Top Five Fridays - June 7, 2019 // Ski Industry News
#1: Killington Signs World Cup Extension Through 2020:
First up this week: some excellent news coming out of Killington, VT! As you likely know, Killington has played host to the FIS World Cup for the last three years after successfully landing a bid to host in 2016. Since then, the event has become massively popular in New England, with the Killington stop hosting one of the largest crowds on the entire circuit. At last year’s event, attendance peaked at 39,000 spectators. Additionally, according to Mikaela Shiffrin, the Killington stop also set a new record and precedent last year for hosting the most spectators for any women’s race on the entire circuit. For a sport that’s already setting the pace for gender equality, that’s a pretty darn good claim to be able to make.
We bring all of this up because it was just announced that Killington has secured a contract extension allowing the resort to play host to an early season stop of the FIS World Cup for the next two seasons (2019 and 2020). This is massive news for the region for a number of reasons, including the guaranteed economic impact, as well as the reputation of both Killington Resort and the U.S. Ski Team for being legitimate players in their respective domains. For Killington’s part, their ability to be one of the few mountains able to consistently guarantee high quality racing conditions in late November / early December sets them apart on a global stage. For the U.S. Ski Team, the ability to offer an East Coast venue which draws significant crowds helps prove to their international competitors that ski racing in the U.S. is alive and well, and features a strong fan base. All told, this is a great success for all parties involved. To learn more about this announcement, check out the official press release from Killington.
#2: New Rules for U-12 Ski Racing Hope to Level Playing Field:
In other ski news this week, we came across an article that stood out to us as it addresses improvements to ski racing at a very young age. As you may recall, there was some clamor earlier this year when Lindsey Vonn announced her retirement from the world of competitive ski racing. In reaction to that news, it was suggested that the U.S. Ski Team’s golden era has come to a close, and speculation cropped up regarding the future of the U.S. Ski Team. In light of that claim, we’ve been keeping an eye on things at lower, developmental levels to see what the future of the sport might be like for American ski racers.
That of course brings us to this week’s news that a number of changes have been made at the U12 level to encourage participation from athletes across all economic levels. At the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Congress in Park City, Utah this week, rule makers decided to make three significant rule changes for the upcoming season: athletes are only allowed one pair of skis per race, there are no tuning benches or fluorinated wax at races, and there will be two races a year without speed suits. At first glance, it may seem like these rules are geared towards limiting speed, but as it turns out, they’re actually a response to what U.S. Ski Team member Andrew Weibrecht has referred to as an “arms race.” In other words, over the last handful of years, success at the U12 level has become dependent on parents buying the best equipment, tunes, and gear for their children to compete with. In creating these rules, the hope is that athletes at this level will be forced to use more similar equipment while reducing the amount of influence that wealth can have on race results. In doing so, the goal is to recruit more youth participants in ski racing, with more equalized results. Ultimately, this should increase the odds of finding the next Bode Miller or Lindsey Vonn. While there will certainly be some families who don’t love the rule as it will negatively impact their competitive strategy, we think anything that gives more kids an equal chance to compete at this age level is undoubtedly the right move for the future of ski racing. For more on this, check out this article from SkiRacing.com.
#3: I-70 Traffic Has Direct, Negative Impact on Skier Visits in Colorado:
Shifting gears a bit, we share with you another story this week regarding Colorado’s “ski corridor”, I-70. Those with their pulse on what life is like for Colorado skiers are likely well aware of the recurring traffic problems on the main route to the mountains. While the I-70 problem pops up so frequently that we typically choose to ignore it in Top 5 Fridays, this week we caught a headline that’s a bit more meaningful as it ties traffic congestion to a larger theme. On Wednesday, the Denver Post published an article highlighting a study that suggests the traffic problems on I-70 had a direct impact on the number of Colorado skiers heading to the resorts this year. Despite being a relatively informal and small sample size study (it was conducted at park and rides), the results from a survey conducted by the I-70 Coalition suggest that approximately 67% of people decided to take less ski days this season due to traffic problems. Now, just to be clear, this is far from the most scientific study, and results could certainly vary if the study was conducted in different locations or at different times, the bottom line is still tough to argue with. At minimum, the traffic problems of I-70 have caused people to go skiing less. While the Colorado Department of Transportation is constantly attempting to alleviate this issue, the fact remains that traffic is bottlenecking the number of skiers making it to the mountains in Colorado. Zooming out a bit, it’s also worth thinking about how multi passes have started a trend of centralizing skier visits, already leading to more traffic issues in areas like Salt Lake City, where traffic up the Cottonwood Canyons is becoming increasingly problematic. The dynamic shared between multi passes, traffic, and skier visits is a complex one to be sure, and one that we hope doesn’t ultimately lead to more people deciding to ski less as a result. At present, this highlight amounts to little more than a yellow flag, but is sure to be something that we keep an eye on in the years ahead. To know what we know, check in with the Denver Post.
#4: Lastly, We’re Going Out the Same Way We Came in: Extension News:
In other extension news this week, friend of SkiEssentials, Glen Plake, signed a new 3 year deal with Elan Skis this week. The announcement was celebrated by both Elan and Plake on social media as the extension is a legitimate win for both parties. For Plake’s part, the 54 year old veteran skier will continue to work with his ski partner of over 12 years, two statistics that few other professional skiers will ever be able to cite. In his role, Plake will continue to work as an ambassador for the Elan brand, likely continuing his multi-year Down Home Tour, in which Plake visits numerous ski areas of varying sizes in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest regions. For Elan, the deal means that they’ll retain one of skiing’s most iconic figures, and someone who has multi-generational recognition. Again, a rare feat in the world of skiing. In addition to being able to leverage Plake’s persona, Elan will also have a partner on the ski design and development front as Plake is credited with helping design the Ripstick series, one of Elan’s most popular lineups of the last few years. Truth told, this seems like an ideal match for both parties as Plake will be able to continue his vagabond ski touring ways while Elan retains one of the biggest names in skiing and a knowledgeable ski developer. On that note, congratulations to both Glen Plake and Elan Skis! If you’d like to check out our review of the Elan Ripstick 88 featuring Glen Plake, you can do so here!