"The challenges of an early season date are extraordinary," said Park City president and GM Vern Greco in explaining the resort's decision. Course preparations and snowmaking requirements reduce terrain available to the public at a critical time, he said.
Plus, opportunities for beneficial exposure are limited, and the public relations risks are high. "The negative exposure of a cancellation due to lack of early season snow far outweighs the positive exposure of a successful event," Greco said. "Similarly, if the event is televised and there is little or no snow on the surrounding trails . . . that exposure also is damaging.
"When you combine the elements of risk, marketing and the total event cost of $1 million dollars, of which more than $150,000 is the resort's direct obligation, with the opportunity cost in lost sales, the challenge is nearly insurmountable," said Greco.
Park City has asked for (and received) USSA support for hosting future World Cup races in January or February. Park City's owners "have been true pioneers of World Cup ski racing," said USSA CEO Bill Marolt. "We understand the nature of their request and we look forward to working with them on other events in the future."
More immediately, though, USSA hopes to find a replacement site for America's Opening soon. It wants to keep its current eight-race schedule intact. To do so, it must get new sites approved at the FIS Congress in Miami during late May. Marolt told SAM that discussions with potential sites would begin in a matter of days. Based on past experience, he expected interest from Colorado areas (Copper Mountain hosted races in the past when Park City was unable to do so) and anticipated others may step forward as well.
And Marolt was sensitive to the financial considerations that drove Park City's decision. "We have to make sure that our business model makes sense," he said. "If it doesn't, we have to create incremental value" for potential host sites. \