World Cup director says sponsorship money is thin

Updated: November 29, 2006, 8:21 PM ET
Associated Press

BEAVER CREEK, Colo. -- There's not enough snow in Europe and not enough dough in America.

In a surprise announcement Wednesday night, Guenther Hujara, director of the men's World Cup, said there wasn't enough sponsorship dollars for Colorado resorts to hold some of the ski races that have been scrapped by warm weather and a lack of snow in Europe.

Hujara said negotiations came up $350,000 shy of being able to reschedule the races.

"The money is not there, so that's the final decision right now," he said.

Hujara made the announcement at the captain's meeting, after which coaches scrambled to tell their athletes that they wouldn't be extending their stay at the Birds of Prey course, where the orphaned men's and women's super-combi races were expected to be rescheduled for sometime next week.

The disappointing news came on the same day that the men's downhill and super-combi races scheduled for Dec. 9-10 in Val d'Isere, France, were scrapped because of lack of snow, bringing to three the number of World Cup events canceled so far on account of unusually warm European weather.

The season-opening races on the glacier in Soelden, Austria, were wiped out because of heavy rain, and the women's events set for St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Dec. 9-10 were canceled because of a lack of snow. The women also have races in Val d'Isere, but later in December.

FIS officials had been working with organizers in Aspen and Beaver Creek to stage some of the scrapped events in Colorado.

Hujara called the impasse one of the most frustrating situations he's ever been in because the Birds of Prey course, where nearly 3 feet of snow has fallen in 48 hours, is in such great shape.

"We all know we have more than excellent course conditions on this hill. Everything is ready. The course is ready. People are ready. Racers are ready. Everything is there, and we can't put races together for next week," Hujara said. "It's not possible to finance, the find sponsors, to find enough money to have races in the World Cup on the men's and women's side in the coming week."

U.S. men's head coach Phil McNicol called it "a tragedy," noting that the next scheduled World Cup stop, in Italy, is endangered by warm weather, as well.

The only scheduled U.S. stops on the World Cup circuit are Aspen for women and Beaver Creek for men.

The are four events scheduled at the Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek this week. The super-combi, race which adds the times from a downhill and a single slalom run, is scheduled for Thursday with the downhill on Friday. The men will also will run a giant slalom Saturday and a slalom Sunday.

The Americans had been excited when it appeared that the races would be rescheduled in Colorado.

"For sure, it's our hometown," Olympic downhiller Steven Nyman said. "We're comfortable. We train here and we just know the American routine. It's funny, the Europeans come over here and it's like, 'Oh, the food is horrible! We don't like this, we don't like that.' And I love it here. Big beds. I'm 6-foot-4, I can stretch out. I'm comfortable here."

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal said Beaver Creek is a cherished stop for many European skiers.

"I like racing here, that's fine with me," Svindal said of staying an extra week. "Actually, Beaver Creek is one of my favorite places."

Marco Buechel, of Liechtenstein, the winner of the only other downhill this season, in Lake Louise, Alberta, said: "I always love to stay here and I love to ski fast. And staying a few extra days on this one, I don't mind at all."

Reigning Olympic combined gold medalist Ted Ligety said the current conditions in Colorado are unparalleled.

"The training up at Keystone's awesome for us. I've rarely had better slalom training than I had [this week]," Ligety said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press