Best of Winter Games: European ski lovers embrace competition at a new resort

Two of the year’s most exciting, quintessential winter sports have re-entered the spotlight in recent weeks.

For the first time in 10 years, skiers and snowboarders will hit the slopes of Europe ahead of the first weekend of the winter season, which takes place in late November and early December.

This is the Arlberg Mountain and Lower Sport Festival , a ski festival held annually at the Swiss resort of St. Moritz. With ski resorts offering exclusive rental packages that include tickets to the competition and ski passes to the resort, ski fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the professional athletes said the thrill of competition is the perfect icing on top of their joyride.

“One of the first days, I went on my first slope to ski and the whole atmosphere of the session was amazing,” Aaron Tean told AccuWeather Meteorologist Eric Leister. “The slope was such a warm climate, it snowed the entire session, and the Olympic athletes lined up with the recreational skiers. It was just amazing.”

The opportunity to see those on the Olympic gold medal pedestal compete is always a buzz; however, when the athletes are at a resort more used to natural snow, the thrill of ski racing at altitude is amplified.

“I saw such amazing athletes in competition. The best of the best, it was really cool,” said Frosty Mulligan of Colorado. “It’s true, the peak of the mountain, where you got the highest level racing, really brought out your competitive side.”

International ski championships in alpine skiing and snowboarding were also held at the resort earlier this year.

The reason for all of this continued interest in skiing at this stage of the season is simple: the top slope at St. Moritz is fairly new, according to a statement by resort owner and events organizer Ewald Stieper.

“The best snow in the world was there only five months ago,” he said. “The slope is thin right now but should soon be back to normal.”

Alpine skiing and snowboarding championships for both sports began in St. Moritz in 1930. The competitions were previously held in nearby nearby Gstaad.

The 2011-12 season marked the first time alpine skiing was held at the resort since 1998. Snowboarding events had been held at the resort for 38 years, according to the Tour Board of Switzerland.

While snowboarding events usually take place on traditional mountain slopes during the season, they could be held at St. Moritz during the summer as well.

“We believe that the new slope is perfect for the same purposes as what we see in summer: lower ticket prices and plenty of spectator seating and television viewing,” said Martin Weber, marketing director of St. Moritz Mountain.

Heading towards the finish line at the St. Moritz Events Centre, the spectators get a chance to see the athletes qualify.

“I had seen Snowboard Cross at the previous winter competitions in St. Moritz, and I had tried to go to the St. Moritz event (alpine skiing event) and I got turned away from the door,” Mulligan said. “I had been hoping for this kind of event (skiing) so I came to watch and no one I saw was from Colorado, but I definitely plan to try and go again next year.”

This year’s event will feature two days of alpine racing, both freestyle and downhill racing on the same day for the first time. Snowboard events will be held in the morning.

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