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Aspen Public Radio’s live broadcast of World Cup ski racing at Aspen Mountain

A World Cup ski racer slides into the finish area after a giant slalom run during the Stifel Aspen Winternational event at Aspen Mountain on March 1, 2024. Races continue throughout the weekend, with another giant slalom on March 2 and a slalom on March 3.
Breeze Richardson
Aspen Public Radio
A World Cup ski racer slides into the finish area after a giant slalom run during the Stifel Aspen Winternational event at Aspen Mountain on March 1, 2024. Races continue throughout the weekend, with another giant slalom on March 2 and a slalom on March 3.

Aspen Public Radio hosted a live broadcast of the Stifel Aspen Winternational World Cup ski races on March 1, anchored by Eleanor Bennett in the studio and Kaya Williams at the race course. The show featured race calls from announcers Chris Davenport and Will Gregorak and commentary from Chris “Uncle E” Ernst, as well as an interview with Williams about the culture and history of the event.

This broadcast covers the first run of a giant slalom event; after the second run, Swiss skier Marco Odermatt finished in the top spot. He was joined on the podium by his teammate, Loic Meillard, in second. Atle Lie McGrath, from Norway, finished in third.

You can hear an archived version of Friday’s broadcast using the “Listen” button above. A transcript of Eleanor Bennett’s interview with Kaya Williams, as well the standlalone audio of their conversation, is included below; it was recorded prior to the second run of the day.

The production team for this broadcast included Kaya Williams, James Barrs, Daniel Costello, Breeze Richardson, Lauri Jackson, and Lea Tucker. Aspen Public Radio would like to thank Miller Media and Productions and the Aspen Skiing Company for assisting with logistics and technical support.

This broadcast was sponsored in part by the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado.

The culture and history of World Cup ski racing in Aspen with Kaya Williams and Eleanor Bennett

Kaya Williams: You've been listening to Aspen Public Radio. This is a live broadcast of the Audi FIS World Cup ski races on Aspen Mountain. All the racers have just completed run one of a giant slalom race today. There will be run two this afternoon, and I'll be down at the finish line covering that. You'll be able to hear the results in All Things Considered. Right now we're up in the control booth where announcers Chris Davenport and Gregorak have been calling the races. Back at the Aspen Public Radio studios is Eleanor Bennett. Hey, Eleanor.

Eleanor Bennett: Hi, Kaya. Sounds like it's been an exciting day out there.

Williams: It absolutely has — lots of great energy here and plenty of excitement for World Cup racing in Aspen.

Bennett: That's great. And can you tell us a little more about how this year's technical races compared to last year's World Cup?

Kaya Williams: Absolutely. So these are called tach races. That's a little bit different from the speed races that Aspen Mountain hosted last year. Speed means they're making these wide, sweeping turns down the mountain — that's like a super-G or a downhill race. These tech races we're seeing a lot of shorter, snappier turns, the course is a little bit shorter, and it is again focused on those technical elements. There's also another GS race tomorrow and a slalom on Sunday. Today's race was technically kind of a bonus for us. It was a makeup race for one that was canceled in Austria earlier in the season due to strong winds. Then again, we have the GS race tomorrow and slalom on Sunday, if the weather will allow it.

Bennett: That's great. Thank you. And these races are based over on the west side of Ajax by Lift 1A. Can you tell us more about the course on Aspen Mountain?

Williams: Yeah, so the course for the GS races today and tomorrow starts up on the Aztec run near the base of the Ruthie’s chairlift. It’s this super steep section, if you've ever skied it up there, it's a pretty gnarly groomer or bump run when they don't groom it. Then the skiers head over to this airplane turn below the Ruthie’s chairlift. It's a popular place for people to go watch. It's pretty steep, or challenging turn, rather. Then the course links up with the Strawpile run — that's proved to be pretty tricky for some racers today because you're going from this steep section to something a little flatter — and Beattie Way — that's named for ski racing legend Bob Beattie, before the course hits the finish line. The slalom course that skiers are supposed to race on Sunday just starts a little bit lower down on Strawpile, and it follows the same path down to the finish line.

Bennett: And we broadcasted the race calls live this morning here on the radio. But where can people actually watch the races this weekend?

Williams: I personally love the energy at the grandstands by the finish line. It's free to watch there. There's all of these fun outfits and flags. And on a nice day like today, it is filled up with fans and the sounds of cowbell as people bask in the sun. But if you want to watch from the mountain, you can do that too. As long as you have a lift ticket, and you are at least an intermediate skier because it's a little bit of a tricky run to get over there. You can take the Silver Queen Gondola up to the top of the mountain, then you've got to get on the FIS lift and head over toward Ruthie’s to check out the course. This year they are setting up a fan zone near Lazy 8 Gully and Tower 7 Road. That's somewhere that you can catch both the slalom and the GS races.

