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Eagle County is about to get crowded. For 14 days this month, 150,000 people—roughly three times the county’s population—are expected to descend upon Vail and Beaver Creek for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. From February 2 to 15, 700 ski racers from 70 countries will compete in this biennial contest, which hasn’t been held in the United States since 1999 (when it was also at Vail and Beaver Creek). This time, all of the races will take place at Beaver Creek, with most ceremonies held in Vail Village. To prepare for the influx, Eagle County spent four and a half years and $58 million morphing into a world skiing stage second only to the Olympic Games. Here’s how.
Vail facilitated a $7.2 million improvement of cellular coverage and now supplies visitors with free Wi-Fi. Can you hear us now?
Ixnay your plans to park in Beaver Creek. Instead, leave your car at the Vail Village Transportation Center and hop on one of the 75 free buses to Avon Center and Beaver Creek Village, which run every half hour between 8 a.m. and midnight.
In keeping with the carnivorous birds theme (Golden Eagle, Peregrine, and Kestrel make up some of Beaver Creek’s most challenging terrain), the new women’s downhill course is named Raptor. Raptor starts at 11,283 feet and runs parallel to the men’s Birds of Prey. It drops 2,329 vertical feet in just more than a mile and a half. Read about one of the World Championship’s top competitors—Vail’s own Mikaela Shiffrin—in “Fast Lane To Glory.”
Ninety-eight percent of Vail and Beaver Creek’s terrain will operate normally. Exceptions: the Beaver Creek race courses and the short run on Golden Peak in Vail that will be used for giant slalom and slalom qualifying races.
Vail offered local businesses incentives to renovate for the 2015 championships. Sweet Basil, one of Vail’s most iconic fine-dining hubs, expanded its kitchen and added a wine cellar. The Lodge at Vail, at the Vail Village base area, overhauled all 56 of its rooms with new furnishings and dolled up its lobby and corridors.
A New Lift Breed
“Chondola” is ski-speak for “chairlift-gondola.” The Centennial Express has been replaced with a combination lift that alternates 10-person gondola cabins and six-person chairs, loading from separate lines.
Dude, Where’s My Car?
Forgot where you parked? The Vail Village Transportation Center now has a license plate recognition system that photographs and electronically stores plate numbers when you enter the Lionshead and Vail Village parking garages. If you can’t find your vehicle, stop by the welcome center and the staff can look up your car’s location by license plate. Cue the big tip.
Best Seats in the House
Dwarfing the tallest pine trees surrounding it, the 50-foot-tall grandstand will border Beaver Creek’s finish line with 3,500 seats (free and available on a first-come basis) and up to 4,000 more standing-room-only spots.
Behind the grandstand, a 30,000-square-foot broadcast center will serve as the international TV headquarters, providing coverage to 750 million viewers worldwide.
Upscale Stadium Food
Beaver Creek’s newest eatery, Talons Restaurant (are we noticing a trend?), will convert into an international media center, but you can still get European eats at grandstand concession booths, which will serve on-the-go bites such as omelets, open-face sandwiches, and gourmet burgers.