#1: Ski Racing Updates: USST Training Resumes in Squaw, as Do Talks With the NCAA:
Hello and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the customjerseyrd, 2021 edition. This week, we get the opportunity to kick things off in familiar fashion with a couple of exciting ski racing updates! First, let’s start with an announcement that’s typically par for the course this time of year, but would’ve felt monumental just 12 months ago: the Women’s and Men’s U.S. Ski Team are set to convene at Squaw Valley to begin their off season training. In typical fashion, Mikaeal Shiffrin is a step ahead of her teammates as she began training on Monday, while the rest of the Women’s team arrived throughout the week and the Men’s team is scheduled to show up next week. Again, in most years this would be expected news and arguably unworthy of inclusion in a Top 5 Friday, but if you’ll recall, the USST had an incredibly difficult offseason last year as the impacts of Covid-19 severely limited their access to snow. Despite that fact, this past season was still hugely successful for a number of USST athletes, and we’re excited to see how an earlier start to their off season training this year will further improve next season’s results. There isn’t much additional information available on this story, but you can find out everything we know by checking in with KTVN.com.
In other ski racing news, we also caught an excellent article from SkiRacing.com that keeps us tuned into the latest updates in the ongoing discussions between the USST and the NCAA. In case you missed the drama last Summer, a heated debate arose in which it became obvious that athletes and coaches from the world of collegiate ski racing felt as though they were underappreciated or even being outright disrespected by the USST. On the other hand, members of the USST shared the notion that to be a World Cup caliber athlete, attending college was impossible, as reaching the highest levels of competition requires total focus and commitment. Over the course of the winter, those tensions seemed to settle down a bit, and back in March we caught a brief update from the USST in which they’d announced that they’d held a video conference call with coaches from the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) and Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) in an effort to bridge the gap between them. Now, about a month later, we’re hearing about changing perspectives that could result in actual changes in the relationship between the two programs. Amongst these new perspectives is the realization by the USST that the U.S. collegiate athlete system creates a massive talent pool which is currently being underutilized. Given the scale of the NCAA ski racing program, the decision to work towards including these athletes in a World Cup pipeline could be a huge advantage for the USST in terms of access to talent as compared to other countries. At the moment, those efforts look like a lot of planning, with the expectation that once the Covid climate comes to pass, the USST will begin offering camps to help collegiate athletes better gauge their abilities, and for the most elite, to prepare to transition to the USST. Of course there are plenty of details that we don’t have space to get into here, so if this story interests you, we highly recommend check in with SkiRacing.com for more.
#2: The Lingering Impacts of the Pandemic: Workforce Housing a Hotter Issue Than Ever:
In other “ongoing issues” news, our second highlight finds us revisiting a pressure point that’s plagued skiing for years now: the ski town housing crisis. To be fair, this issue took a bit of a back seat this past season as numerous other Covid issues became more pressing news. Ironically, one of the more attention grabbing headlines over the last year actually plays directly into this issue. As you’re likely aware by now, the pandemic resulted in something of an explosion in real estate buying, particularly in mountain towns. While that was great news for mountain town realtors, it also resulted in a surge in home prices, a significant drop in home availability, and a decrease in rental units on the market. Compounding on this trend, were additional factors such as second home owners deciding to live in the homes they’d previously used as income properties, and the conversion of long term rentals into short term rentals listed on websites such as Airbnb or VRBO. In other words, while we haven’t talked much about housing availability in mountain towns over the past year, the pandemic has accelerated the issue in a number of ways. There is, however, some potentially good news on the horizon. Recently, President Joe Biden announced a massive infrastructure proposal which would include grants for workforce housing in rural communities. For mountain towns, that could be huge as the availability of government funds to create housing could be monumental in fixing this ever growing problem. To learn more about how the pandemic exasperated this issue, as well as what hope lies ahead, check out this report from the Sierra Sun.
#3: Granby Ranch Update: New Developers Purchase Resort, No News for Homeowners:
Next up: yet another update from an ongoing story. While the name “Granby Ranch” may not be familiar to all of our readers, those who checked in with us on September 4, 2020 might recall the ski town / resort’s complicated ownership issues. In that edition of Top 5 Fridays, we shared with you the story of how this unique ski town had found itself in an incredibly complicated financial situation as new owners had decided to end a lease-purchase agreement which would’ve seen the area’s property owners eventually take ownership of the mountain. Under that agreement, which was enacted in 2005, home owners put down a one time, $10,000 deposit. In total, the resort collected about $8 million in deposits, all of which were made irrelevant and deemed non-refundable when the mountain changed ownership and the agreement was cancelled.
That debacle entered a new chapter this week as a newly formed entity known as GR Terra has announced its intention to buy the resort, as well as it’s adjacent property. Along with this announcement comes some good news, and some bad news for area residents. First, the good news is that the resort seems to have transitioned out of what was always going to be a short term arrangement as the previous owners (who cancelled the lease-purchase agreement) made no effort to hide the fact that their ultimate plan was to resell the property when it was ready. Now, with new owners who seem intent on developing Granby Ranch to its full potential, those who love the ski area can feel confident that its future is in good hands. Unfortunately though, there’s also likely some bad news. In the latest press release announcing this update, there was no mention whatsoever in regards to local landowners who had formerly bought into the lease-purchase agreement. As such, we can only assume that the financial disagreement has come to pass, and those who’d bought into the agreement are essentially out of luck and $10,000 each. There’s a chance we’ll end up hearing more about that aspect of this news story, and if we do, we’ll be sure to keep you updated. For now, check in with Sky Hi News to know what we know.
#4: Japanese Long Jumper Sara Takanashi Finishes Seasons With Three World Records:
Finally, we end this week with an exciting story that speaks to Asia’s growing presence in the world of competitive skiing. This week, Japanese ski jumper Sara Takanashi made history as it became official that she had broken three Guinness World Records over the course of this previous FIS Ski Jumping World Cup season. Now, to be clear, these records had already been broken, it’s just that this week they became officially recognized by Guinness, and since we have yet to cover Takanashi’s success, we figured now would be a great time to alert our readers of this rising star. The first two records broken by Takanashi this season actually happened back in February when she took home first place at an event in Rasnov, Romania. With that gold medal, she’d won her 60th FIS long jumping event, making her the winningest female long jumper of all time, as well as the winningest long jumper of all time regardless of gender. Then, just over a month later, at the FIS Long Jumping finals at the end of March, Takanshi broke another record after finishing in 2nd place at an event in Russia. With that result, Takanshi had found herself on her 109th FIS long jumping podium, the most of any World Cup long jump competitor. What’s even more interesting about this story is that her career seems to be far from over. At just 24 years old, Takanashi has her sights set on competing in the 2022 Winter Olympics, and, “to extend the record further,” saying, “I feel I must keep the skill worthy of these records.” While it’s a bit bittersweet for us as Americans, who used to be at the forefront of a sport that’s dwindling in interest here in the states, we can’t help but feel excited for Takanshi as she blazes her own trail into the history books of long jumping. To learn more about this remarkable accomplishment, check out the article from Guinness World Records.