Top 5 Friday April 1, 2022: Lead Image

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Top Five Fridays: April 1, 2022

Lead Image: A Freeride World Tour athlete peers out at the Verbier venue, accumulating the knowledge necessary to put down what they hope will be the best line of the day. Image: Freeride World Tour on Facebook

#1: 2022 Freeride World Tour: Verbier & Final Overall Results:

Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the April 1, 2022 edition! While today is in fact April fools day, we’ll hold ourselves back from playing any jokes on you. We promise. Even though the fourth highlight in this week’s cycle may seem like a joke, it is in fact very real. We’ll get to that in a minute here, but before we do, we’ve got one final round of Freeride World Tour competition to recap, followed by a couple of intriguing articles from the North American ski industry. Now that you know what you’re in for, let’s dive in.

Last Saturday, Vthe final stop of the 2022 Freeride World Tour was held in Verbier, Switzerland. This stop on the tour is by far the steepest, most challenging, highest risk venue on the tour, offering numerous “high risk, high reward,” lines down the mountain. In this season’s event, that sentiment proved to be as true as ever as some athletes successfully strung together a series of jaw dropping hits, while others went out in glorious, if not brutal fashion. On the successful side of the spectrum, Maxime Chabloz had the run of the day, skiing aggressively through two consecutive drops in which he took the largest approaches possible, followed by a 360 and an absolutely massive backflip to end the run. That run scored him a 95.33, earning him not only the gold medal for the event, but also securing the overall gold medal with a season total of 32,500 points. For a rookie on the tour, Chabloz’s season couldn’t have gone any better and provides us a glimpse into the future of the sport as his strong technical skiing combined with smooth freestyle elements will likely be a staple of the Tour for years to come. Also opting for high risk, high reward lines were Ross Tester who sent by far the largest successful cliff of the day with a massive air up top, followed by a large sized 360 towards the bottom, and Carl Regnér Eriksson who combined high speeds with high risk 360’s in the middle of his run. For their efforts, Tester and Eriksson were awarded second and third place respectively, although they switched podium positions in the overall standings, with Erikkson taking home the overall silver medal, and Tester coming in third.

Now, at the top of this highlight, we alluded to some athletes not succeeding in their risky maneuvers. Unfortunately, one of our favorite riders, Aymar Navarro, falls into this category. Always one to watch, Aymar’s approach to the Freeride World Tour is typically “find the biggest line and send it straight.” That ideology showed up in last week’s event as Aymar lined up and sent an absolutely insane run which more or less equated to a triple stage cliff drop, with each drop growing in size and speed. After perfectly executing the first two drops in his line, Aymar came into the third hit ever so slightly backseat, and with an incredible amount of speed. While he managed to take the third air to his feet, his position and force caused him to slip out, ultimately somersaulting uncontrollably downhill and bouncing off a rock face before coming to a motionless stop. The fall itself was terrifying to watch, as was the prolonged delay that followed it as Aymar had to be helped off the venue by medical staff. Fortunately though, all things considered, Aymar is going to be alright, suffering a shattered shoulder as well as plenty of scrapes and bruises. While we don’t know the extent of his injuries or recovery time, we remain hopeful that we’ll see him again in next year’s tour, although hopefully in a slightly more reasonable version. We wish Aymar the best in his recovery.

On the women’s side of the event, the story was similar, although with less terrifying crashes. Coming into the day, Jessica Hotter was untouchable in her first place ranking, as even with an NS result, no other competitor could beat her score. As it turns out, that’s just what happened as an awkward takeoff led to an awkward landing on the first mandatory air of her run, causing a ski to come off. Still, despite that result, Hotter took home the overall gold medal in this year’s series. Behind Hotter in both the Verbier results and overall standings was Tour veteran Hedvig Wessel who’d won last season’s series and finished in second in 2020. At Verbier, Wessel put down a solid run with strong, smooth technical skiing, capped off by a massive air at the bottom of the venue. Finally, rounding out both podiums was sophomore Olivia McNeill, who offered a smooth brand of skiing all year long, mixing in enough cliffs to make her one to watch next season as well. Before we round out our coverage of this Freeride World Tour season, we want to give our own honorable mention to Lily Bradley, who in her first year came one unsuccessful cliff drop away from finding herself on an overall podium as well. Heading into the last event, Bradley was in third place, and only 320 points off second. Unfortunately, Bradley took her only fall of the season on the last hit of her run, front punching into the snow and performing a quick tomahawk down the venue. While we’ll never know what her score would’ve been had she completed her run, there’s a strong chance that she would’ve finished on the overall podium in her first year on the tour. As such, just like McNeill, Bradley has solidified herself as one to watch both next season and for years to come. And on that note, we’d like to congratulate all of the Freeride World Tour athletes on their successes, and to thank the organization on the whole for another year of incredibly compelling competition. You can review all of this year’s results and media over on the Freeride World Tour website.