But if you want to watch from home, the races are also live streamed on Outside+. That does require a subscription. And some of the events will be broadcast on NBC, CNBC or Peacock.

Bennett: Thank you. I've been watching the races, I'm in the studio right now on our live broadcast here, and it's been fun to be able to watch them virtually. And will you tell us about who some of the big names are to watch out for on the course this weekend?

Williams: Well, Marco Odermatt from Switzerland is just dominating the World Cup standings again this year. He's won so many races that he basically already secured the overall World Cup title and the season isn't even over yet. It's his third World Cup title, and he's leading the GS rankings. So there's a good chance we'll see him on the podium again here in Aspen. He’s had some pretty good runs — a pretty good run this morning. And he’ll take another this afternoon, most likely. And he won the super-G at the World Cup here last year.

But a lot of people also have their eyes on American River Radamus right now. He just got his first World Cup podium at Palisades Tahoe last weekend, finishing third, and that was also a GS race. Radamus is actually a Colorado guy. He's from the Vail Valley. So that result got a lot of people really revved up on ski racing Instagram for sure.

Bennett: That's so great. And there are three big days of ski racing at this event, you mentioned that. What else is happening? I know there's a lot going on in town as well, right?

Williams: You're absolutely right. There's this whole festival going on down in Wagner Park and today is definitely the biggest day for it. After the races, there's going to be a meet and greet with the US Ski Team. There's a DJ apres-ski party. They've got a drone show going on around 7 o'clock. That's all about ski culture and racing history. There's also a special award ceremony for the Roch Cup, which honors the highest level racers in alpine skiing. It'll go to the winner of today's GS race. In addition to all that, there's a ton of live music for the Bud Light Hi-Fi Concert Series. Then there's more DJ and live music events on Saturday and Sunday. I should note that all of this is totally free.

Bennett: That is so cool. And who is on the lineup for those concerts in Wagner Park?

Williams: Well, I'm really excited for the headliner tonight who's Shakey Graves. His show starts at 7:30pm. He's got kind of this country folk-rock sound and actually just played at The Belly Up earlier this week. Tomorrow night, there's a rock band called The revivalists. They're headlining, at 7:30 as well. Both of these shows have openers around 5, and then on Sunday night, it's a local rock and funk band Jes Grew headlining at 5:30. The opener that night is MRE, they're also local, and they play at 4.

Bennett: That's great. I'm planning to go too, I'm so excited. And this weekend's races are part of a long tradition of ski racing here in Aspen. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Winternational here in town?

Williams: Absolutely. So the saying goes that as long as there's been skiing in Aspen, there's been ski racing. The first sanctioned races happened here in the late 1930s. The first World Cup here was a few decades later.

But this event, which is specifically called the Winternational, dates back to the early 1980s. It's not just ski races, but a bigger celebration of the sport and the community that surrounds it. You definitely have that feeling in town this weekend.

And it's been commemorated over the years through these really cool posters. This year's was created by Mike Campbell, an Aspen-based artist who won a contest through the Aspen Skiing Company. Some of the ones in the past have had some pretty big names attached as well, like Milton Glaser who designed the “I Heart New York” logo, he did the poster in 1986.

And in 1991, the poster was adapted from work by Herbert Bayer, that's a super big name here in Aspen. (He was a) Bauhaus-inspired artist, architect and designer who had passed away several years earlier.

Bennett: Thank you for that history. It sounds like it's a long history here in Aspen. But was there ever a point when the future of the World Cup races didn't seem so certain?

Williams: Totally, and it was super recent. Aspen has had this really solid track record of hosting the races here. But after the World Cup Finals in 2017, the leadership at the International Ski Federation, or FIS, said they wanted to see some improvements, one of which was replacing Lift 1A, which has been around since the 1970s.

So people thought we wouldn't see another World Cup until there was a new chairlift. And there are still plans to put in a new lift, and a whole bunch of other development at the base of it. But so far, that's still in the planning stages. No one's broken ground yet and Lift 1A is still there. But a couple of years ago, there was a change of leadership at FIS and the new folks don't seem so bothered by the current state of the race area.

That led to the return of the World Cup last year, and Aspen ended up again on the circuit this year. One thing is clear from the enthusiasm at the grandstands near the finish line today: Aspen loves the World Cup and wants to continue the tradition.

Bennett: Well thank you Kaya so much for being there in person at the course. It's been so wonderful to talk to you.

Williams: Awesome. Thanks, Eleanor.

Bennett: Great. And you've been listening to Aspen Public Radio's live special broadcast from the Audi FIS Ski World Cup races on Aspen Mountain. I've been speaking with reporter Kaya Williams, who has been onsite at the race course. This broadcast was sponsored in part by the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado.

Special thanks to our production team for the show: Kaya Williams, James Barrs, Daniel Costello, Breeze Richardson, Lauri Jackson and Lea Tucker. And thanks to Miller Media and Productions and the Aspen Skiing Company for assisting with this broadcast.

Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.