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World Cup ski tour to skip US, Canada

The road to another World Cup overall title won’t include any sort of home-snow advantage for Mikaela Shiffrin.

The governing body for ski racing announced Thursday that it will skip the traditional North American loop due to safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the women’s World Cup side, there won’t be stops in Killington, Vermont, or Lake Louise, Alberta. The men’s side won’t race in Beaver Creek, Colorado, or during a separate trip to Lake Louise. Instead, the circuit is scheduled to remain in Europe during that period beginning in late November.

All the venues are slated to be back on the calendar for the 2021-22 season, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS).

“It had been special to race in Killington the last few years … I think for the entire World Cup women’s circuit,” Shiffrin wrote in a post on her Instagram account. “So, this is a bummer, however — it’s going to feel so incredible next year to race in Killington, to have some sense of normalcy, and to get back to all of the things we love to do. There’s a lot to do now, so that we can get to that point. We are so happy and lucky to be able to ski race this year at all.”

The moves were made after consultation with FIS leaders, national ski associations and local organizing committees in Canada and the United States. The federation is trying to carry out a full World Cup program while protecting the health of the participants.

An adapted calendar is set to be approved in late September. The new schedule includes adding two men’s events in December in Val d’Isere, France. The planned giant slalom races will be moved up one weekend to Dec. 5-6, making room for an additional downhill and super-G on Dec. 12-13.

On the women’s circuit, a downhill will be incorporated into the traditional weekend in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Dec. 5-7. The venue in Courchevel, France, will be the site of a two-race technical weekend in December.

“The North American races are always a very special two weeks for the entire FIS World Cup tour and we are very disappointed that we could not find a way to have them on this year’s Alpine calendar,” FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis said in a statement. “But if there is a silver lining, it is seeing how all of our stakeholders involved with the FIS World Cup are working together.”

Shiffrin, who lives in Edwards, Colorado, has captured three of the last four World Cup overall titles. Last season, she took a six-week break from the circuit following the death of her father, Jeff, who died on Feb. 2 after an accident at his home in Colorado. Shiffrin returned in Are, Sweden, but the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak before she could race again.

Federica Brignone of Italy captured the overall crown, ending Shiffrin’s three-year reign.

Home snow has been friendly to Shiffrin over the years. The 25-year-old Shiffrin has six World Cup podium finishes at Killington, including four wins. The two-time Olympic champion also has four top-three finishes on the Lake Louise slopes.

“Each year, the North American leg of the World Cup tour is a time for our Alpine skiing community to shine, not only because of the incredible achievements of our athletes, but in the work of our organizers, our course-builders, our staffers and our volunteers, who never fail to put on spectacular events,” said Tiger Shaw, president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “We look forward to the time when we can do that again, but our team, our athletes, know that their fans are still behind them, cheering for them all the way during this difficult time.”

The World Cup season is set to begin Oct. 17-18 in Soelden, Austria, with the customary giant slaloms. The next tour stop will be the debut of host resort Lech/Zurs in Austria on Nov. 13-14. It will feature a men’s and a women’s parallel race.

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