by Cori Hilsgen
Kristi Spaniol and her 14-year-old daughter, Kelli Spaniol, a freshman at Cathedral High School, recently had a chance to hang out with more than 700 athletes from more than 70 nations while they volunteered at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships held in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colo.
More than 2,000 people volunteered for the two-week event, organized by the International Ski Federation.
Spaniol’s brother, Dave Rawlings, has worked at Vail for 30 years and has worked the World Cups each year. Spaniol and her son, Ben, 27, worked the World Cup event in December. She worked the food tent and Ben worked a riskier job on the banner crew with Rawlings, working on steep, icy slopes putting up banners on the race course.
Spaniol’s volunteer coordinator asked her to return to Colorado to work the two weeks for the world championship, but Spaniol said she wouldn’t come without her daughter. The coordinator offered to make Kelli Spaniol her intern, and that convinced Spaniol to return.
Spaniol and Kelli volunteered from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the food tent located halfway up the mountain, close to the spectator stadium and finish line of the Beaver Creek race course. Daily, they fed 200 volunteers hot coffee, cocoa and doughnuts in the morning and sub sandwiches, fruit, chips and a cookie each afternoon.
Kelli’s duties as an intern included working in the food tent, riding the chairlift with extra food for the volunteer food tent at the top of the race course and also giving demonstrations of snowshoes for the Atlas Snow-Shoe company.
The Spaniols experienced riding on the press bus with television news stations from around the world.
“We rode up the mountain in the dark each morning with the news crews from all over the world,” Spaniol said. “Team NBC, Australian News, Germany News, Austria News and more. There were so many different languages going, it was so fascinating. It was truly a new experience every single day, meeting people from all over the world and experiencing a different language being spoken everywhere you turn.”
Vail was the location of ceremonies and nightly festival events Feb. 2-15, including concerts, art and food features, a big-screen stadium and more.
Beaver Creek hosted most of the competitions, but that city also hosted racing events that included the Nation’s Team Event Feb. 10 and Men’s Giant Slalom and Slalom qualifying competitions Feb. 12 and 14.
Opening ceremonies included a theme: “Dream It, Live It and Share It,” which emphasized ski-racing values. Event organizers hope the event will live on through dreams that have been fulfilled, lives that have been touched and inspiration which has been given.
Kelli said the theme was evident everywhere they looked.
The more than 700 athletes from more than 70 nations who participated in the championships event represented the world’s largest group of competing ski-racing challengers.
Medal ceremonies for women and men included Super G, Downhill, Alpine Combined, Giant Slalom and more.
The closing ceremony included Beaver Creek’s and Vail’s passing of the torch to Vail’s sister city, St. Mortiz, Switzerland, which will host the 2017 World Championships.
“One cool thing was the free concerts with amazing bands Michael Franti, American Authors, O.A.R., Phillip Phillips, to name some, that were every single night after the awards ceremony.” Kelli Spaniol said.
Kelli was able to meet and get her picture taken with Tina Maze from Slovenia, a two-time gold and one-time silver medal winner.
Spaniol’s nephew, Adam Giambruno, 24, St. Cloud, also worked on the construction crew at Vail. His tasks included setting up the finish line for races, the concert stages and more from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
“The world is bigger than Minnesota,” Giambruno said. “We knew we couldn’t miss this amazing opportunity. There are opportunities like these all over the world. You just have to seek them out.”
For volunteering, the three received some extra perks, including a red-white-blue six-piece ski outfit that included three jackets, a hat, goggles and ski pants, as well as two weeks of free skiing, if and when they could find some free time.
Kelli worked on her school assignments at Cathedral High School before leaving on her trip. She spent lunch hours being tutored ahead in German and also brought her school laptop along to work on assignments during the trip.
Cathedral has a graduation standard that requires students fulfill 70 volunteer service hours before they graduate. Before Kelli left on the trip, she was approved to use the hours as volunteer service.
Spaniol is married to Peter Spaniol of St. Joseph. Kelli is their youngest and Ben is their oldest child. They also have three other sons, Tom, 25, married to Alissa; Wil, 22; Jake, 18; and a Shih Tzu dog named Ringo.