#2: Tahoe Area Ski Resort Contemplating a Switch to Only Selling Season Passes to Local Homeowners:

Top Five Fridays April 1, 2022: Homewood Mountain Resort Image

Uniquely located on the shores of Lake Tahoe, Homewood Mountain Resort has been a popular destination for locals. Last year however, their business took a significant hit, resulting in a transition to a new semi-private business model over the next few years. Image: Homewood Mountain Resort on Facebook

Moving right along, our second highlight this week is particularly interesting for those of us who’ve been invested in the growing idea of overcrowding at ski resorts, either out of personal experience or simple interest. As you’re likely aware, this year a number of ski resorts belonging to multi-passes became what many would consider overcrowded, resulting in a less than desirable skiing experience. On the flipside of that, it also meant that some resorts experienced less traffic as former passholders joined multi-passes. In some cases, insult was added to injury as not only did visitation decrease, but traffic to and from multi pass resorts made it difficult to access non-multi pass resorts. One specific instance of this is Homewood Mountain Resort, located on the west end of Lake Tahoe. As something of a local’s mountain, Homewood is used to catering to smaller crowds, but this season’s traffic hit an all time low as visits were down 40%, season pass sales were down 60%, and on one day in February, the mountain hosted only 115 skiers. Those numbers are clearly unsustainable.

As a result of this trend, Homewood Mountain Resort is taking what’s, as far as we know, the first ever step to become a semi-private resort. Specifically, over the course of the next few years, Homewood will transition to a season pass only model. Taking it a step further, season passes will only be offered to members of 6-7 local homeowners associations. In other words, rather than operating under a traditional business model, Homewood is looking to offer exclusive access to the resort via season passes made available only to local homeowners within specific housing associations. By eliminating single day lift tickets and only offering passes to locals, Homewood is hoping to be able to pre-sell enough season passes to operate by promising a locals only, crowd free experience. To be sure, it’s both a novel and risky solution to a growing problem, and whether or not it’s a successful approach has yet to be seen. The risk factor of this decision is furthered by the fact that while the resort’s management team is confident in the move, the local community isn’t unanimously on board, particularly due to the plan to make passes only available to residents of local homeowners associations. As a result, there are most definitely locals in the area who would love to continue skiing Homewood, but will be ineligible due to their housing situation.

Zooming out from this particular insistence, the idea of a season pass only ski resort does make us wonder: is it possible that ski resorts could potentially shift to this model to create semi-private resorts? Ignoring the HOA component to Homewood Mountain’s announcement, it’s interesting to consider what would happen if a ski resort decided to eliminate daily lift tickets, and operate only for season pass holders. While we can’t say for sure whether or not this would be successful, the idea that a ski resort could potentially earn its seasonal operating income before the lifts even start spinning, and in return provide the promise of a crowd-free ski experience is certainly an interesting one to say the least. At the moment, that’s simply a concept in our own imaginations, but as the effects of multi-passes continue to evolve, we can safely say that competing businesses will also have to evolve their business models to attract visitors. For now, you can learn more about the news coming out of Homewood Mountain Resort in this coverage from Moonshine Ink.

#3: Ski Utah’s “Discover Winter” Program Proves to Be a Life Changing Experience for People of Color:

In tangential news, Ski Utah also recently helped produce a short edit highlighting Philip Henderson, a longtime outdoor enthusiast looking to lead the first all Black team to the top of Mount Everest this spring. Huge shout out to Ski Utah for their work in making skiing a more welcoming community for people of color. U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team.

Next up this week is a story coming out of Utah that we absolutely love. In recent weeks, we’ve found ourselves sharing a number of stories that revolve around the questions, “who gets to ski, and where?” Picking up where our last highlight left off, it could be argued one of the unintended results of a push towards inclusion has been overcrowding, as more affordable passes have led to congested ski resorts. To add more perspective to that story, and to vouch for the positive side of an inclusive approach to pass pricing, we’re following up that highlight with a story this week from Salt Lake City, where Ski Utah has been running a “Discover Winter” program this year that’s given roughly 135 people of color from various backgrounds the chance to ski for the first time. While this idea of accessibility and welcoming non-white athletes to the slopes is something we’ve discussed many times here on Chairlift Chat, this week’s story from the Salt Lake Tribune really humanizes the idea by sharing the story of participants in this program.

