#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Recap: A Mostly Quiet Week for the U.S. Teams
Well, it was a somewhat mellow week of World Cup Ski Racing action once again, as Mikaela Shiffrin opted out of most races while the men’s schedule only offered two opportunities. Still, just because things were a bit more quiet than we’re used to for the U.S. Ski Team, it doesn’t mean they were silent. On the women’s side of things, a Downhill, Alpine Combined, and Super G race were hosted in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria last Saturday and Sunday. While Mikaela Shiffrin sat out for a majority of those races, her U.S. teammates Breezy Johnson, Alice McKennis, and Jacquelinee Wiles took 25th, 26th, and 27th respectively in the Downhill race. A day later, Alice Merryweather took 23rd in the Alpine Combined event and 17th in the Super G race. While no single athlete put up jaw dropping finishes, the team as a whole managed to put up a respectable performance. Shortly after last weekend’s events, the women’s circuit traveled the short distance to Flachau, Austria, where a slalom race was hosted on Tuesday. In that race, Shiffrin got back on course and earned a third place finish, earning her 16th straight World Cup Slalom podium, setting a new record in the process. Interestingly enough, the winner of that race was Petra Vlhova, whose training practices we’ll discuss more in highlight #2 this week. Looking ahead, the women’s circuit will head to Sestriere, Italy this weekend for a Giant Slalom and Parallel Giant Slalom race.
On the men’s side of things, Ted Ligety managed to make some late-career noise last Saturday as he finished 7th in a men’s Downhill race in Adelboden, Switzerland. Also in that race, recent “force to be reckoned with” Ryan Cochran-Siegle eked out an 18th place finish. At present, the men’s circuit is in Wengen, Switzerland for an Alpine Combined, Downhill, and Slalom race. Once that series wraps up on the 19th, they’ll head to Kitzbuehel, Austria for a series of races next weekend. For the complete FIS World Cup Ski Racing Schedule, click here.
#2: It Looks Like the MLB Isn’t the Only Professional Sports League With a Spying Problem:
Now, back to that previous note regarding Petra Vlhova. We caught an article this week that really caught our attention for a number of reasons. Back on January 4th, Ski Racing Magazine published an article recapping the Women’s Slalom race in Zagreb, in which Petra Vlhova bested Shiffrin, resulting in Mikaela’s first loss in the event of the season. In highlighting that fact, author Mackenzie Moran addressed Vlhova’s training staff’s tendencies to film Mikaela’s training sessions. To her credit, Moran tackled the subject quite objectively, using quotes from both Vlhova’s coach, Livio Mangoni, as well as Shiffrin herself to accurately portray the differences in opinion regarding the practice.
This week, the story has picked up steam as Italian news outlet, “The Gazzetta,” picked up on the spy-theme and added it’s own twist, saying that Ski Racing Magazine indicated that there’s a trend of “industrial espionage” within ski racing. Seeing that article, Vlhova’s coach filmed his own video response denouncing accusations of an epidemic of spying, while also pointing out the fact that there aren’t any rules against it.
Ultimately, it’s that final point that makes this story so intriguing. As you’ll hear in the interview with Mikaela Shiffrin above (which, ironically was filmed this past November), Shiffrin points out that skiing is one of, if not the only, professional sports in which athletes aren’t given the right to host private practices. Instead, if they’re on the hill, they can be filmed. While you can tell that Shiffrin is able to see both sides of the issue, she ultimately uses Bode Miller as a prime example of why filming training regiments should be made illegal by FIS rules. In citing his ability to see lines differently than his competitors, she makes a strong argument for the intellectual value being created when an athlete trains. By allowing competing teams to film training runs, it’s akin to cheating as competitors will be able to tap into what could arguably be considered intellectual property before a race begins, diminishing a certain advantage that any particular athlete might have. For those interested in hearing valuable insight from one of the best skiers in the world, we highly recommend pressing play on the video above.
Finally, one last thing we feel compelled to point out with this story before we wrap it up. It should certainly be noted that Mikaela harbors no negative feelings whatsoever towards Petra Vlhova. In typical Shiffrin fashion, she complimented her competitor, saying, “She is one of the few people who has been able to do the work in the right way to earn these victories over me, even when I’m skiing really well, and there’s a lot to be said for that.” To see the original story that started this discussion, click here. To read The Gazzetta’s response, click here, and to read Ski Racing Magazine’s follow up response from this week, click here.
#3: Overcrowding Causes Crystal Mountain to Rethink Lift Ticket Sales Policy:
Next up from the world of ski news is the further progression of a troubling trend that’s recently crept into the ski industry. Over the past few months, we’ve reported on multiple occasions stories about ski areas struggling to manage incoming traffic, parking lots, and overcrowding. Specific examples of this include Solitude and Northstar Resort, who both decided to implement a paid parking policy this season. This week, we came across sa story from Crystal Mountain, WA, where overcrowding over the past two weekends has resulted in a dramatic new policy. For the foreseeable future, the resort will no longer sell tickets at the mountain on weekends or holidays. Instead, the mountain will sell a preset amount of day tickets on their website in hopes of better controlling crowd sizes. One important note to make in regards to the new policy is that Ikon Passes will still be valid and unrestricted. Ironically, the addition of Crystal Mountain to the Ikon Pass is what many would cite as the main reason for the congestion. While favorable weather after a slow start to the season was undeniably the impetus for the insurgence, the fact that so many people have season passes to the resort is likely the underlying cause. That assertion is also a commonality between an uptick in visitors at both Solitude Resort, which is a member of the Ikon Pass, as well as Northstar Tahoe, which is on the Epic Pass. While that’s as far as this week’s news takes us on the topic, you can be sure that there will be more stories like this before the season’s up as congestions seems to be one of the most unexpected and yet problematic results of ski resort consolidation. For a more in depth recap of the apocalyptic scene at Crystal Mountain last weekend, check out the report from the Seattle Times.
#4: The Freeride World Tour Announces Equal Prize Money to Male and Female Athletes:
Finally, in a week filled with espionage and overcrowding, let’s end things with a much more positive story. This week, the Freeride World Tour announced that starting with next week’s first 2020 FWT stop in Hakuba, Japan, they will be awarding equal prize money to men and women in all categories. This is of course amazing news for a number of reasons, chief amongst which is that it’s further proof that ski and snowboard culture are on the forefront of gender equality. As you may recall, it was just two weeks ago that we shared a story highlighting the value of women on the business side of the sport. Now, with this week’s announcement, we’re seeing the start of what will hopefully become a trend of snow-sports competitions awarding equal prize money to men and women. In creating an equal economic opportunity for women, Freeride World Tour managers hope to entice more females to get involved with the sport, starting on the Junior and Qualifier levels. If that hope turns to reality, the long-goal with the move is that it will continue to push progression of women’s side the sport forward. With that, all there is left to do is to give a massive shout out to the Freeride World Tour for leading the ski industry with this move. For more updates from the Freeride World tour, be sure to check back next week, as with any luck we’ll have a recap of all the action from the first stop of the year!