Soldeu, Andorra: 2019 FIS alpine ski world cup finals

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Soldeu, Andorra: 2019 FIS alpine ski world cup finals
The giant slalom is amazing – very steep on the top then smoother, but still challenging terrain, before a very steep finish pitch. It’s going to take a lot of skill to win that race.
tiny nation, big passion for skiing
The Pyrenees are a mystical place with towering alpine peaks straddling the border between France and Spain. Nestled fully within the Pyrenean mountain paradise is the tiny principality of Andorra.

This March the greatest stars in alpine ski racing will battle for crystal globes in the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Finals. 11-17 March 2019 on the slopes of Grandvalira.
finals to be hotly contested
Held annually, the World Cup Finals are one of the biggest events in alpine ski racing. Much like the World Championships, which are held every other year, the Finals include every skiing discipline but with only the top 25 in the world qualifying to compete.

The Finals in Andorra will be one of the most notable sporting events ever held in the principality. The nation prepared for this historic event playing
host to numerous European Cup races over the last decade, as well as two previous stops on the women’s World Cup tour.
a dream
With the entire nation situated in the mountains, skiing is a major sport. It was the vision of resort management company Ensisa to pursue the opportunity to join the World Cup tour as a means of drawing attention to the slopes of Soldeu El Tarter in Grandvalira.

“It was a dream,” said organizing chief Conrad Blanch. “But the conclusion of a study was that Andorra could be known as a strong ski destination. Our country is small but skiing is our national sport. It’s a very good option to present our life to the international world at the Finals.”
multiple race venues
The iconic Avet slope, in the Soldeu sector of the resort,

will be the site of slalom and giant slalom races. The giant slalom, in particular, is a very demanding, technical course with a final pitch that will require skiers still have energy in their legs to hold a tight line to the finish.

Speed events of downhill and super-G will be contested on the Àliga slope in El Tarter. The downhill course is untested on the World Cup tour so training runs early in the week will be critical for athletes seeking to find the precise race line. The course will have its share of jumps and high-speed turns, especially the soon-to-be-famous Curvone Turn at the end of the last pitch.

“The giant slalom is amazing – very steep on the top then smoother, but still challenging terrain, before a very steep finish pitch,” said FIS Race Director Atle Skårdal. “It’s going to take a lot of skill to win that race.”

Mikaela Shiffrin will hope to achieve her third overall FIS Alpine Ski World Cup title when the World Cup Finals come to Andorra in March.
Nighttime will be a time of celebration in Soldeu and El Tarter during the World Cup Finals in Andorra this March.
Soldeu is characterized by towering mountain peaks and wide-open bowl skiing above the tree line in Andorra.
The speed courses at El Tarter will get their first real test during the World Cup Finals this March.
The top of the giant slalom and slalom courses is on an open snowfield, winding its way to the village of Soldeu down below.
With the World Cup Finals people can discover the Pyrenees. Great mountains, wonderful snow in winter time, modern lifts.
Andorran mountain cuisine
As one can imagine, Andorra’s geographic location has it drawing on nearby Spain and France for some of its cuisine. But it also has its own rich culinary heritage. One of Andorra’s most notable dishes is Escudella, a hearty stew with a wide range of meats including chicken, veal, meatballs and port, mixed with potatoes, cabbage and chickpeas, all tossed with large pasta shells.

Andorra may not have a sea coast, but it does have mountain streams teeming with trout. Try Trucha a la Andorrana, an Andorran-style grilled trout wrapped in local ham. Cured meats and sausages, or Embotits, are frequently found on Andorran tables.

The five-star Sport Hotel Hermitage, with Michelin star chefs Nandu Jubany and Hideki Matsuhisa, offers six remarkable and diverse restaurants. Arrels features Andorran cuisine while Koy showcases Japanese. The Michelin starred Restaurante Sol i Neu features mountain cuisine and also has a pizzeria.

La Cort de Popaire is a traditional Andorran restaurant in a refurbished stone barn located on the pedestrian walkway in central Soldeu, with an open fire grill and local farm to table produce and meats.

Skiers gather for après ski at L'Abarset in El Tarter – also a good spot for lunch. In Soldeu consider Fat Albert’s (check out rib night), a wonderful old stone building in the village core, or Aspen Bar and The Villager (adjacent to gondola terminal) along the main street.

If you want to take a break from skiing, it’s just a 30 minute drive to one of the principality’s most notable attractions. The Caldea spa centre is an innovative and original spa, with Escaldes- Engordany facilities combining the concepts of wellness, health and fun. Water gushes from the earth at 70ºC, rich in sulphur and other minerals.

