Vermont’s Killington Resort is preparing to host some of the best ski racers on the planet this weekend, for the Audi FIS Women’s Ski World Cup, and is taking measures to ensure the races are as safe as possible.
Through a partnership with a Vermont-based foundation, several layers of safety netting are going up around the edges of the World Cup race course. They are designed to slow a sliding or tumbling racer if she falls, preventing or at least softening potential crashes.
"Even the best in the world will fall, because they’re pushing the limits of how fast they can go," said Kelly Brush, a former competitive ski racer who now advocates for safer race venues through the Kelly Brush Foundation.
Brush, who is a nurse practitioner at the Burlington offices of Hagan, Rinehart & Connolly Pediatricians, uses a wheelchair following her own ski injury.
In 2006, she was on the Middlebury College racing team, competing in the giant slalom at the Williams College Winter Carnival at Jiminy Peak in Hancock, Massachusetts. At that event, a crash into a lift tower changed her life.
That accident also inspired the creation of the Kelly Brush Foundation, which now grants netting systems to race clubs and provides info to mountains on ways to improve venues.
"We really wanted to change the culture of ski racing to focus on safety," Brush told necn. "I still loved the sport—I still do now—but I didn’t want an accident like mine to happen again."
According to the Kelly Brush Foundation, the organization committed $40,000 to the two-day alpine World Cup ski event in Killington, matching a commitment from the resort’s parent company, Utah-based Powdr Corp., for a total of $80,000 that went directly toward the purchase and installation of on-hill safety equipment, including safety netting for the edge of the race course and impact protection to mitigate hazards on the course.
"As Killington, we love to partner with other Vermont foundations and businesses," said Kristel Fillmore, a resort spokesperson. "And that includes the Kelly Brush Foundation. It will be a win-win-win for the resort, the athletes, and our guests."
Time-lapse video Killington shared with necn Tuesday shows course supervisors unrolling more than three miles of protective mesh.
"If all goes well, nobody will use the netting at all," said Zeke Davisson, the executive director of the Kelly Brush Foundation, and Brush’s husband. "But at the very least, it’s here to really frame what are some of the best racers in the world. And if somebody does use it, hopefully it’ll be a good outcome and that’s what the netting is there for."
Over the two-day event, a crowd of 30,000 or more spectators is expected at Killington.
Countless more fans will be watching on televisions around the world, including on NBC at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, and at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 26.