An Olympian approaches the finish line in the women's 4x7.5-kilometer biathlon at the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002 in Salt Lake City.
In late October 2018, U.S. Biathlon announced that it will host an IBU World Cup at Utah’s Soldier Hollow in February 2019. It will be the first biathlon world cup held in the U.S. in three years — and the first world cup of any kind hosted at Soldier Hollow since 2001.
Soldier Hollow was the site of the 2002 Olympic biathlon and cross-country skiing events. It’s located about 20 miles south of Park City — and about 50 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Utah is considering a bid to host a future Olympic Winter Games, and Soldier Hollow would likely host biathlon and cross-country skiing again.
“I remember watching the 2002 Olympics on TV when I was a kid, just the magic of the course and this place,” said Susan Dunklee, silver medalist at the 2017 biathlon world championships, who skied at Soldier Hollow for the first time when she was in college.
“I was a whopping 7 years old [watching the 2002 Olympics on TV],” added two-time Olympian Sean Doherty. “I’ve seen a lot of recaps of the famous [Norwegian] Thomas Alsgaard sprinting to the finish for gold here in the cross-country relay. That’s one of my favorite moments in skiing history, to be honest.”
“It’s really cool to be able to call this place your home world cup,” Doherty added.
Most of the IBU World Cups are held in Europe each winter, and they typically attract 30,000 spectators. Biathlon is still building a fan base in the U.S., so crowds will no doubt be thinner at Soldier Hollow. But organizers are hoping to attract 6,000 spectators. The event will take place Feb. 14-17, 2019.
For the athletes, it’s more than just racing in front of a home crowd.
“Coming back here, having my family in the crowd, it’s familiar, even driving on the road,” said three-time Olympic medalist Mikaela Shiffrin on the eve of last year’s Killington World Cup. “It’s hard to explain. You get to Europe and everything is kind of perfect. Then you get here, and it’s perfectly imperfect, and I love that. Driving across the roads and over the pot holes and stopping at the gas stations, the feeling that I get being here reminds me of being home. So it’s a pleasure to race here and show that off to everyone else.”
Shiffrin has won the Killington World Cup slalom for the past two years, and she finished second in giant slalom last year.
Freestyle skiers and snowboarders have the pleasure of competing on home snow almost every winter, with halfpipe and slopestyle world cups at Copper Mountain, Colorado, and Mammoth in California — not to mention the X Games in Aspen. But this year, one of the highlights will be the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Championships 2019 in Park City, Utah.
It’s the third time freestyle worlds have been held in Utah, and the first since 2011. At the 2003 freestyle world championships at Deer Valley, U.S. skiers won six medals in six events, including Jeremy Bloom’s gold in dual moguls. Eight years later, when worlds returned to Deer Valley in 2011, American skiers claimed seven medals in 12 events.
The eight skiers who won medals at the 2017 worlds will likely compete at the 2019 worlds, including defending world champions Ashley Caldwell (aerials), Jon Lillis (aerials), Aaron Blunck (halfpipe), and McRae Williams (slopestyle).
The freestyle world championships kick off Feb. 1 and wrap up Feb. 9.
For the biggest break in tradition, a cross-country skiing world cup will come to Minneapolis in March 2020 — the first time in 19 years that the world’s top cross-country skiers will compete in the U.S.
The last time the cross-country world cup came to the United States, it was held at Soldier Hollow in 2001 and, like the 2001 biathlon world cup at Soldier Hollow, served as a test event for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. It was Kikkan Randall’s first world cup, and she finished 24th in the sprint.
Seventeen years later, Randall and Jessie Diggins — a Minnesota native — won the U.S.’s first Olympic gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. Their effort in the team sprint has helped ignite interest in cross-country skiing in the U.S.
Often held in out-of-the-way mountain villages in Europe, the cross-country world cup will be held in Minneapolis’s Theodore Wirth Park and should draw thousands of spectators. The park sits just west of downtown Minneapolis — and 40 minutes west of Diggins’ childhood home of Afton. The world cup has stopped in Quebec City several times since 2012 and has proven popular, bringing thousands of fans to the city (many from the U.S.).
Minnesota has more than 2,000 miles of cross-country ski trails, and winter accounts for 24 percent of tourism expenditures in the state.
“It’s so incredible because not only is this something that I’ve been dreaming about my entire professional career — I have raced 157 world cups and not a single one has been in my home country so far,” said Diggins in a tweeted video. “But I’m so excited for what this will mean for the ski community so that all these little kids get to finally see the excitement and the passion and the fire of the world cup up close and personal.”
The same could be said about all the world-class skiing events coming to the U.S.
TV and Streaming Coverage: For those who can’t make it to one of these events in person, NBC will show many of them live on NBCSN, the Olympic Channel, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app, OlympicChannel.com, and the Olympic Channel app.
Alpine skiing, ski jumping, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, freestyle skiing, Nordic combined and biathlon will also be shown live and on-demand on NBCSportsGold.com. A “Snow Pass” costs $69.99 and provides unlimited coverage from Oct. 11, 2018-April 30, 2019.
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered five Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.