All of Andorra is also known for its wide range of shopping with a vast number of shops in Soldeu and around the country with unique and noted name brand products.
Passion for skiing
It’s typical with a new venue to bring unparalleled passion to its debut role as a major championship site. Andorra is a nation where skiing is actually a part of the school curriculum, with students skiing ten days each season as a part of their studies. The nation boasts five ski clubs across its mountains. “With the World Cup Finals people can discover the Pyrenees,” said Blanch. “Great mountains, wonderful snow in winter time, modern lifts. People will be surprised! We’re a small country but we’re a big destination.”

“It’s a small nation but they have a lot of motivation and are really pushing,” said Skårdal. “Everybody is very engaged in skiing. There’s a family feeling – everyone wants to make sure this is a big success for Andorra.”

That Andorran price will be on display when the tour finale comes to the principality this March.

Interview with niklas carlsson
For six months every winter, the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup traverses the globe on a tour that links glamorous mountain resorts with towering alpine peaks flanked with pillowy white snow. Niklas Carlsson, a 44-year-old Swede, is the tour’s visionary leader, a quiet, understated executive who heads the International Ski Federation’s Alpine Sub-Committee for Alpine World Cup. In his four years at the helm, he has led a move to modernize the so-called white circus, now entering its 52nd season.

Today, the World Cup tour is one of the most viewed global sports with hundreds of millions tuning in on television and mobile apps. He brings a unique background to his role as committee chair, having served in athletic, marketing and business roles at the International Ski Federation and Swedish Ski Team, and is now CEO of the FIS 2019 World Championships in Åre, Sweden.
You are unique in that you have a very diverse background touching on so many professional roles. How does this help you as a Chairman of Sub-Committee for Alpine World Cup?
My background allows me to better understand the possibilities as well as the challenges of every stakeholder - you have to be sensitive to all. There has to be a balance to gain trust. But overall, we have to say, athletes are number one.
What role does the World Cup Committee play in the future of the sport?
We historically focused on details such as competition calendar and rules. But in my tenure I’ve been looking more to the future - how we can overcome challenges and improve our tour. Athletes are the highest priority but the commercial side with broadcasters and sponsors, like Longines, is important.
How have you approached your role to accelerate the evolutionary process of change?
I had to first simply achieve trust – and I feel we have done that. The biggest asset we have is the huge passion and interest from everyone in the committee. Everyone is dedicated and has been working with the World Cup in some way most of their lives. It’s easy to see change when you have that passion. My aim has been to simplify it.
How do you balance the diverse interests of a global sport contested on three continents?
We must maximize the potential of every World Cup race. But those races hold a different position in every single country. In Austria it’s the national sport and we could have races every day of week. In Germany, Scandinavia and America it’s a bit different. We need to be nimble and adjust to what each market demands.
What are some of the changes fans will see on the tour in seasons ahead?
We’ve put a lot of visionary thinking into formats. The alpine team event is a good example. The evolution of night time City Events in metropolitan areas has been extremely successful with the head-to-head parallel format. We will be in Oslo and Stockholm this year. With new events coming on, it also means we need to take some away and we will be evolving out of the alpine combined over the next years. At the same time, we have desire from organizers and broadcasters to reduce the starting field. This is a sensitive area and the backbone of our teams. We have to take it step-by-step.
It’s amazing that athletes hit 130km/h with winners determined by a hundredth of a second. How does the sport manage that precision?
Athletes today are skiing at the absolute highest level. The differences between them are very minute. Longines has developed some amazing technology to share athlete speed and other data which helps teams and fans better understand what happens on course. It’s such a small difference. The cooperation with Longines provides much more insight into what the athletes do. Being able to better tell the story of our athletes to the fans with tools like this is paramount to our future.
Ski racing is unique among competitive sports with its direct tie-in to recreational skiing. How does that help the tour?
We are an outdoor sport. We are in active, elegant ski resorts around the world. What makes it successful is how proud every mountain resort and community are to hold a World Cup. They work so hard to make it perfect. And it’s always a changing environment for athletes to perform. The connection between the competitive skiing we do within a mass participation sport with a touristic backbone is a remarkable opportunity for us.
What are some new things to watch in the season ahead?
The World Cup will come to a dramatic conclusion at a new Finals site this March at Soldeu, Andorra in the Pyrenees. It’s great to see a small, new country organize a World Cup. To listen to them and hear about the impact it will have on tourists coming to Andorra is incredible. It’s important for us to bring new organizers to the World Cup.
Finally, sport is about stars and heroes. How do the stars resonate in ski racing?
Everyone wants to see the heroes doing amazing performances. To see someone like Mikaela last season winning her second overall crystal globe and Askel pushing back from injuries and getting back to the top – these were remarkable accomplishments. We can try to make the World Cup more attractive with great venues and great weather. But at the end of the day, it’s the human heroes who connect with the kids. They are our biggest assets. They are amazing role models for our sport. We just need to give them exciting venues and fair sport. They will do the rest.