Top Five Fridays - February 22, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: World Cup Ski Racing News: World Championships Conclude, World Cup Races Enter Final Stretch:
Despite the conclusion of the FIS World Championships in Åre, Sweden on Sunday, this week the world of ski racing remained packed with action. With two races occurring since last we spoke (and training for this weekend’s races already underway), there’s a lot to recap. So with our further ado, let’s jump right in with a recap of the last race of the World Championships. As you might remember, Mikaela Shiffrin sat out a majority of last week’s races, with her sights set on returning for the event’s final Slalom and Giant Slalom races. That decision resulted in a lackluster finish in the GS race as Mikaela finished in third. While that would be seen as a success for most athletes, Mikaela has proven to us over the course of the season (as well as last) that she’s capable of claiming the gold every time she launches out of the start gates. That point, as luck would have it, was proven on Sunday when she redeemed herself by winning the Slalom event.
After the conclusion of the FIS World Championships on Sunday, the athletes returned to the World Cup circuit on Tuesday, with a city race in Stockholm, Sweden. There, in one of the sport’s most exciting venues, athletes competed in a Dual Slalom event. For those hoping for a reminder, dual slalom events are a series of head to head slalom races, and are arguably one of the most entertaining forms of ski racing to watch. When all was said and done, Mikaela Shiffrin continued her hot streak, winning the gold medal and securing first place overall in the World Cup Slalom standings. Looking ahead, the women have just four more stops on the World Tour, including this weekend’s Downhill and Alpine Combined races in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Unfortunately, fans of Shiffrin will have to wait until the weekend of March 8-9 to watch her race again, as she’s already announced that she will sit out the next two stops in favor of physical recovery.
In other ski racing news, we’re compelled to mention that Lindsey Vonn was awarded the Laureus World Sports “Spirit of Sport” Award this week. The award, which was given out less than a week after Vonn’s final race, honors athletes who showcase the “greatest and most inspirational sports triumphs of the past calendar year.” For a season riddled with injury, dashed dreams, mental anguish, and one final feat of greatness, there’s no more appropriate award for Vonn to cap her career with. While it may not be a household name, the Laureus World Sports Academy is a worldwide organization consisting of 68 global sporting legends, and holds a strong reputation amongst those in the international sporting world. In winning the award, Vonn joins other U.S. sporting legends Tiger Woods and Simone Biles. For more on this, check out the writeup from the US Ski and Snowboard Team.
#2: The 2019 X-Games Real Ski Competition is ON!
In other news, the X-Games Real Ski competition is back, and whether or not you’ve already watched the video above it’ll likely come as no surprise that this year’s edits are once again chock full of jaw dropping feats of athleticism. For those unfamiliar, the X-Games Real Ski Contest is an online video contest in which 6 X-Games athletes submit short, sub-two minute edits, showcasing their urban skiing talents. These videos are hosted on the X-Games website, and are subject to a fan voting period that lasts until March 3rd, with a winner announced on Monday, March 4th. In addition to the fan vote, the edits will also be ranked by a panel of judges, with the three winners being awarded on the “World of X Games: Real Ski” show on ABC, which airs on Saturday, March 2nd.
From a fan’s perspective though, none of these details really matter. Instead, what’s significant here are the edits themselves. Each year this contest has featured numerous jaw-dropping edits, and this year’s is no exception. While contest veterans such as LJ Strenio, Will Wesson, Tom Wallisch, and Clayton Villa are absent from this year’s roster, Henrik Harluat, Phil Casabon, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, Kim Boberg, Jake Mageau, and Pär “Peyben” Hägglund have all stepped up with some truly impressive edits. We won’t drop any specific. spoilers here, but if you’ve got some time to kill this afternoon, we highly recommend giving all of the edits a watch. You can do so right here.
#3: Arapahoe Basin Plans to Leave Vail’s Epic Pass in 2019-2020 Season:
Next up: a story that caught many by surprise. Earlier this week, Arapahoe Basin in Colorado announced that it will be officially ending its partnership with Vail in the 2019-2020 season. In an official press release, Arapahoe Basin COO Alan Henceroth stated, “the ski area has developed a very special community that feels like home. In order to continue to build on this spirit and the experience we have created, Arapahoe Basin and Vail Resorts will not be renewing their pass partnership for the 2019/2020 season.”
While this is a sentiment that many skiers have shared whenever news breaks of Vail or Alterra acquiring a new mountain, the full press release shines a light on two very specific logistical problems that have little to do with the heart and soul of skiing: parking and facility space. In the statement, these two areas are pinpointed as the cause for the break, with the suggestion that Arapahoe Basin will be able to better handle the needs of its guests with a lower volume of traffic. As locals of Stowe Mountain, which is in its second season of Vail ownership, we can attest that parking and facilities are one of the most noticeable changes as a result of the Epic Pass. Still, interestingly enough, the Arapahoe Basin press release goes on to say, “In the coming months the ski area will be discussing opportunities with several resorts and resort groups.” For ski news nerds, this cliff hanger begs the question, “what trick does A-Basin have up its sleeve?” While we’ll have to wait before we can answer that, you can find out all their is to know for now by checking out the official press release here.
#4: Popular Mechanics Guest Writer Shares an Insanely Hot Take on Today’s Skis:
Finally, we conclude the week with an article that we share out of sheer amusement. While scouring the internet for the hottest news items this week, we came across an article from Popular Mechanics titled, “Is Everyone Skiing on the Wrong Skis?” Now, coming from Popular Mechanics, we expected the piece to delve into some of the physics of ski shapes, conditions, and/or possibly even body types, with a potential focus on why certain skis are better in certain regions. Instead, to our shock, horror, and ultimately amusement, what we’d discovered was an article from a two time Popular Mechanics contributor who seems determined to convince the ski world that the last 20+ years of ski technology has all been a waste.
In short, the point of the article is this: fat skis and parabolic skis make skiing too easy, hide bad technique, and devalue to sensation of skiing. While the author, Chuck Thompson, may have a point when looking at things through the lens of a skier who grew up skiing straight skis, he’s also majorly missing another one: skiing has evolved towards being more friendly and more fun for more people. Sure, you get a different feeling from a pair of straight skis than say a 100mm free ride ski, but it simply doesn’t make sense to objectively say one style is better than the other, particularly when modern skis make the sport much more approachable for new skiers. At this point we’d argue that the idea of there being just one “proper” way to ski is itself a bit archaic, as evidenced by the X-Games Real Ski edit above. With that concept in mind, Thompson’s self-righteous pill becomes a bit difficult to swallow.
Before wrapping this one up, we do want to make it clear that, as we’ve said before, we believe there really is a perfect ski for everyone. For Chuck Thompson, that very well could mean that mogul skis suit his style and preferences best. That said, the assertion that wider skis are “wrong” or “bad” is so out of line that it’s downright hilarious. To read Chuck’s essay / love letter to mostly outdated technology, you can give it a go here. We must warn you though: some of his views may be triggering.