Within this article, there are a few illuminating concepts that really help drive home what this movement is all about. To kick things off, we first learn about Ahmed Dahir, whose experience and interest in skiing is an excellent representation of many of the participants in the program. Despite living in Salt Lake City for the past 23 years, and having world class skiing under an hour away, Dahir had never tried skiing or snowboarding before. He’d heard about how Utah had some of the best snow in the world, and was aware of the hype surrounding the sports, but for various reasons, he’d never tried. This year, that changed when he signed up to partake in the Discover Winter program, which provided everything from lift tickets to goggles, enabling Dahir to experience up to five days on snow for free, complete with lessons. Now, Dahir loves it. So too does Odeh Ondoma who grew up in Nigeria but has lived in Salt Lake for the past 12 years. For Ondoma, the first day on the slopes was strange and terrifying as he found himself inexperienced and in a new world. After learning the basics though, he too was hooked, saying,”...if we didn’t try it, we wouldn’t know it was this fun. I wish I could come everyday.” While that goal may be out of reach, Ondoma is now considering getting his four kids involved next season, signing them up for lessons.

This interest, and desire to share their new love with others, is exactly what the Discover Winter program was designed to do, and directly addresses a second core concept shared in this story. It’s an idea that Ski Utah’s VP of Marketing and program driver Raelene Davis refers to as being “socially disadvantaged.” In other words, because there isn’t a culture of skiing and snowboarding within the communities of people of color, there’s a sort of static friction at play in which it takes actual effort for an individual to decide to try skiing or snowboarding. Without a community of peers participating in the sport, even those somewhat interested in skiing would have to go out on a limb just to try either sport, deciding to spend money on the equipment, lift tickets, and transportation without knowing if they’d even enjoy the activity. Now that these 135 participants have tried the snowsports though, they’re able to report back to their communities, sharing their enthusiasm for the sports and hopefully convincing others to get involved. While there’s still plenty of work to be done, and we’re hopeful that the Discover Winter program will be back next year and that the concept will spread to other regions, the fact that Ski Utah has seemingly found a way to increase participation in non-white communities through organic means is extremely promising. To learn more about this program, check out the report from the Salt Lake Tribune.

#4: Saudi Arabia Has Crazy Futuristic Plans for a New Ski Resort City. Introducing: Trojena:

This is an April Fools joke Trojena.

Finally, we round out this week with a story that, while a few weeks old, hasn’t fit in with any of our recent highlights, but is absolutely begging to be shared. It’s not often that we come across a story that leaves us scratching our heads, wondering if what we’re reading is based in reality or if it’s some sort of sci-fi based piece of satire. As it turns out however, that’s exactly how we’ve felt reading articles about Saudi Arabia’s recently announced plans for “Trojena,” a mountainous tourism community based in “Neom,” a 10,000 square mile city roughly 33 times the size of New York City. If this story is already feeling a bit fictitious to you, you’re certainly not alone. While there are plenty of highlights to pull from Neom, such as “The Line,” which is described as a 170km long city with zero roads and cars (transportation is handled by an underground “service” layer), our focus here on Top Five Fridays is always skiing. As such, let’s take a look at some of the grand visions being proposed for Trojena, the mountain sector of Neom.

Trojena’s role within Neom is to offer mountain based experiences, primarily to tourists in a forward thinking, futuristic way. The plan is for the city to be anchored by two incredible features: a roughly 3km long, manmade, freshwater lake, and a “folding city” called “The Vault,” built directly into a mountain ridge. In addition to these futuristic and potentially impossible architectural feats, the city will also be home to Saudi Arabia’s first ever ski area. Not only that, but at an elevation of just over 7,750’, the goal is to keep this ski area open year round. In addition to these features, Trojena will also offer recreational opportunities such as hiking, mountain biking, and swimming, as well as economic staples such as conference centers, concert halls, and sports venues. In other words, it’s more or less your typical modern mountain town, only taken to the extreme. Of course, all of this comes with some massive caveats. While the developers behind the project are promising an opening date in 2026, architects across the world are expressing plenty of skepticism about whether or not the proposed features of Trojena are physically possible to create. In one particularly amusing tweet, The Paul Rudolph Institute for Modern Architecture points out that the amount of mirrored glass shown in the renderings for The Vault would result in “solar death rays.” While the entire concept of the city feels so futuristic that it’s hard to believe, project developers seem to be quite serious about making this vision a reality. Without any inkling of architectural expertise, we’re unable to comment about whether or not Trojena has any chance of becoming a reality, but we’re certainly interested to see what comes of it. For now, we’ll refer you to coverage from Middle East Eye, as well as the official website for Trojena, which, if nothing else, is a very well done website.

#5: And Now, Your Edits of the Week: We Highly Recommend Watching the Verbier FWT Stop:

Finally, Alex Feirreira, aka Hot Dog Hans, Is:

Written by Matt McGinnis on 04/01/22

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