Top 5 Friday August 12, 2022: Lead Image

Ski Industry News - Top Five Fridays

Top Five Fridays: August 12, 2022

Lead Image: One of many, many shots found in our 2023 Ski Test. It goes without saying that this is our best edition yet. Click here to check it out.

#1: The 2023 Ski Test is Officially Live!

Top Five Fridays August 12, 2022: 2023 Ski Test Image

The 2023 Ski Test is now live, featuring nearly 400 skis from 20 brands! Start finding your skis for next season, right here.

Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the August 12, 2022 edition! Look, we won’t beat around the bush. We’ve been dying to share one specific headline with you more or less since late March: The 2023 Ski Test is now live! This time around we’ve once again outdone ourselves, adding two new brands to the fold and covering nearly 400 skis, this year’s edition is our biggest ski test yet. Taking place over the course of three March days at Stowe Mountain Resort, under mostly favorable weather, we gathered dozens of ski testers to test the latest round 2023 skis, back to back. One of the unique values of testing skis this way as opposed to skiing a ski with the intent of reviewing it comprehensively, is the quick succession in which our testers ski each ski. In other words, when Jeff, Bob, or Emily take out a ski to review it, they spend hours on it, really getting to know it at a pretty intimate level. With our ski test, we have dozens of testers take runs on multiple skis in quick succession, allowing them to quickly get a read on how each ski compares to another and how they fit into the broader landscape of what’s on the market. For a lot of first time testers, it’s an eye opening experience as they quickly realize that skis can have vastly different personalities, even if they look identical on paper. That notion is at the heart of our test as our goal is to ultimately align skier personalities with ski personalities. As you read through this year’s test, you’ll likely come across quotes from testers identifying a given ski as “their” ski, meaning it’s a perfect fit for them. That’s the type of feeling that we’re hoping to achieve for you next season by producing these ski tests.

This year, we’ve got more skis than ever, and more content than ever. Along with even more high quality on-hill photography, we’ve got more studio shots to help display the shape and profile of each ski, and more in depth videos where our team takes you through an overview of each ski. As always, our goal with this ski test isn’t to award prizes or to claim any given ski or brand as “best in show.” Instead, it’s to help you identify the best ski for you so you can have as much fun as possible next season. With all that said, we encourage you to head on over to our Ski Test page and dive in, even if only to ogle at next year’s lineups. As always, if you have any questions at all, feel free to leave a comment on any ski pages or their associated videos on YouTube and our team will reply ASAP. Now, without further ado, enjoy!

#2: Significant Internal Issues Revealed as Third National Ski Patrol Executive Director Resigns Within 5 Years:

Now that our top highlight of the year is covered, we unfortunately have to move on to a more somber article. This week, we learned via the Colorado Sun that the National Ski Patrol’s Executive Director, Chris Castillian, has resigned after just one year in the role. His departure marks the third resignation from the position in the last five years. As we learned in this excellent piece of journalism from one of our favorite writers, Jason Blevins, this week’s resignation underscores a world of issues that’ve been rising within the National Ski Patrol. Interestingly enough, the core of these issues has a lot in common with the story we covered in recent weeks in regards to Gunstock mountain: the National Ski Patrol’s (NSP) board members have been ruling with a heavy hand for decades, making it difficult for the organization’s leadership team to operate as they see fit. Also much like our Gunstock updates, we want to tread lightly here as the article from the Colorado Sun contains a ton of information that, while public, is new to us. As such, we want to be sure to not over invest in one point of view without hearing more about the other. That said, the writeup from Blevins includes a number of quotes and specific situations that look pretty damning for the NSP. We’ll let Blevins’s article do most of the talking in that regard, but the broad strokes of the piece are this: since the mid 2000’s the National Ski Patrol has found itself losing relevance due to an inability to modernize both strategically and socially.

The curtain was pulled back on the issues plaguing the NSP this week with Castillian’s resignation. In his official statement, Castillian simply said, “This week I came to the realization our respective views on NSP’s path forward are so different that it is highly unlikely we will ever align, and so, it is time for me to move on.” In the Blevins piece however, we learn that this is a view shared by Castillian’s two predecessors as well, who also resigned for similar reasons. Most recently Meegan Moszynski resigned in 2020 (although rumors are that she was fired by the board) after taking issue with a letter that the then NSP chairman Brian Rull published in the National Ski Patrol magazine in which he wrote that he was, “unfortunate enough to sit next to an Asian woman who coughed the entire flight.” In the wake of that incident, there was significant backlash from within the industry, including an internal memo from the National Ski Areas Association’s President, Kelly Pawlak, denouncing the passage as “offensive and racist language”. As a result, the NSP did a bit of light soul searching in regards to inclusion and diversity, although unfortunately it sounds as though very little has come of it. That notion is again highlighted by Castillian’s departure.

In addition to the social optics, the NSP also has an existential crisis on its hands. As more large scale resorts rely less on volunteer ski patrollers, the organization that tasks itself with educating volunteers for ski resorts across America has slowly become more obsolete, particularly in the west. Still, they remain a crucial part of the ski industry in America as the organization consists of 31,000 members across 650 resorts, accounting for approximately 90% of ski patrollers at midwestern ski areas, and 80% of patrollers at New England ski areas. In other words, while there’s currently a trend towards ski patrollers being unionized and employed by ski resorts, there’s still a massive, crucial cohort of volunteer patrollers who rely on the NSP to support them. That fact is ultimately why this story matters. At this moment in time, the NSP is both incredibly important to the ski industry, while simultaneously imploding due to a lack of modern leadership. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but when comparing it to the trend lines of ski patrol unions, it’s hard not to imagine a scenario in which these lines merge and there’s a massive shift in how ski patrolling is handled in the United States. For now, we’ll turn you over to the Colorado Sun to learn more.

