $130 million after Sunday’s concluding men’s slalom on the treacherous Birds of Prey course.
“The budget for the whole event is almost $60 million, of which about 10 percent is on our television production, about 20 percent is all television and the rest kind of breaks down,” said Folz.
“About $40 million comes from outside of the valley and $20 million came from within but we had much more than spent here just preparing for the championships, so we got an up-side before a single person took a turn on the course.”
While Folz has been delighted by the number of fans attending the world championships, highlighted by the record crowd of 25,000 for the blue riband men’s downhill on Saturday, she is especially interested in the television audience.
“For us, it’s seldom the economic impact we care about, it’s more about television and the impact of that, the number of eyeballs that get to see the races,” she said. “That’s really our big driver.”
Helping drive up extra interest from an American perspective has been the make-up of the U.S. team which boasts big names such as Lindsey Vonn, evergreen Bode Miller, four-time world champion Ted Ligety and rising star Mikaela Shiffrin.
“With Lindsey and Mikaela so recognizable and so liked, it’s really opened up the avenue of people being interested in ski racing that have never even skied before,” said Folz. “We’ve been able to reach out to all parts of the United States.”
As much as the U.S. fans have enjoyed watching their country’s skiers race over the past nine days at Beaver Creek, Shiffrin and her team mates have loved competing on home snow.
“Being at home, it has a very special atmosphere,” Olympic and world slalom champion Shiffrin told Reuters. “I just feel like a little kid again, and the crowds are having so much fun.”
Editing by Frank Pingue