Top Five Fridays - April 26, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: CDOT to Summer Hikers: Be on the Lookout for Unexploded Avalanche Bombs:
We start this week with a PSA unlike anything we’ve had to share before: if you’re hiking in Colorado this Summer, be aware of unexploded avalanche bombs. That’s the word from the Colorado Department of Transportation as they calmly informed hikers to be aware of the unexpected danger this week. Diving in a bit deeper, the situation breaks down like this: as you know, Colorado had a heck of a year for both snowfall and avalanches, with some even plowing directly into I-70. To mitigate the risk to backcountry users, officials ultimately fired approximately 1,500 avalanche bombs into the Colorado mountains. Of the 1,500 bombs, it’s estimated that 22 didn’t explode. As a result, there are currently 22 avalanche bombs that pose a risk to hikers, and could in fact go off at any time. Terrifying, right? Well, the reality isn’t quite that bad. First of all, these avalanche bombs were fired into remote, rugged areas which aren’t typically trafficked by hikers, so the risk of coming across one of these unexploded bombs is low. Second, CDOT is currently working to locate the bombs, meaning there’s a good chance they’ll be cleaned up well before any hikers stumble across them. With those two factors considered, this news is ultimately just a friendly heads up from the CDOT, who says you shouldn’t touch any unexploded bombs you might find, and to call law enforcement immediately. For more on this, check out the full report from the Kansas City Star.
#2: San Francisco Chronicle Investigates the Future of Skiing in California:
In other news this week, the San Francisco Chronicle published an excellent and extensive article covering the questionable future of skiing in California. To be perfectly honest, we were hesitant to share this article as it seems like every week there’s news regarding climate change threatening the future of skiing. Still, this particular article does an excellent job of highlighting the issue of snowfall with a focus on California in particular, making it well worth sharing. For the most part, this article covers familiar territory: over the last few decades, average temperatures have gone up (2 degrees in California since 1950), while snowfall has become more unpredictable (this year’s impressive accumulations ended a seven year drought). As a result, resorts are finding themselves adjusting for climate uncertainty by expanding their offering to include summer sports like mountain biking, as well as more events such as craft brew festivals. While none of this is necessarily new news, the San Francisco Chronicle article does a great job of examining it while sharing plenty of hard data and details.
One area where the article does begin to explore new ground, is in its discussion of how crucial a healthy snowpack is to the larger ecosystem, both natural and man made. Take for example the statistic that snow provides approximately 50% of the earth’s fresh drinking water, supplying nearly 2 billion people worldwide. Or, more locally, that the snow melt in the Colorado river accounts for roughly 1/3 of the fresh water for cities in Southern California. In other words, the role of climate change reducing snow pack extends well beyond the effect it has on skiers. It’s a much larger, more significant situation that could impact the availability of drinking water on a global scale, and skiers are at the forefront of the issue. For more on how climate change is impacting the ski industry, as well as global ecosystems, check out the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle.
#3: LAAX Issues its Own Cryptocurrency:
Next up: another crazy sign of the times. This week, we caught news that LAAX, a large ski resort in Switzerland, is entering the digital currency revolution in two big ways. First and foremost, the resort plans to launch an initiative that will allow resort visitors to slowly grow a stock of digital micro-shares using a new DLT (Digital Ledger Transaction) platform. In short, the program works by rewarding resort customers for purchases, such as renewing their annual season pass. The more purchases a customer makes with the resort, the more digital micro-shares they’ll begin to accumulate. Part two of LAAX’s plan, and a fundamental element to making sense of the purpose of digital micro-shares, is the announcement of their own cryptocurrency, called GURU (Greatest User Return Unit). Utilizing their own cryptocurrency, LAAX will allow users to be able to cash out their digital micro-shares in the form of GURU, which can then be converted to standard currencies. Amidst all of this confusing new-fangled financial technology, is the underlying motive. While the establishment of such a system works as a customer loyalty program to encourage visitors to return to LAAX, the use of GURU is expected to permeate throughout the village. By convincing local establishments like restaurants and lodges to give customers paying in GURU a discount, the hope is that LAAX’s loyalty program will result in an economic boost for the entire region, tied together by a localized cryptocurrency. While it’s yet to be seen how effective this plan will be, it’s at the very least an interesting idea to consider, and a potential trend worth following. For more on this, check out the writeup from SwissInfo.ch.
#4: Early Audi Nines Coverage Features a Controversial World Record:
Finally, it’s time for some fun! As you may recall, we shared news at the start of this month that the Audi Nines event was scheduled to take place from April 22-27th. As luck would have it, that’s this week, and while we’d typically wait another seven days to cover the event as the action is still ongoing, this year’s event has proven to be irresistibly interesting. First, the good news: this year’s course has proven once again to be both super fun, and enabling, as proven by Andri Ragettli landing his first ever quad cork 1980. For the women, the story holds true as for the first time ever, they have their own uniquely designed course built specifically to test their limits as well. When the concept of a separate course for women was first announced, we had slight reservations, but it would appear as though it was the right move, as evidenced by the second half of the course preview video (seen above).
In addition to all of the undebatably good news, there has also been one highly debatable piece of news from the Audi Nines event. On day one, David Wise set a new world record for highest quarter pipe air, shooting 38 feet, 4 inches above the deck. This measurement is a significant improvement over the previous record, which was set at 35 feet by Simon Dumont. There is, unfortunately, one massive asterisk that the freeskiing has been quick to take issue with. When Simon Dumont set the record, his effort was on a true quarter pipe. When David Wise set the record earlier this week, he was landing on an adjusted quarter pipe that offered a ramped landing (as opposed to being truly vertical), and was also higher than the takeoff point, making it a much safer attempt. As a result of this altered quarter pipe, many within the free skiing community are arguing that Simon’s record should stand, and that the height of David Wise’s attempt should be measured from where he landed, not where he took off. We’ll let you stew on this one independently and draw your own conclusions. For more on this, check out the report and video on Newschoolers.com.