Top Five Fridays - May 17, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: U.S. Ski Team Announces Team Nominations for 2019-2020 Season:
Remember the days when we used to kick off each week with the latest news from the FIS World Cup Ski Racing circuit? Sure, it may have only been a couple of months ago, but that doesn’t make us any less excited to be able to share with you some new news from the world of ski racing! This week, the U.S. Ski Team announced it’s official list of 38 athletes who have been nominated to the Men’s and Women’s ski teams. It should be noted of course, that the athletes listed have been “nominated”, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re officially on the team yet. Much like a college acceptance letter, a nomination to the U.S. Ski Team is more or less an offer to the athlete to the join the team, but the final decision rests with the nominated skier. As such, the official U.S. Ski Team roster won’t be announced until the fall, but this week’s news gives us a pretty good idea of who will be on the team, and in what role.
In regards to the athletes who have been nominated to the U.S. Ski Team, both the Men’s and Women’s A and B teams are stacked with familiar faces, such as Mikaela Shiffrin, Breezy Johnson, Laurenne Ross, Bryce Bennet, Ted Ligety, Steven Nyman, and several more. Where the list gets a bit more interesting for those keeping an eye on the future of the ski team, is primarily on the Development Team (aka the D Team), where a combined two-thirds of the Men’s and Women’s teams are new names, all of which are under 20 years old at the time of this writing. While the names on this team are unfamiliar to us now, with any luck they’ll be common knowledge in the years to come. For more on this year’s nominations and to see the full list, check out the official writeup from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team.
#2: Cloud Seeding Growing in Popularity, But Not Entirely Accepted:
Next up in this week’s news cycle is a new take on a recurring theme. As you know, skiing is likely to be one of the first industries to feel the drastic effects of climate change as weather becomes less predictable and snowfall decreases. One the many ways that industry players are attempting to counter climate change is by utilizing cloud seeding. When we first reported on the concept a few years ago, we shared a story regarding two meteorologist-snowboard “bums” who were developing the technique with an eye towards increasing snowfall at ski resorts. This week, we check back in on the concept as Denver Channel 7 News has released a report covering the growth of cloud seeding in Colorado. In the report, a number of cloud seeding proponents are interviewed who see the technique as a great way to encourage more precipitation in the area. Amongst this group is Eric Hjermstad, who owns Western Weather Consultants, a company that works with ski areas to implement cloud seeding strategies. Of course, as with all issues, there’s another side of the coin. Countering proponents of cloud seeding are people such as Gary Wockner, owner of Save The Colorado, a non-profit looking to stop developments that negatively impact the Colorado River. In his view, cloud seeding is an unnecessary effort, arguing that there are better ways to handle water conservation.
So what’s our big takeaway here? Well, in terms of the technology, it appears as though not much has changed over the last few years. The same techniques are yielding approximately the same results. What does stick out, however, is the growing interest of solutions such as cloud seeding to combat increasingly unreliable weather. Just a few weeks ago we covered a story highlighting the grim future of California’s snowpack, as well as its important role in providing fresh water to a number of Southern Californian cities. So while it could be argued that cloud seeding isn’t the ideal solution to climate change, it could still prove to be a useful tool for the ski industry and beyond. For more on this, read the full report from The Denver Channel.
#3: North Korea Showing Interest Creating More Ski Areas:
In other ski news this week, word on the chairlift is that Kim Jung Un has plans to build North Korea’s 4th ski resort. As with all things North Korean, information remains limited, and what we know comes via reported statements made by Kim Jung Un himself at a recent speech given at the Hot Spring Tourist Area in Yangdok County. There, it’s reported that Un said, “The Yangdok region has natural and geological conditions that are well-suited for the construction of a ski resort.” It’s a simple statement, without many of the details we’d typically look to discuss (such as size, number of lifts, trails, etc.), but considering the circumstances it’s more than enough to raise a number of questions.
For starters, the idea that North Korea is looking to continue growing its stable of ski resorts is economically confounding. Despite their best efforts, it’s no secret to the rest of the world that North Koreans aren’t exactly flush with cash, raising the question of who will be visiting the resort as well as its overall economic viability. We already know that China’s concerted efforts to grow the popularity of skiing have begun to pay off, and that Chinese skiers are already willing to travel to ski, but will political differences allow for North Korea to create a tourism economy rooted in skiing? It seems like a long shot.
The next big question that arises from this, is what it means for North Korea’s environmental policies. While little is known about the nation’s actual policies and whether or not stated commitments are enforced, it’s an odd, yet encouraging sign that North Korea may be focusing on environmental stewardship. After all, if they’re looking to continue building ski resorts as well as hot spring resorts, then it would appear that the country is looking to intertwine its economic strategy with a reliance on a healthy environment. At the moment, this isolated effort likely means little to the greater good of the world, but if the political climate were to change, having an environmentally conscious country in Asia could prove to be significant. To learn more about the very little we know regarding this development, we turn you over to IntheSnow.com.
#4: Kami Rita Sherpa Climbs Everest for a Record Setting 23rd Time:
Finally, because it’s been a relatively slow news week, and because this is an incredible story, we’re going to close this week with a highlight that’s not specifically related to skiing. This week, we learned that 49 year old, Nepalese sherpa Kami Rita Sherpa has successfully summited Mt. Everest for a 23rd time, improving upon the record he’d initially set at 22. Being the son of one of the original Mt. Everest sherpas, it’s safe to say that mountain climbing has always been a part of Kami’s life, although the timeline of when he began working as a sherpa is uncertain. Regardless, it is known that his first summit of Everest was in 1994, meaning he’s scaled the mountain 23 times in 26 years. Considering the fact that weather and timing play a significant role in determining when it’s possible to summit the mountain, that statistic is nothing short of remarkable. Perhaps what’s most amazing about this story though, is that it’s still not over. Despite being 49 years old and holding a 2-summit lead on potential record chasers, Kami recently told reporters, “I am still strong and want to climb Sagarmatha (Everest) 25 times.” While only time will tell if he’s able to achieve that lofty goal, the fact remains that what Kami has already achieved is an incredible feat. To learn more, check out this report from Reuters.
On another note, in researching this news piece, we noticed that quite a few sherpas carry the last name “Sherpa.” If any of our incredibly intelligent readers have an explanation for this, please let us know in the comments below. We’d love to know more!