World Cup skiing event canceled again due to Matterhorn weather

LAGHI CIME BIANCHE, Italy -- Persistent strong winds on the Matterhorn mountain wiped out another women's World Cup downhill Sunday, a day after gusts forced the cancellation of the first speed race of the season.

The cancellations came a week after both men's downhills on the same course were called off because of heavy snowfall and strong winds.

The Zermatt-Cervinia downhills against the backdrop of the Matterhorn, the first cross-border races in World Cup history, were introduced by FIS last season as a potentially spectacular opening of the speed season, but all four race weekends have been canceled so far.

The races in October and November 2022 didn't take place amid a lack of snow after an unseasonably warm autumn.

As a result, there has yet to be a downhill race at the Gran Becca course, which starts in Switzerland at 3,700 meters (12,100 feet) and crosses the border to finish in Italy.

The ongoing cancellations prompted suggestions that next year the event should be moved to later in the season.

"We will need in the next weeks or month [to] sit together -- the organizing committee, all the stakeholders, the two ski federations and FIS -- and make all the proper analysis what happened and then the decisions for the future," said Peter Gerdol, the women's race director of the International Ski and Snowboard Federation.

However, local organizers said they are committed to hosting races in November.

"Sponsors in March, April are much less interested because then summer sport is at its peak. They are interested because it's the beginning of the season," said Franz Julen, head of the local organizing committee.

"If this sport wants speed events this time of the year, we are the only region who can provide it because of the height," Julen added.

On Sunday, organizers delayed the start time twice but called off the event as conditions failed to improve.

"We tried, we let the athletes inspect [the course] as well, with the hope the wind would [become] less strong," Gerdol said. "The wind decreased a little bit, but still not enough to have a safe race."

Saturday's race was postponed and then canceled as the ski lifts could not be operated in the early morning and the winds made conditions too dangerous for a race.

It was not immediately clear if or when the races would be rescheduled.

The wind had already reduced training opportunities during the week, with only one of three scheduled sessions taking place Thursday.

The downhills were the first women's races to be canceled this season, after a giant slalom in Austria and two slaloms in Finland took place as scheduled.

Defending overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who won a slalom in Levi a week ago for her 89th career World Cup win, leads the standings.

The women's World Cup continues with two more tech races, a giant slalom and a slalom, scheduled for Killington, Vermont, next weekend.