Top Five Fridays - January 4, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Recap - Shiffrin Hits a High Note:
First and foremost: Happy New Year to all of our dedicated readers! We hope you all had a tremendous holiday season, and are eagerly looking forward to the year ahead! Now, let’s get into some ski racing news! As many of you know, Mikaela Shiffrin has been rapidly chasing the world record for the most slalom victories ever by a female skier. Prior to last weekend’s races, Shiffrin needed just one more win to claim the title from Austrain racer Marlies Raich (Schild) who, it should be mentioned, Shiffrin has a tremendous amount of respect for. After last weekend’s races, Shiffrin has officially surpassed Raich (Schild) after earning her 36th slalom victory. As Mikaela will be sure to mention, it was a surreal moment for her, and one that took her a few moments to fully comprehend. Now, while it certainly won’t be her goal, Shiffrin finds herself chasing the legendary Ingemar Stenamark’s record of 40 slalom victories. Considering the pace that she’s at, it’s likely that that record falls within a month. Of course that’s putting the cart before the horse a bit as we were also reminded this week that Shiffrin is in fact beatable, having lost in the parallel slalom race to Petra Vlhova at the annual New Years day city race in Norway. Looking ahead, the ladies will convene over the weekend in Zagreb, Croatia, before heading to Flachau, Austria, with each venue hosting a slalom race. If all goes well, Shiffrin could be just 2 wins shy of tying Ingemar’s high mark by this time next week!
#2: Michigan Gives Two Ski Areas $10m Grant to Develop World Class Ski Jumps:
While we’re on the topic of competitive skiing, we learned this week that the state of Michigan has decided to give two ski jumps in the state’s Upper Peninsula a combined $10m in grants for redevelopment. The two ski jumps receiving the funds are Copper Peak and Pine Mountain, both of which have significant histories of hosting ski jumping competitions. Pine Mountain was one of the earliest ski jump venues in North America with competitions dating back to 1939, while Copper Peak was a major host of ski jumps from the 1970’s through the mid-nineties. In recent years though, the jumps have been largely under utilized, with Copper Peak in particular serving primarily as a sight-seeing attraction and occasionally hosting an event like the Red Bull 400 or Teton Gravity Films as they filmed a ridiculous segment featuring Sammy Carlson. With the grant money, developers hope to completely revitalize the two venues, making them world class destinations for competitive ski jumping. It’s a thought that the community is extremely excited about, noting that the sport is massive in Europe and yet lacks a real presence in the U.S. Of course time will tell if two world class ski jumping venues will be enough to attract international attention, but if all goes to plan, it certainly seems feasible. For more on this, check out MLive.com’s coverage.
#3: Vail Lift Ticket Price Tops $200, Setting New Record::
In other news, lift ticket prices have hit an all time high, finally breaking the $200/day barrier. Yes, you read that correctly: earlier this week both Vail and Beaver Creek (owned by Vail) began offering one day lift tickets on their websites, for $209/piece. Now, there are plenty of ways to pay less than that price, such as booking your tickets ahead of time, buying multiple days at once, or using a service like Liftopia, but the fact remains: it’s now possible to spend over $200 for a single day of skiing.
Of course, as is always the case with Vail, this ticket pricing isn’t without strategy. In the words of Vail Resorts, “we reward guests for their loyalty and for committing to a winter vacation with us well in advance.” While that’s not necessarily untrue, higher lift tickets compared to a seasons pass or planned in advance vacation also act as a “pre-sale”, where Vail generates revenue well in advance of the season, allowing their management team to have a strong understanding of their anticipated earnings for the season ahead. This tactic, the pre-sale, isn’t inherently bad or good for consumers, although in this case it does result in a highly affordable seasons pass for multiple resorts in the EpicPass.
Still, you’ve got to wonder if maybe they’re starting to become a bit over zealous with the strategy. One significant factor that’s at play here that’s potentially being overlooked, is the trend towards a decrease in participation in skiing in recent years. This could prove to have a long term negative impact on the industry as a whole as a combination of dwindling community ski areas, combined with even just the perception of über expensive ski tickets could be enough to deter those with casual interest from ever even trying the sport. Only time will tell on that end, but in the meantime be sure to buy your tickets well in advance! For more, give this article from the Aspen Times a read.
#4: The New York Times Visits the Fischer Ski Factory:
Finally, we’ll round things out this week with a really cool story from the New York Times, highlighting Fischer Skis. Standing in contrast to what you might expect from a large ski company, this piece from James Hill does a great job showcasing what it’s like to work at, “the only large-scale, family-run ski manufacturer in the world.” In the piece, Hill visits the Fischer factory in Ried in Innkreis, Austria, where 480 workers make Fischer’s top of the line race and nordic skis. The article is part history lesson, part insight into the inner workings of a precision ski factory, and part pictorial chock full of incredible images. We could easily go on at length, reciting a number of interesting facts from the article, but that wouldn’t ruin all of the fund! Instead, we’ll direct your attention to the article itself. It’s worth it, even if you just browse the images!