The deal isn’t quite signed, sealed and delivered but agreements have been reconfirmed and the financing is in place to bring the World Cup downhill to Whistler in December.
The FIS confirmed at their bi-annual Congress last week in New Zealand that Whistler will hold men’s World Cup downhill and super G races Dec. 7 and 8 this year. Whistler is also on the FIS calendar to host the same races in December 1997. As well, an agreement that would give the W5 group 30 per cent of the marketing rights to the race was reconfirmed with Halva, the European company that bought the rights to all Canadian World Cup races.
But perhaps most importantly, the agreements have provided enough assurance to a financial institution to lend the W5 group the $3 million needed for snowmaking and other infrastructure improvements necessary to host a December race.
"We’ve been in discussions with the bank and it’s been pretty positive," said Don McQuaid of the Masters Group.
In fact, McQuaid expects to announce soon that a financial institution has become a partner in the event, as well as the presenting sponsor.
"We’ve said all along that the goal is to build equity into a property that’s not going to flip around every year, that’s the presenting sponsor," McQuaid said.
The W5 group — Whistler Mountain, Whistler Chamber of Commerce, Whistler Resort Association, the municipality and the Vancouver Ski Foundation — needed to be able to sell 30 per cent of the race sponsorships locally in order to build a season-opening festival around the races. The group feels that eventually the whole festival will return a profit to the community.
The first step the W5 Group hopes to take is to sign the financial institution to a five-year deal as presenting sponsor of the whole event, which will be known as the Whistler Ski Classic. Halva will sell title sponsorship of each race to companies such as Warsteiner and Diesel Jeans, who are primarily interested in the exposure they get on European television.
The festival that will surround the week-long kick off to the ski season will be managed through the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.
"They want to develop a festival that works well for Whistler businesses," McQuaid said.
While the deal with Halva for marketing rights has been agreed to in principle, the 10-year commitment to Whistler from the FIS appears slightly more tenuous. The FIS only commits to a schedule two years in advance. While the FIS professionals, the people actually working on-hill, are committed to Whistler for 10 years, McQuaid said there was some talk among other FIS officials of moving the dates, from December to late February, during the 10-year period. However, Canadian representatives remained adamant Whistler will only accept a December date.
In addition to Whistler hosting the men’s races, Lake Louise will host a women’s downhill and super G the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 1.
The World Cup schedule starts on the glacier at Solden, Austria in October — as it has for the past few years — with men’s and women’s giant slaloms on Oct. 26 and 27. The schedule then moves to North America for men’s and women’s technical events at Park City, Utah Nov. 21-24. Other North American events include men’s technical events at Breckenridge, Colo. Nov. 30-Dec. 1 and a women’s downhill and super G at Aspen Dec. 6-7. The World Cup season concludes with the World Cup finals in Vail, Colo. March 12-16.