#1: The Shiffrin Saga Continues as USA Today Shares Chapter 3:
Well, it’s the last Friday in April, so you know what that means: we’ve got another off-season edition of Top Five Fridays to share with you! In the interest of not rocking the boat too much (skiers are creatures of habit afterall; just watch what happens to us when it snows), we’re starting this week by sharing an article from the world of ski racing that highlights one of our favorite athletes: Mikaela Shiffrin. As you’re undoubtedly aware, Shiffrin’s 2019-2020 season was riddled with tragedy. All season long we’ve had a gut feeling that the impact of that string of events, most notably the passing of her father Jeffrey, had been affecting Shiffrin’s race results. That’s not to say that she didn’t show up to each race and compete at a high level, she did, but prior to the middle of the 2019 season, Shiffrin was simply in a league of her own when it came to her competitive drive. Throughout the first half of this season though, it appeared as though that world class competitive drive was missing, resulting in the type of season that most FIS athletes would be envious of, but was still below expectations for Shiffrin. Then, at the World Championships, Shiffrin won four gold medals, the most of any athlete within the last 14 years. After that streak, it appeared as though Shiffrin had rediscovered her competitive drive.
This week, USA Today shared an article that tells us more of that story as they profiled Shiffrin’s season and her return to form. In the past we’ve come across articles that highlight the difficulties of Shiffrin’s previous year, as well as her uncertainties leading up to this season, but this is the first time we’ve read a piece that shines a light on the third chapter of this saga. As it turns out, a lot of our suspicions were correct: Shiffrin’s competitive drive was simply missing throughout much of the season. That’s not the most interesting insight within the article though. That award goes to two other anecdotes.
First, there’s a passage within the piece in which Shiffrin reveals the trepidation she felt the morning of December 14, 2020, the day of the Giant Slalom race in Courchevel, France. Call it what you will, but Shiffrin woke up that morning feeling particularly sad about something: she knew she was going to win that day, and when she did, it would be the first time in which she would be unable to call her father immediately after. That insight is quite revealing as it indicates not just a lack of drive to win, but also a sort of hesitancy which consciously or subconsciously held Shiffrin back. The other significant insight shared through this article was the unexpected impact that the success of the Jeffrey Shiffrin Resiliency Fund had on Shiffrin. That fund was impactful for Shiffrin in two ways. First, it allowed Shiffin to give every U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team athlete a $1,300 payment in her father’s name, to help with the additional costs of Covid-19. Second, and likely more significantly, the creation of the fund also opened up a line of communication between Shiffrin and other athletes who shared their own stories of resiliency with Shiffrin. In discovering these unknown bonds in an organic way, Shiffrin’s mentality began to shift as she realized she wasn’t alone in being forced to overcome monumental setbacks. If we accept that Shiffrin’s lack of competitive drive this season was the result of a cloud of sorrow looming over her, then it was ultimately the creation of a fund in her father’s name that showed Shiffrin that she isn’t alone in her circumstances, thereby helping her regain her world class competitive edge. Now, with a renewed outlook on life and a strong end to the season, Shiffrin’s back on snow training for what could be a return to form next winter. All in all, this USA Today article is chock full of great insights, and very much feels like chapter three in the most recent Shiffrin saga. We recommend giving it a read in full.
#2: Data Suggest Ski Tourism Will Surge This Summer and Next Winter, But Will Resorts Be Ready?
Speaking of “next chapters,” our next highlight this week is an article from the Tahoe Daily Tribune that takes a look at the next stage in moving past the pandemic in mountain towns. As we’re all aware, we’ve made incredible progress as a species in terms of battling Covid-19 on a global scale. At this time last year, the entire world was in panic mode, unsure about how to contain a seemingly uncontainable virus. Now, with vaccine rollouts in full effect in many parts of the world, and here in America in particular, we’re finally beginning to be able to think about what happens next: the return to normalcy.
In this week’s article from the Tribune, author Brian London takes a look at what the upcoming summer and winter seasons might look like in mountain towns from a tourism standpoint. In his analysis, London highlights both positives as well as things to look out for in the year ahead. First, the positive news: there’s likely to be pent up demand for destination travel, which should bring a considerable amount of tourism and business to mountain town economies. The result, obviously, would be a significant economic boost to regions that badly need it. Here in Vermont, for example, it’s estimated that ski resorts lost over $100 million in revenue, while the communities that benefit from ski tourism lost an additional $700 million this year.
