The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) will take a formal proposal to the executive board of the International Ski Federation (FIS) next week requesting permission for Lindsey Vonn, the most decorated skier in American history, to compete in a World Cup race against men at Lake Louise in 2018.
Vonn, with more than 77 wins and 130 podium appearances in her career, has made no secret of her desire to compete against the men, suggesting last year she could "beat some boys and call it a day."
The idea has been informally discussed by the FIS in the past, but those talks stalled with the federation seemingly unwilling to bend its rules that don't allow skiers of different genders to compete against one another.
"It will be a very difficult challenge to find a reasonable way of doing this," FIS boss Atle Skaardal said this summer. "If the ladies are allowed to race with the men, then also the men need to be authorized to ski with the ladies. And I'm not sure this is a direction we want to go. It's a difficult topic."
At that summer meeting, Skaardal suggested that the USSA bring together a formal proposal on how such a move could work. Vonn has the support of the USSA, which sees the potential marketing value in Vonn competing against the men. But the logistics aren't easy. What happens to the points if Vonn finishes in the top 30? Where should she start in the field? Those and other issues will be discussed at the FIS autumn meetings in Zurich, Switzerland, next week.
Perhaps foreshadowing the talks, the FIS said about the Vonn issue in its pre-meeting news release: "Certainly, this is an anticipated topic that divides the FIS officials."
Vonn, who will turn 33 in October and is currently training for the Pyeongchang Olympics after suffering a fractured humerus bone in November, has said she plans to retire after the 2018-19 season. In addition to wanting to win gold at the upcoming Winter Games and earning 10 more World Cup victories -- to break the record -- racing men is one of the final goals of her career.
"I know I'm not going to win, but I would like to at least have the opportunity to try," Vonn told the Denver Post earlier this year. "I think I've won enough World Cups where I should have enough respect within the industry to be able to have that opportunity."
American skier Travis Ganong told ESPN on Wednesday that he likes the idea of Vonn competing against men.
"I think it would be a cool kind of way to build the sport and get a lot of people fired up about something new and exciting," he said, adding that Vonn has trained with the U.S. men's team in the past.
Ganong tempered his enthusiasm, though, saying Vonn's times are not close to her male counterparts and suggested an exhibition race of sorts would be the best setup for a competition.
"Maybe something like a made-for-TV event," he said. "It would be cool to have an actual race, show it on TV and see how everything stacks up."
Lake Louise makes the most sense for Vonn as a location to compete against the men, as the Canadian resort hosts both men's and women's events and is one of Vonn's favorite courses. She has won 18 of her 41 starts there.
Should the FIS turn down Vonn's request, she said during the summer that she would consider some sort of skiing exhibition against men, similar to tennis player Billie Jean King's "Battle of the Sexes." But Vonn's first goal all along has been to compete in a World Cup event.