Fast Start, Sudden Stop

World Pro Ski Tour draws star athletes but suffers short season due to COVID-19.

The World Pro Ski Tour never got to the meat of its season, which would have seen seven-time gold medalist Ted Ligety contending with silver-and-bronze Olympian Andrew Weibrecht for $150,000 in championship prize money. 

Before the pro season was canceled, Ligety, at age 35, did break away from the World Cup season to compete in two Pro Tour races at Steamboat’s Howelsen Hill and Eldora. He had trouble learning to time the barn-door starting gates and his best finish was a fourth place at Steamboat—proving, he said, that the Tour was serious competition.

The Tour entered its third season with six events scheduled. A long list of sponsors, led by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, offered $300,000 in prize money. When COVID-19 canceled the final three events, Rob Cone of Killington and Middlebury College, a former NCAA champ and U.S. Ski Team Europa Cup racer, topped the field of 21 racers who finished in the money, winning $30,200 for the truncated season. Michael Ankeny, of Buck Hill and Dartmouth College, a veteran of eight years on the U.S. Ski Team, came second ($12,200). Garrett Driller of Squaw Valley and Montana State, an NCAA All American and U.S. Alpine Championship parallel slalom winner, finished third ($8,350). 

The Tour Finals at Sunday River and the World Pro Championships at Taos were scheduled for April, after the close of the World Cup and national championships. Ligety and Weinbrecht were on the schedule to compete at those races. “To succeed, the tour needs those top athletes,” said tour chief Jon Franklin, who earned his chops managing top skiers for International Marketing Group. Because the Taos championship event would have awarded $150,000 in prize money, the participation of FIS superstars might have upended the full-season leaderboard. All the events were televised by CBS Sports Network (see season highlights at

Franklin predicts a longer, richer tour for the 2020-2021 season. “We don’t have a schedule yet because it has to fit around the NorAm and World Cup schedules,” he points out. He hopes to open the season before the Beaver Creek World Cup in November. 

Pro skiing has always depended on the star power of World Cup racers, beginning when Bob Beattie’s new World Pro Skiing circuit recruited the likes of Jean-Claude Killy and Billy Kidd. Fifty years ago, in 1970, Kidd won the FIS World Championship combined gold medal, promptly turned pro and then won the WPS championship the same season. He’s still the only skier to pull that one off. —Seth Masia

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