‘I'm Super Excited': Skiers From Around the World Descend on Vt. for Killington Cup

The HomeLight Killington Cup returns this weekend after taking a pandemic pause

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A Thanksgiving weekend tradition is returning to New England's largest ski resort after taking a year off in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday, crews were busy putting the finishing touches on the venue for the HomeLight Killington Cup at Killington Resort. For the fifth time, Vermont will welcome many of the world's fastest female ski racers for World Cup action.

"A lot of people missed it," said Mike Solimano, the president of Killington Resort, in reference to last year's pandemic pause of the event. "Obviously with COVID, we missed a lot of things, so it's sort of a start of 'back to normal,' we hope."

In past years, crowd sizes were around 15,000 a day for the two days of races, Solimano said.

Since the virus is still circulating, those numbers will be dialed back this year through advance ticketing, the resort executive noted. Additionally, everyone will have to show proof of vaccination, Solimano said.

"I'm super excited," said skier Charlotta Saefvenberg of Sweden, who told NECN that Killington has a reputation for a really electric atmosphere with fans who cheer for all racers. "It's always fun to start off the season, but it's always more fun to ski when there's more people watching and screaming and cheering, so it's a fun start."

One of the Czech competitors, Gabriela Capova, said she has found in the past that Killington has good snow and a fast racecourse.

Capova said she expects extra intensity on the course, with the Winter Olympics coming up in February.

"If you want to qualify for the Olympics, you need some good results, so you know it's a little bit different from all the other seasons," Capova said. "But still, you need to ski well every season."

The athletes are vying both for critical points and for trophies crafted by the master artisans at Vermont's famous name in glass, Simon Pearce. The prizes feature an image of the mountain created by a local artist.

New England favorite Mikaela Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, took home Simon Pearce designs from wins at Killington in previous years.

"It's an honor," said Meghan Mahoney of Simon Pearce, referring to how the company has made custom glass creations for several years and seen them awarded to athletes like Shiffrin. "Our glassblowers love and really pour their heart and souls into these pieces, just as Mikaela does from a training perspective. So being able to see her hoist that up at that moment, it's really amazing and everyone's really proud of it."

Another pandemic change was designed to keep the athletes safer from COVID. Solimano told NECN there won't be autograph signings or meet-and-greets with fans this weekend.

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