Top Five Fridays - November 9, 2018 // Ski Industry News
#1: Mikaela Shiffrin Expresses Herself in CNN Interview:
The World Cup ski racing circuit is on break this week as athletes make their last minute preparations for the long season ahead, but that doesn’t mean Mikaela Shiffrin stayed out of the news. As fans of what we might consider a niche sport, it’s always exciting when one of our favorite athletes makes an appearance on mainstream media. Such was the case this week when CNN Sports aired an interview with Mikaela Shiffrin. In the interview, which seems to only exist in bits and pieces across the CNN website, Shiffrin discusses a number of topics, such as the seasons behind and ahead of her, her reluctance to get political, and her refusal to be objectified as a female athlete. In discussing those topics, particularly politics and objectification, we get a glimpse into Shiffrin’s down-to-earth personality as she answers each question in a way that’s sure to not offend, while also staying true to who she is. A perfect example of this is when the topic of Shiffrin being selected for the Maxim Magazine’s Hot 100 comes up. Upon being asked about it in the interview, Shiffrin chuckles and immediately says, “okay, but did you see the picture?” As it turn out, while the other “award” winners were photographed in bikinis or other similarly scant clothing, Shiffrin opted to wear a full winter jacket and her Olympic medals, a fact she clearly gets a kick out of. Without diving too far into a debate on body image, it’s at the very least encouraging to know that when Lindsey Vonn retires after this upcoming season, there’s a positive role model ready to take the reigns in Mikaela Shiffrin. To see what else Shiffrin had to say, and to get a glimpse of her personality, check out the interviews on CNN.
#2: Vail Introduces Emma, the Siri of Skiing::
Remember last week when we shared that article about the growing prominence of smart technology on the slopes? Well, this week we were reminded that it’s an ongoing story as Vail officially launched the first ever on-hill digital personal assistant this week. Named, “Emma,” this text based app hopes to be able to answer a number of questions visitors to a resort might have. From practical information regarding weather, lift ticket prices, and ski school times, to experience enhancers such as lift line statuses or apés ski suggestions, Emma is designed to be able to answer a full range of questions on the fly. To be perfectly honest, most aspects of Emma seem more exciting for visitors to a resort rather than locals, but the ability to check in on lift and lift line statuses from across the mountain does seem useful to skiers from all localities. In addition to this information based assistance, Emma is also setup to tap into Vail’s EpicMix Technology, which will allow it (her?) to receive information from the RFID chip in your season pass. In other words, you’ll be able to ask Emma things like, “how many vertical feet have I skied today?” This of course is just a step away from being able to check on other skiers stats, adding fuel to the concept of friendly competition against unknown skiers at the mountain. In other words, we suspect that at some point in the not so distant future, apps like Emma and EpicMix will lead to the rise of “leaderboards”, at which point you’ll be able to ask Emma questions like, “Hey Emma, how many more vertical feet have I skied this season than Jimmy1923?” Of course this is pure speculation, but when you consider the growing prominence of smart technology on the slopes, it feels like a reasonably safe bet. For now though, Emma is only available at Keystone, with Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, and Whistler slated to have access to the app soon. For the rest of us using Epic Passes, the future isn’t quite here yet. For more on this, read the recap from Forbes.
#3: Skiing in the U.K.: Trying Times Ahead
Next up: let’s check in with our fellow skiers over in the U.K., where the current landscape of skiing is gloomy at best. First up, we want to share an article that we came across a few weeks ago, but that didn’t quite make our Top 5 cut that week. With Brexit looming in the U.K., some skiers are starting to reconsider the European ski vacations that they traditionally take. The reason of course is that uncertainty around Brexit has given rise to questions regarding passport/travel requirements, as well as higher vacation costs due to changes in currency valuation. As a result, many in the U.K. are questioning whether or not they’ll be able to make their annual ski trip to Europe post-Brexit.
It’s with that piece of knowledge in mind that we bring you this week’s troubling news: Scotland’s second largest ski area, CairnGorm Mountain, announced a double whammy of bad news. First, the resort’s iconic funicular railway has been closed indefinitely as it desperately needs repairs, and may not be able to reopen at all during the upcoming winter. Being a crucial lift for skiers at CairnGorm, the resort’s capacity will be severely limited, and has already caused a domino effect of other bad news. With the mountain’s capacity in question, its preemptively laid off its ski school employees, meaning one of the largest ski areas in the UK will not be providing lessons this winter. As a result, some groups, such as Disability Snowsport U.K. (a group that teaches those with disabilities to ski and snowboard) have already suspended their bookings. This in turn, just like here in America, will have a drastic effect on the local economy that relies on the mountain’s success to bring in tourism dollars. All told, things are looking a bit bleak for skiers in the U.K., but if there’s one thing we know, it’s that we’re a resilient bunch and wherever there’s a will, there’s a way to ski. For more on the situation at CairnGorm Mountain, give this article from the Telegraph a read.
#4: A Look at the Rise of Alterra, Courtesy of Freeskier:
Finally, we’ll round out the week with some news of a familiar variety: an article from Freeskier regarding Alterra. Now, first things first, we realize how often we discuss Alterra, Vail, and both of their multi passes (Ikon and Epic, respectively), and we also realize that we’re all probably getting a bit burnt out on it. But, the thing is, the ongoing consolidation is a big moment in ski history, and seeing as we’re living through it, we may as well cover it as closely as possible for now. That said, this week’s news is a bit more retrospective than forward looking. That’s because Freeskier published an article this week that, while a bit sensational, does an incredible job of detailing the origin story of Alterra. That is, all of the behind the scenes partnerships, discussions, and factors that lead to the eventual combining of KSL, the Aspen Skiing Company, Intrawest, and Mammoth Resorts. Truth be told, it’s a pretty fascinating read for those with a business mind, even if you are burnt out on consolidation talk. Rather than focus on trends and trajectories, this article takes on more of a case study approach as it dives deeper into the proverbial primordial soup that would eventually congeal and become Alterra. Those with even a basic concept of how Alterra came to be know how complex the situation was, which is why we’ll gladly turn you over to Freeskier for their detail loaded story.
#4.5: A Quick Word on Winter:
For many of you across North America, the biggest news of the week is probably the arrival of snow, and/or the opening of your local mountain. While this is undoubtedly news, it's a bit repetitious to cover where it snowed each week, as well as which mountains are opening. Instead, we'll refer you this week to On the Snow, a website that does an excellent job of covering resort conditions across North America. Wondering where the closest open resort is to you this weekend? Take a look at their list of operating ski resorts!