Unfortunately, London points out that there’s also the risk of these communities experiencing the old adage of “too much of a good thing” first hand. According to London, “If the floodgates are thrown open in the name of economic prosperity, there is the potential for resident pushback and renewed concern for over-tourism. If the wrong re-opening and re-welcoming strategy is deployed, resorts run the risk of coming across as under-prepared.” In other words, with the release of this pent up demand, resorts and their communities may experience an influx of tourism that they aren’t ready for, much like what the Tahoe region experienced last summer. As a result of this potential surge in traffic, mountain communities risk experiencing a number of issues related to unmanageable crowd sizes. The fallout from over tourism could potentially result in negative experiences and reviews from visitors, thus decreasing their likelihood of revisiting during a more moderate time. The solution to preventing these issues, according to London, is for resorts and area businesses to take what they learned about managing crowd sizes and begin incorporating it into plans for managing heavy traffic this summer. If they can pull that difficult task off, the upcoming summer and winter seasons could be a remarkable resurgence for mountain communities. For more on this, check in with the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
#3: Multi Pass Updates - Ikon Announces “First Tracks” Program, Indy Pass Adds 3 Resorts:
For our third update this week, we’re actually combining a pair of news items that share the theme of “multi pass updates.” The first update we have in that light is news from the Ikon Pass, who just announced a new pass benefit called “First Tracks.” With this new benefit, Ikon Pass holders at 14 different Ikon resorts (click here to see the list) will have early lift access one day per month. While that may not seem like much, it’s worth noting that it’s at least something of an unexpected gift to pass holders. Additionally, given the small scope of the new benefit program, we also suspect that this is something of a test run, and either more resorts will be added to the program prior to the season, or the program itself will expand in future seasons if it proves to be successful and manageable at the resort level. Either way, it’s at the very least cool to see the Ikon Pass continuing to attempt to innovate and discover ways they can provide more value to their pass holders. To learn more about this, check out the official press release from the Alterra Mountain Company.
In other multi pass news, the Indy Pass has announced yet another round of additions. To be perfectly honest, the Indy Pass seems to be constantly adding resorts to its roster, and we don’t always get a chance to update our readers with every new resort. In fact, since the last time we checked in on the Indy Pass back in October 2020, they’ve added another 9 resorts, including some big East Coast names like Jay Peak, Saddleback, and Waterville Valley. This week, the pass announced yet another round of additions as Mt. Ashland, OR, West Mountain, NY, and Powder Mountain, UT have all joined the club. Of those three, Powder Mountain is undoubtedly the highlight as it ranks as the largest resort in the United States in terms of sheer size. Now, with these three inclusions, the Indy Pass offers 2 days of skiing at 66 resorts, all for the low price of $279. While the pass likely isn’t ideal for those who prefer to call a single mountain home, it does provide excellent value for skiers who like to explore new resorts, as well as those who would like to ski a handful of times a season without spending over $300. If either of these descriptions sound like you, or if you’re curious to learn more about the Indy Pass, head over to their website to learn more.
#4: Tecnica Announces Launch of “Recycle Your Boots” Program in Europe:
Finally, rounding out this week is a cool piece of news coming out of the European headquarters for Blizzard Tecnica. There, a new program has just been announced that will enable skiers to send their old, unwanted ski boots back to Tecnica to be recycled. Over the last few years, the ski industry on the whole has become increasingly aware of its own environmental footprint, and the direct impact it has on the sustainability of the sport. With Vail taking a stance via its Epic Promise program, the FIS agreeing to eliminate fluorocarbons in ski wax, and even new ski brands focused on making more environmentally friendly products, nearly every corner of the ski industry is undergoing positive changes in regards to this issue. One area that’s proven particularly difficult to improve however, has been ski boots. Due to a myriad of factors, such as their relatively short lifespan, their heavy use of plastics, and the combination of materials used to create a ski boot (plastic, aluminium, rubber, foam, fabric, etc), finding a sustainable way to recycle ski boots has proven elusive. Most recently, in 2013, the Snowsports Industries of America (SIA) partnered with a company called Waste-Not Recycling to offer a ski boot recycling program. That initiative lasted for several years before changes in the global recycling landscape resulted in a backlog of ski boots waiting to be recycled. Ultimately, that logjam resulted in the dissolution of the program and there haven’t been any solid alternatives since.
That is, until this week’s announcement. Spearheaded by Tecnica, this new, self explanatory “Recycle Your Boots” program hopes to give skiers an easy way to recycle old, unwanted ski boots. In short the program works like this: skiers in Europe can drop off any ski boot, from any manufacturer at select retailers. From there, the retailers will collect and ship the boots off to Tecnica who will work with a network of partners to properly dismantle, separate, and recycle each part of the ski boot. In addition to the ease of use and restriction-free aspects of this program, the other highlight is Tecnica’s focus on vertical sustainability. With so many different steps required to make this program possible, Tecnica has also made the wise decision to monitor the carbon emissions throughout the entirety of the process. In other words, not only has Tecnica figured out a way to recycle ski boots, but they’ve also taken steps to ensure that their recycling process is a net positive for the environment. All in all, it’s a super impressive move from Tecnica, and one that we’re very much here for. To learn more about this latest announcement, check out the writeup from Ski Magazine.