Top Five Fridays - March 29, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: Mikaela Shiffrin and Thomas Charles: A Special Type of Friendship
Last week, we officially closed down World Cup Ski Racing news after the last races of the season were held in Andorra. Of course just because racing coverage is over doesn’t mean we have to stop sharing stories about Mikaela Shiffrin, does it? Let’s hope not, because this week we bring you a story that speaks to who Shiffrin is as a person, and why we hope she’ll be the face of ski racing for years to come.
Growing up, Thomas Walsh was one of Shiffrin’s best friends, having been teammates on Ski Club Vail as kids, and again as teenagers at the Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont. Both athletes were leaders amongst their peers, with bright futures ahead of them. Then, in 2009, Walsh was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of cancer. That obviously led to significant changes in Thomas’s life, including uncertainty as to whether he’d ever be able to ski again. Ultimately Walsh decided that skiing was simply too important for him to simply give up, and so through sheer determination he made his way back to the slopes. Now, ten years later, he’s found himself quickly rising amongst Paralympians, having just won the overall World Cup Slalom title. In all honesty, it’s not a story we can do justice here, but now that you’ve got the gist of it, we highly recommend giving the story from the Associated Press a read. Warning: you made need a tissue.
#2: Vail's Golden Peak Expansion Get's Long Awaited Green Light:
In other ski racing news, it was announced this week that Vail’s longtime plan to expand their racing terrain on the resort’s Golden Peak has finally received approval from the U.S. Forest Service. For those leading the charge at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, it’s extremely welcome news, as the effort dates back approximately 20 years. At that time, the resort expanded into Blue Sky Basin, but stopped 760 vertical feet short of the peak. While a lift line was cut to the peak, approval for development was withheld due to concerns regarding streams and soil stability on the terrain. Now, after two decades of working with the Forest Service, Vail has created a plan that will improve drainage in the area and will stabilize slope terrain, ultimately allowing the project to move forward.
So why is this ski racing news? Well, for the simple fact that the primary use of the new zone will be for expanding the mountain’s race facilities, with the new terrain being comprised of two new alpine ski racing trails, as well as a dedicated mogul venue, as well as a surface lift for easy access. The vision of course, is to create a world class facility, ultimately benefiting the overall talent level of U.S. Ski Racing. For those worried about the future of the sport, this is certainly welcome news. For those who are not ski racers, it’s suggested that the terrain will be available to the general public, although the realistic assumption would be that it’s a rare occurrence. For more on this, check out the full writeup from the Summit Daily.
#3: 2019 Freeride World Tour Championship Recap:
In other ski competition news, this past week Verbier, Switzerland hosted the 2019 Freeride World Tour Championship round, marking the end of the season. This event, which was only open to the top 13 athletes from the initial 4 stages of the circuit, served as the last chance for FWT athletes to claim their place atop the overall podium. As such, athletes didn’t shy away from the firm, shady terrain, encouraged by victory to lay it all on the line. Proof of this claim came right off the bat, as France’s Wadeck Gorak kicked things off with an insane run that set the bar for the rest of the athletes. Mixing speed, control, big drops, and a massive backflip, Gorak managed to score an impressive 92 on the first run of the day (in the ski men division), an impressive feat. As the competition proceeded, a majority of the athletes attempted to best Gorak, with an impressive number of high speed antics and massive, blind cliffs being dropped. When all was said and done though, Gorak’s score proved to be the high mark as he took home the event’s gold medal. Ultimately, Gorak’s gold medal wasn’t enough to propel him onto the season’s overall standings podium, as he finished a respectable 5th place. Concluding the season ahead of him were Markus Eder in first, Kristofer Turdell in second, Leo Slemett in third, and Andrew Pollard in fourth. For fans of freeskiers, it should also be noted that Tanner Hall finished 9th overall. After his second place finish on the first stop of the tour, it will be interesting to see if Hall is encouraged enough by his final position in the overall standings to return to the circuit next year. With that, we congratulate all of the athletes in this year’s tour, and hope to see you all again next year! To see the final results from last week’s event, click here, or to see a list of the final standings, click here.
#4: SnowWorld USA Looks to Build Indoor Ski Center in Virginia:
Finally, we caught wind of some news this week that pairs well with an update we shared last week regarding climate change’s impact on skiing: an affiliate of Netherlands based SnowWorld, SnowWorld USA, has announced its interest in building North America’s first ever indoor ski and snow sports facility in Fairfax County, Virgina. While indoor ski and snowboard facilities already exist in numerous locations across the world, with a recent rise in popularity in areas like Dubai, the concept has yet to be introduced to the United States ski market. Currently, the closest comparison would likely be the dry slope ski area located at Liberty University, also in Virginia.
Of course there is one asterisk that looms over this story: while there are currently no indoor ski facilities in the U.S., the developers at American Dream and Big SNOW America have also made public their plans to create an indoor ski facility in New Jersey, meaning the race to claim “first” is officially on. For more information regarding SnowWorld’s efforts, check out this article from BizJournals.com.