Marco Sullivan was
denied his chance at
the downhill…but his
fans didn’t seem to
mind too much.
one of the best U.S. ski teams of all time or the magic of, say,
Bode Miller, in person. “It was a huge letdown,” said one fan at the
finish area. “Huge. I don’t know when I’ll get to see another World
Cup race. I’ve never seen a World Cup race live.”
For the USSA’s financial supporters, Birds of Prey is a marquee
weekend, one of the only chances many of the donors get to actu-
ally see their investments pay off. “There is just tremendous pent-
up excitement from all the stakeholders after the Olympics,” said
Calum Clark, the USSA’s vice president of events. “Seeing our
stars race at home on the classic Birds of Prey downhill, the future
sight of the World Championships, there’s that buzz and energy
— I think that the letdown was big. You don’t get to see what you
came here for.”
Another fan, a professional skier, expressed frustration. “Cancel-
ing the downhill, alpine racing’s premiere event, proved that ski
racing is it’s own worst enemy,” he said. “Why didn’t they host the
downhill today [Saturday] and the super G Sunday? There’s so
much momentum right now for the sport and we need to capitalize
But pulling off a race isn’t as simple as rejiggering the schedule.
Executing a World Cup event involves hundreds of volunteers,
dozens of sponsors and millions of dollars. One USSA official esti-
mated the cost of the Birds of Prey weekend at $2.5 million.
Planning for the Birds of Prey begins almost as soon as the previous year’s races end, with full ramp-up beginning by the end of the
summer. According to Jennifer Mason of the Vail Valley Foundation, who manages the volunteer effort, more than 550 volunteers
worked on this year’s races.
Two hundred volunteers made up the Talon Crew, which spent
eight hours a day for 10 days preparing the course. That translates into 16,000 hours of manpower going into the course alone.
Add another 300 volunteers who each donated 24 hours of their
time, and that’s 23,200 hours of free labor that went into pulling off
the race weekend.
How does it feel for the volunteers when the marquee event is
canceled? “We were disappointed like everybody else is because
we wanted to see the race go on,” said Jon McLaughlin, a volunteer from Minnesota. “Plus, we were so involved in making the
race happen and excited to see these athletes. It was a big letdown, but of course we understood the safety concerns.”
Michael Imhof, vice president of operations and sales for the Vail
Valley Foundation, the USSA’s partner in hosting Birds of Prey,