Two men’s World Cup downhill races next weekend that start in Switzerland and finish in Italy were called off Saturday due to a lack of snow on the final 300 meters of the course following an unseasonably warm fall.
Added to the calendar this season, the Zermatt-Cervinia downhill against the spectacular backdrop of the Matterhorn was set to become the first cross-border event in Alpine skiing’s World Cup history.
The International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) said the Oct. 29-30 races had to be canceled ”due to the lack of snow and the safety situation on last section of the race track” and will not be replaced.
A decision on two women’s races scheduled on the same course for Nov. 5-6 was expected Tuesday.
FIS Secretary General Michel Vion said in a statement on the federation’s website that the cross-border downhill was ”a new and unique project that we continue to believe in.”
”There is a possibility of a change in weather,” Vion said. ”We are therefore giving the organizers until Tuesday to make a final decision about the women’s races.”
Earlier Saturday, the season-opening giant slalom of the women’s World Cup also had to be called off because of unfavorable weather conditions on the glacier in Austria.
The 4-kilometer Gran Becca course starts in Zermatt at an altitude of 3,700 meters and finishes in Laghi Cime Bianche above Cervinia at 2,835 meters.
While parts of the course are covered by over a meter of snow, mild temperatures in recent weeks hindered snowmaking for the lower section.
FIS usually carries out its snow control two weeks before a World Cup event but last week postponed its decision on the races to give organizers more time.
Vion said local organizers ”achieved great things in the past few days. It was certainly not their fault that the men’s races could not take place.”
The new downhill is a signature event for FIS President Johan Eliasch, who labeled it ”iconic.”
”I have been there, inspected the race course, and it is truly phenomenal,” Eliasch said the day before the event was canceled.
The introduction of the race was meant to give the speed racing season an early start, closing the gap between the traditional season-opening giant slalom in Austria in the third week of October and the downhill and super-G races in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek in late November and early December.
However, FIS men’s race director Markus Waldner said after Saturday’s cancellation that from next season the Zermatt-Cervina downhills might be moved to a later slot in the calendar.
”For the future, we absolutely need to review the dates because we need to have more guarantee,” Waldner said. ”We have to observe the nature. We have this climate change, we had a very extremely warm summer, extremely warm autumn, also. These are signals and we need to respect this.”
Earlier, some racers voiced concerns over the project, which brings the speed season forward by a month with a demanding, high-altitude race.
”It’s not really a normal downhill, it’s a long one. And it’s also on 4,000 meters in the first downhill race of the year,” Norwegian speed specialist Aleksander Aamodt Kilde told the Associated Press in a recent video call.
”So, it’s not really an easy start, so that’s what I’m most concerned about,” Kilde added. ”It’s really annoying to get injured in the first race.”
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