If you missed the Winter Olympics in Sochi and won’t be flying to South Korea to catch them in 2018, here’s an excellent option: the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek from February 2 to 15, 2015. The next best thing to the Winter Olympics, the World Championships are free to watch and draw some 700 athletes from 70 nations—the largest pool of ski racing talent second only to the Olympics—plus there’s the added convenience of staying stateside in Colorado’s Vail Valley. If this is up your alley, here’s how to do the trip right.

Get Behind the U.S. Ski Team

Defending Soelden champions Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety are the competitors to watch. Vonn plans to stage a comeback at the World Championships; set the DVR to check her progress at the Lake Louise Alpine Ski World Cup from December 5 to 7. That same weekend, Ligety will be looking for a Giant Slalom “five-peat” in Beaver Creek at the 2014 Audi Birds of Prey.

Bundle Up for the Races

Flash forward to the two-week World Championships, which will host alpine races for Downhill, Super G, Super Combined, Slalom, and Giant Slalom. Ligety will tackle the same Birds of Prey course, cruising near 80 miles per hour down the 40-degree-sloped Brink run. Next door on Beaver Creek’s new Raptor Ladies course, Vonn will compete on the 31-degree-sloped Gauntlet at some 75 miles an hour. You can watch all of it free of charge with your own eyes from stadium bleacher seating.

Hit the Slopes

Ready to take on your own runs? Find plenty of open terrain with 98 percent of the runs at Vail and Beaver Creek still open to the public during the races. Experts should hit the big Back Bowls at Vail, while Beaver Creek’s scenic, corduroy groomers are the way to go for easygoing riders and skiers. At both resorts, you can also sign up for World Championship lessons, which include privately guided experiences that take you behind-the-scenes to where the athletes train.

Bring the Party to Vail

When the work of racing is done, take a free shuttle to Vail, which is hosting most of the nighttime events, including medal ceremonies and free concerts. For a quiet dinner, ride the gondola to the top of the mountain and then hop in a snowcat to Game Creek, a chalet tucked away on the mountain. For something more happening and still high on the hill, get tickets to Décimo, Vail’s new nightclub at 10,250 feet.

Book Your Room and Flights Pronto

Rooms at both resorts are expected to fill up for the championships, so you should book lodging now. Zero in on Beaver Creek, which will be hosting most of the racing events. Even better, splurge on a room at the 190-room Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (from $799), located slopeside and with views right up mountain. Walk or ski to the action right out the back door, warm up in the atmospheric lobby, or get lost in a 30,000-square foot spa. Tip: Request a room with a view of the slopes.

Direct flights via American and into Vail-Eagle County Airport (EGE) are the way to go. From there, it’s about a 35-minute shuttle ride to either resort, where free, abundant shuttles mean you won’t need a car.

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