The American and Swiss flags are presented in Red Tail Stadium as Vail/Beaver Creek passes the torch to St. Moritz 2017. (Getty Images/AFP-Nathan Bilow)
VAIL/BEAVER CREEK, CO (Feb. 15, 2015) – The U.S. Ski Team wrapped up the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships with a strong closing weekend, finishing with five medals – including two golds – and standing second in the medals behind Austria. It was among the best performances ever by the Team. As the host nation, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) also used the World Championships as a platform to bring alpine ski racing to America through a pioneering domestic broadcast program, reaching the biggest national audience for skiing ever outside the Olympics.
“The Championships have exceeded our expectations,” said International Ski Federation Secretary General Sarah Lewis, citing the huge crowds, exciting atmosphere in the Vail Valley as well as the domestic and international broadcast distribution and media coverage. Under the leadership of Ceil Folz, the organizers produced great race venues and created an engaging American ski festival atmosphere.
The USSA partnered with the Vail Valley Foundation in a bid to bring the Championships back to America, securing the bid in 2000. Vail/Beaver Creek previously played host in 1989 and 1999. The USSA established two major goals for the Championships. First, to bring a competitive U.S. Ski Team and, secondly, to use the event to motivate a new generation of kids to participate in alpine ski racing.
“The World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek created great engagement in our sport across the country,” said USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw. “For sure, there were seminal moments in these Championships where young fans in the stands or watching on television were motivated to get involved in ski racing after seeing our U.S. Ski Team stars achieve medals in dramatic fashion.”
The keystone to the USSA reaching its fans was its pioneering acquisition of the domestic broadcast rights two years ago from the rights holder, the European Broadcast Union. The USSA crafted a significant domestic broadcast package that brought live daily coverage and 38 hours of original content to America.
“This is proof of the concept that America could host a World Championships and create record domestic and international coverage,” said USSA Chief Marketing Officer Michael Jaquet. “Together with the 2015 organizers, we drove significant viewership through social media interaction. In every race airing, we doubled our initial audience during the actual broadcast. We look forward to doing the same from St. Moritz in two years.”
Beginning next Thursday, the USSA will also bring the first-ever free live streaming package to American fans from the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Sweden.
The USSA celebrated the final weekend of the Championships with USSA National Club Day, with ski racing clubs around the country using it as a platform to promote ski racing. Gold medal performances by Ted Ligety in Friday’s giant slalom and Mikaela Shiffrin in Saturday’s slalom provided added excitement – especially for clubs that had traveled to Beaver Creek.
“I know how inspired I was with Ted’s win and hopefully kids are feeling that way about my race,” said Shiffrin. “I hope kids in the clubs around the country realize it is possible to get here – no matter how far away it may seem. If this is your dream, put it out there.”
The Championships helped to further establish the USA as a major alpine ski racing nation. “FIS challenged us as a nation to use these Championships as a way to showcase ski racing nationwide,” said Shaw. “Together with the Vail Valley Foundation, we’re proud of what our nation has accomplished with this event and know that it will motivate a generation of new alpine ski racing enthusiasts. Some will go on to win medals, but all of them will have a chance to experience an exhilarating outdoor sport.”
The U.S. Ski Team won five medals, including two gold, matching the second best performance in history.
The total of four separate medalists (Travis Ganong, Ted Ligety, Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn) matched the most ever.
The USA finished second in the medals standings behind Austria.
The USSA’s innovative partnership with broadcasters NBC, NBCSN and Universal Sports Network reached an aggregate of over 10 million U.S. viewers with live coverage throughout the Championships with 38 hours of original content plus additional re-airs.
It was the largest coverage package ever for the sport in America, with nearly 30 hours including both race coverage on NBC, NBCSN and Universal Sports Network plus a live post-race show each day on Universal Sports Network. With social media driving viewership, audience numbers doubled during each of the domestic broadcasts.
Over 1.6 million viewers were tuned in on NBC to watch Ted Ligety win bronze in the men’s combined.
Domestic viewership was fueled by an interactive social media campaign.
Over 800 million global viewers watched the Championships.
474 athletes from 68 nations participated.
1,200 media provided global news coverage generating over 36 billion media impressions and over 40 million social media impressions.
Final attendance for the Championships, including record crowds in both the competition venues and Solaris medals plaza in Vail, exceeded 200,000.
MOST CAREER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MEDALS (3 or more) 7 – Ted Ligety 6 – Lindsey Vonn 5 – Bode Miller 5 – Julia Mancuso 4 – Billy Kidd 4 – Tamara McKinney 3 – Daron Rahlves 3 – Christin Cooper 3 – Cindy Nelson 3 – Picabo Street
Ted Ligety became most decorated U.S. athlete in World Championships with seven career medals (Julia Mancuso, Lindsey Vonn each have five)
Ligety became the first skier ever to win three straight World Championship gold medals in giant slalom. Including his 2014 Sochi Olympic win, it was his fourth straight major championship title in GS.
Similarly, Mikaela Shiffrin won her third straight major incuding the 2013 slalom gold at World Championships in Schladming, Austria and 2014 Olympic slalom gold from Sochi.