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Editorial

It will be hard to hear about the exploits of the U.S. Ski Team in Colorado this weekend without remembering the years when Park City Mountain Resort hosted the "America’s Opening" World Cup ski races. In the Eagle Race Arena, the sounds of cow bells was deafening as the Austrians and Swiss urged their countrymen on while, in the bowels of the resort, an international press corps banged out stories under a Park City deadline.

It’s easy to forget that, before the first World Cup race was held here in the spring of 1985, Park City was little known in international ski circles. But that changed in a hurry. With resort vice president Craig Badami setting the tone, the World Cup races put Park City on the map. In the evenings there were concerts and fireworks at the bottom of Main Street. Between runs there were rock bands on the mountain – with Badami himself sometimes pulling out his blues harmonica. Long-time U.S. Ski Team press liaison John Dakin called the races with the swagger of a boxing-ring announcer.

Utahns were quick to embrace this "rock concert posing as a ski race" (or was it the other way around), as one ski veteran described it. Spectators flocked to the race in record numbers.

The resort also became a major U.S. Ski Team sponsor. The words "PARK CITY" were emblazoned on helmets and headbands worn in races around the world by World Cup veterans such as Tamara McKinney and Park City’s own Tori Pilllinger.

"America’s Opening" became a Thanksgiving weekend tradition. During the years when there was little natural snow, the resort’s vast snowmaking system took over, laying a thick layer on the race course and letting ski officials know that Park City could be counted on to host a complex international event, with or without the cooperation of Mother Nature. No doubt, the success of the Park City World Cup races played an important role in earning Utah the right to host the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Eventually, the enormous cost of hosting the event – combined with a couple of abnormally warm Novembers – conspired to put an end to "America’s Opening. However, today the Utah Olympic Park and Deer Valley continue the tradition with festive World Cup events of their own.

These days, the phrase "world class" is overused. But in this case it fits.


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