#3: Mt. Bachelor Facing $49 Million Wrongful Death Lawsuit:

Top Five Fridays August 12, 2022: Mt. Bachelor Image

Looking out at Mt. Bachelor ski resort. Image: Mt. Bachelor on Facebook

In other unfortunate news this week, we have the unenviable task of sharing a story that dominated headlines, but in which there is no winner. Put succinctly, the story is this: last winter, a 9 year old boy was skiing at Mt. Bachelor with his family when he lost control on an icy run, slid down the trail, and incurred life ending injuries. As a result, his parents are now suing Mt. Bachelor to the tune of $49 million. In the 10 page lawsuit, a far more dramatic version of the events are told, including the assertion that multiple people who unloaded from the Summit Express chair on January 16, 2021 almost immediately lost complete control and slid down Healy Heights, hitting rocks and losing clothing along the way. Regardless of the details, 9 year old Brecken Boice was airlifted to a nearby hospital where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries. The result of the incident is undeniably tragic.

Now, the Boice family, who are partners at a law firm that they operate in Tacoma, are suing Mt. Bachelor for $49 million for the wrongful death of their son. In the lawsuit, the Boice family claims that the resort operated negligently and that the run was too dangerous to be open. Again, we don’t want to add our opinions to the details of this case, but one aspect of this story that we would like to call out is the precedent that a ruling here could set. Earlier this Summer we shared a story in which a man sued Mt. Hood Skibowl for $10.5 million after crashing on his mountain bike there, ultimately becoming paralyzed from the waist down. As a result of that lawsuit, Mt. Hood Skibowl immediately shut down mountain biking operations. To us, this lawsuit feels similar in the sense that a ski resort is facing a massive lawsuit from a plaintiff that claims the resort created an unsafe situation for its guests. Again, while we don’t pretend to know what conditions were like on Healy Heights on the day of the incident, the concept of suing a ski resort for a massive amount of money over a subjective matter such as conditions feels like a slippery slope. On that note, we’ll conclude our recap of this story and simply defer you to Oregon Live to learn more.

#4:If You Want to Ski in South Africa, There’s Just One Place to Do it: Afriski:

Top Five Fridays August 12, 2022: Afriski Image

A scene from Afriski, one of the most unlikely ski resorts in the world, where those in south Africa can experience the same joys of skiing that we do here in North America. Image: Afriski Mountain Resort on Facebook

Finally, we end this week on a lighter note, as we share a quick article from Bloomberg that reminds us once again of the powerful impact that skiing can have on people. The article itself is a highlight of Afriski, the only ski resort in Africa that’s south of the equator. As we learn in the writeup, its entire existence is a bit of an anomaly, as it’s located in the high peaks of Lesotho, a small African kingdom whose claim to fame is being the only nation in the world whose entire elevation is above 1,000’ meters (or 3,280’ feet). At an elevation of 3,000 meters (9,842 feet), Afriski is enigmatic in that it’s one of, if not the only place in Africa, with snowy enough winters and friendly enough terrain to operate as a ski resort. Given the unlikely combination of factors that allow for Afriski to exist, you might be led to think that the market opportunity for such a resort is far too small to sustain a feasible business. As we learn in this week’s highlight from Bloomberg though, that’s simply not the case.

In this week’s article, we’re treated to an entertaining read that reminds us of the enamoring power that skiing has on new participants. At Afriski, many guests are not only experiencing skiing and snowboarding for their first time, but also snow. As a result, their visits are filled with a mix of playful wonder and excitement as they discover the simple joys of the substance, whether that’s packing it into their first snowball or learning how to ride down it on skis and snowboards. What sticks out most to us about this article though aren’t the expected anecdotes of first time experiences, but how instantly guests at the resort come to experience the same love for skiing and ski culture that we all share. In one passage, a 13 year old boy who lives nearby the resort and had just won a slopestyle competition is quoted as saying, “I would really like to ski in Europe.” In another section, we learn of a vibrant aprés scene, complete with house music, loud fashion, and plentiful beer. If you read these sections without context, you would never guess that they originated from a story highlighting the sole ski resort south of the equator in Africa. For us, that’s the heartwarming aspect of this story: beneath all of the details, opinions, and news we share here on Top Five Fridays, there exists a sport that has the power of making those who experience it fall helplessly in love, regardless of who they are, where they live, or what life might be like off the slopes. To read this story in full, we’ll steer you over to Bloomberg.

#5: And Now, Your Edits of the Week: It’s Trailer Time! Here’s “Magic Hour” from TGR:

And “Anywhere From Here” From Matchstick Productions:

Enjoy Scenes from Mt. Hood, Courtesy of Birk Irving in Dirk Days Episode 4:

Finally, the Real SkiFi Crew Partners with Valio Academy to Bring Us an Entertaining and Educational Edit About Physics:

Written by Matt McGinnis on 08/12/22

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