Ski World Cup to add cross-border Swiss-Italian downhills

GENEVA (AP) — A downhill race that starts in Switzerland and ends in Italy will be added to alpine skiing’s World Cup program as soon as next year.

The International Ski Federation confirmed the plan on Friday for men’s and women’s races beneath the iconic Matterhorn mountain near to upscale ski resort Zermatt, likely in the 2022-23 season.

The course to stage the first cross-border races since the World Cup began in 1967 has been designed by Didier Defago, the Swiss men’s downhill champion at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Details of the course were not given on Friday, though local organizers said last year they hoped to create the longest men’s downhill of 5 kilometers (3 miles). That could run to about 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

The glacier snow at a high-altitude start — about 3,900 meters (12,800 foot) at Gobba di Rollin — means the first speed races in the World Cup season can be held earlier and in Europe, likely in early November.

The traditional season-opening downhills and super-Gs are in Lake Louise, Canada, in late November and early December before the World Cup returns to Europe.

“I am very excited that we can embrace ideas that bring our sport forward and offer new possibilities,” FIS president Johan Eliasch said in a statement.

The Swiss and Italian ski federations are cooperating on hosting the races and opening the slopes to all nations for preseason training. The FIS is aiming to reduce travel and carbon emissions by a sport which faces challenges from the changing climate.

Adding extra speed races to the World Cup also aims to meet the requests of athletes who asked for a better balanced schedule.

The overall World Cup titles have been dominated in recent years by skiers who specialize in slalom and giant slalom.

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