The magic of Killington's Audi FIS Ski World Cup
It's difficult to put into words the magnitude of the weekend we just experienced, as a school, as a town, as a resort, as a community, as a state, and as a sport. The impact of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup that took place here in Killington on November 26-27 has been broad-reaching and is sure to be a lasting one. At times, we've found ourselves overwhelmed with emotion and even brought to tears over just what took place this past weekend and for how it all came together so seamlessly, thanks to the tireless teamwork of so many. This event has been a year in the works for many in the region, and its success hinged on such a wide variety of variables --some capable of being controlled and some not-- and in the end, the entire weekend from start to finish could not have been better scripted. When reflecting on this unforgettable weekend, there's no better place to start than on day one, Friday November 25th.
After a Thanksgiving day spent with family and friends, the KMS community reconvened on campus for a very special opportunity Friday afternoon. Members of the U.S. Ski Team arrived on campus to sign autographs and answer questions for a crowd of admiring fans of all ages. Members of the Killington Ski Club and the Killington Elementary School, including many young Development team athletes of all disciplines were on hand, along with multiple members of the media, thrilled at the chance to get up close and personal with some of their role models. Head of School Tao Smith gave a brief introduction, and after a welcome by USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw, the US Team members all answered questions about their sport, their training and their lives for the enthusiastic crowd. Then the signing began, and the women stayed until every single poster, hat, race suit, program, and/or photo was autographed, smiling and answering questions as each person moved through the line. The opportunity to interact with such amazing athletes was one for which we are all eternally grateful. We recognize that time and rest are precious, and so we extend our deepest gratitude to the U.S. Ski Team for this amazing opportunity.
Saturday morning started bright and early with a VARA (Vermont Alpine Racing Association) sponsored parade of young athletes from clubs and programs throughout the state of Vermont, with KMS students acting as marshals. After the parade the race got underway, and the Giant Slalom proved to be an exciting event, commencing with one of the most riveting moments of the weekend for our crowd, KMS Alpine athletes and Vermont residents Becca Clark and Ava Mattsson getting the chance to act as forerunners on the course. Both girls skied incredibly well in front of a crowd now estimated at 18,000 fans. Clark summed up the moment commenting, "I got to the bottom and looked up at the crowd and just thought 'Oh my gosh this is amazing!'"
The crowd really was amazing and in fact, was the biggest crowd ever in history for a women's World Cup race. The stands were full of cheering, smiling faces, and noise made by cowbells and by the green "banger stix" adorned with KMS and KSC logos that were handed to spectators at the KMS tent in the World Cup village. The surface proved to be challenging on Saturday, as were the weather conditions, with fog and afternoon snow, and a course that got choppy as the day went on. In the end, it was France's Tessa Worley who took the top spot on the podium, with Norway's Nina Loseth in second and Italy's Sofia Goggia in third. The day was capped off by an awesome performance by the band O.A.R, with happy fans dancing along to the music under snowy skies. It was straight from the hill and down to the KMS Alumni Gathering held at the beautiful Highline Lodge for many, and the evening was the perfect way to celebrate the day's success with friends.
On Sunday roughly 14,000 spectators turned up to do it all again, this time watching the slalom race, and many kept their fingers crossed for the local favorite, Mikaela Shiffrin. The conditions were much better on Sunday, with many athletes praising the course and the snow. KMS PG Alpine athlete and Woodstock, VT resident Cassidy Bebo rocked the SL course as a forerunner, coming across the line with a huge smile on her face and sharing that it was "the run of her life." Her coaches agreed, saying that especially on the top half of the course, she held her own with some the World Cup athletes who would follow her. In the end, Shiffrin delivered, bringing home the win in front of enthusiastic and animated fans, her family, and most especially, her 95 year old "Nana" who had never before been able to see her granddaughter race in a World Cup. It truly was the perfect end to the perfect weekend. Rounding out the podium were Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener.
The resounding refrain from many of the athletes interviewed during the weekend was praise for the Resort in their ability to put on a spectacular event, and praise for the enthusiastic crowds, the likes of which these athletes have never seen at one of their events, even in Europe. There was a tremendous sense of pride among many of the locals for being able to pull off such a massive feat, and for doing so skillfully. One comment echoed by many involved was that "everyone was so happy" all weekend. It was striking to be part of a crowd of such happy, smiling people. The weekend unified the community both at large and at the school in an important and heartwarming way, and catapulted KMS and the town onto a global stage, the effects of which are far reaching and are at times, as incomprehensible at this moment as they are exciting.
The spirit of volunteerism among KMS students, parents, teachers, coaches, staff, and friends was inspiring, with dorm parents driving shuttles to and from the venue for two days straight, to students and staff manning the KMS tent Saturday and Sunday, to students helping athletes get their bibs on race day, to hard-working crews who tirelessly slipped the course for hours and hours Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, to coaches arriving on the hill at 6 a.m. for several days prior to and during the weekend, and staying until well after dark as they set up B net, shoveled, prepared snow, hosed the course down in freezing conditions, and to a student-initiated group who collected trash from under the stands when everyone had gone on Sunday...the list goes on and on. Everyone stepped up to join the team of Killington Resort staff and community volunteers to help pull off this tremendous show; it takes a village, and boy did we have an amazing one.
Monday was met with sleepy eyes, tired and sore bodies, and some hoarse voices, but also with non-stop smiles, hugs, and many moments happily reminiscing about the weekend. At KMS we have always held in our hearts the knowledge of just how special we are, and what a family we have in this community of outstanding student-athletes, coaches, teachers, and staff; in addition, we have always known how amazing our home resort is, how lucky we are to train and compete on such incredible terrain, and to have the relationships we do with the Killington management and Mountain Operations team. And yet now, as a result of this very special weekend, the world has gotten a glimpse into the magic that is Vermont, that is Killington, and that is Killington Mountain School. We are so proud of the success of this World Cup and so incredibly thankful to have been a part of it. The future is wide open and the possibilities are simply endless; KMS really does take you places, this time without even having to leave town.