A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Ken Davies is currently the chair of the Alberta World Cup Society. FasterSkier regrets the error.
Cross Country Canada (CCC) has turned down an opportunity to host a Tour de Ski-style event in February of 2012, according to a letter released by the organization Tuesday.
In interviews, CCC officials said that plans for the “Tour of the Rockies” foundered on the potential costs, which could have ranged as high as six million dollars, as well as a short time frame for preparation—especially given World Cup events already scheduled in Canada for the following season.
But the president of a consulting firm hired to study the feasibility of a Tour-style race said that the plan for the event was “as good as it gets at this stage, without having final exact location.”
“Suffice to say, it’s not in question that it would work, from an objective perspective,” said Ken Davies, whose firm, Lumina Consulting, produced a preliminary report that CCC cited as the basis for its decision.
Davies is also the chair of the Alberta World Cup Society, which was involved in the planning of the proposed event.
Details of the race had not been settled on, but Davies said that it would have resembled the Tour de Ski, the multi-day format that has gained traction in Europe since its inception in 2007. Hill climbs, city sprints, and conventional distance races were all on the table.
According to Dave Dyer, CCC’s events director, plans for the tour had been evolving since it was first discussed with the International Ski Federation (FIS).
The original proposal, he said, would have included races at established venues in Canmore and Whistler. A “unique transportation experience” would have advertised the tourism potential of both British Columbia and Alberta to athletes, coaches, team managers, and the media.
In a later version, Dyer said, race logistics would have been run from a “hub” in Canmore—which he suggested would place unreasonably high stress on the organizing committee there.
Lumina’s feasibility study was commissioned by the government of Alberta, and the final version has not yet been published; it is due out at the end of the month. Davies would not comment on the details until the report was issued.
The provincial governing body for skiing, Cross Country Alberta, was supportive of the Tour concept, and FIS Race Director Jurg Capol said that the Alberta government had been in favor of it, as well. According to Capol, the province would have been one of the race’s financial sponsors.
Alberta has sponsored World Cup events in the past, but Glen Cowper, a government representative, said that it would be premature to say whether it would have done so in this case.
With FIS’s spring meetings approaching at the end of the month, Davin Macintosh, CCC’s executive director, said that his organization’s board was forced to make a decision based on the preliminary report. For CCC, the tight timing and financial hurdles were too much to take on.
“It’s by no means something that we think would be impossible, but it would be an unprecedented amount of private funds that we would have to gather together, in a relatively short time frame,” Macintosh said. “We went through a detailed analysis of the cost…and determined that it wasn’t a reasonable risk for the organization to take on at this time, in addition to the 2012 World Cup that’s already scheduled.”
Having organized the Tour de Ski for the past four years, FIS Race Director Jurg Capol acknowledged that CCC would be taking on financial risks by hosting a similar event. But he said that a certain degree of uncertainty in the planning process was unavoidable, which race organizers must to be willing to accept.
“You need the spirits to go for it, even when everything is not fixed,” Capol said. “It’s always easy to find reasons not to do it.”
The ’12 Tour appears to be the last chance to land that race format in North American until at least 2015—Capol said that FIS would not consider holding another Tour in Canada for the next five to ten years.
“Maybe after that,” he said.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.