#1: A European Youth Ski Racing Coach Explains the Differences in Ski Culture Between the U.S. and Europe:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the August 6, 2021 edition! This week, we start with back to back ski racing headlines before shifting gears and sharing an update from Squaw Valley, as well as one from South Korea- home of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. We’ll get into those exciting highlights in just a minute, but first, we’d like to start the week off by sharing an interesting op-ed posted by Ski Racing Media this week. There, European ski academy coach Federiga Bindi posted an open letter explaining their take on the differences between ski racing in the U.S. and Europe. As you read this recap, keep in mind that Bindi co-runs the Alta Badia ski academy in the Italian Alps, and also the European Network on Coaches Education. Additionally, they spent last winter in Colorado, coaching on the behalf of the USSA. In other words, Bindi has a rare combination of experiences that provide a unique perspective in regards to the differences between ski racing culture in the U.S. and Europe.
Now, before we really dive into this one, keep in mind that the article is an opinion piece, and that Bindi has far more experience with ski racing in Europe than in the United States. In other words, some of their perspectives aren’t entirely accurate, but by and large the commentary feels accurate enough to carry weight. So, that said, what’s Bindi’s thesis? Well, to put it bluntly, they think the U.S. is doing it wrong. After a brief financial analysis, Bindi concludes that, for the most part, skiing in the U.S. and Europe are roughly the same cost. Noting that, they turn their focus away from the cost of skiing, and towards the culture that’s been built around skiing in both locations. Here, they discover a world of differences. Take for example that at the ski area Bindi calls home, the Dolomiti Superski, the ski area operates as a co-op, with area landowners and farmers leasing the land to the ski area and receiving compensation based on the volume of business done there each year. In other words, when the ski area makes more money, so do local landowners. Expanding upon this, Bindi also points out that in the U.S., the base of ski areas is comprised of businesses owned by the ski resort. In Europe, these are all locally owned, again helping benefit local communities financially. The result of these factors is that in Europe, ski culture is widely embraced by the mainstream while here in the states, it’s seen as an elitist sport that exists for the benefit of the wealthy.
In addition to the economic differences between the two regions, Bindi also points to a difference in approach to the value of ski racing. In America, athletes find themselves laser focused on winning, with the ultimate goal of landing on podiums and progressing through the development pipeline. Overseas though, the focus is to ensure that all ski racers fall in love with the sport. Rather than focusing on pushing themselves and training constantly, a tactic that Bindi suggests results in Americans not even enjoying the sport, athletes in Europe put their love for the sport first, using that as motivation to pursue their goals. While a philosophical debate regarding the merits of each perspective as a tool for success could ensue, Bindi’s larger point is that in Europe, ski racers can utilize their experience to land full time jobs as ski coaches, or part time ski-related gigs to benefit them as they progress other career goals. Americans on the other hand, often conclude their careers with a bitter taste in their mouths, feeling as though they never accomplished their goal. Again, this is an opinion piece, and there’s plenty of room for debate, but Bindi’s perspectives are at the very least intriguing and eye opening. To read them in full, check out this writeup from Ski Racing Media.
#2: Ski Racing Media Shares “Breaking Through Without Breaking the Bank,” Stories About How U.S. Ski Team Athletes Make it Work:
In related news this week, we want to share with you a series of articles that have also recently been published by Ski Racing Media. For the past couple of weeks, the online magazine has been publishing articles under the name, “Breaking Through Without Breaking the Bank.” In the midst of ongoing debates regarding the costly nature of youth ski racing, this series offers some interesting insight into how some of the U.S. Ski Team’s top athletes managed to get where they are without going absolutely bankrupt. So far, the series is comprised of four articles featuring four athletes: AJ Hurt, Patricia Mangan, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, and Jackie Wiles. While all of these stories are unique and interesting in their own right, it’s even more interesting to think about the themes that exist throughout all of them. Chief amongst those themes is undoubtedly the importance of family involvement. For Ryan Cochran-Siegle and AJ Hurt, their family’s deep involvement with ski racing made their pursuit of a career in ski racing somewhat obvious. For Patricia Mangan and Jackie Wiles though, it was less about their family’s ties to the sport, and more about the sheer level of support they received. Take Patricia Mangan for example. When she was 6, her parents put her into a ski racing program at their small, local ski hill. Mangan took to it immediately, resulting in an escalation of involvement which ultimately saw Mangan’s parents volunteering to run ski races and planning annual trips to Colorado to further Patricia’s goals. In addition to the importance of family support, a number of other themes are carried across these stories, such as the use of second hand gear, self fundraising, and taking advantage of the right opportunities. To be fair, it’s hard to compact four interesting stories into one Top 5 highlight, so really we encourage you to give each story a read in full. As you do, keep in mind the perspectives shared by Federiga Bindi in our first highlight this week. Put together, it’s interesting to see the differing perspectives on the status of ski racer development here in America.
#3: Squaw Valley Asks its Audience for Help Renaming Squaw Creek Chairlift:
Okay, enough ski racing news for now. Let’s switch gears and talk about something a little more upbeat: this week, Squaw Valley launched a webpage where you can submit your ideas for a new name for their Squaw Creek chairlift. Just to give some quick background on this story, Squaw Valley finally came to terms with its problematic name at the end of last summer, as the whole world began undergoing something of a racial reckoning (which, we’d like to point out, is far from over). As a result of that movement, Squaw Valley’s use of the word “Squaw”, which is a derogatory term for a Native America woman, came under renewed questioning. This time, the resort came to agree that the term is unacceptable to continue using. As a result, it’s been working towards rebranding itself- a process that’s made significantly more difficult by the existing recognition of “Squaw Valley,” as well as its utilization by local businesses. In other words, in order to properly pull off a rebrand, the resort has to not only concern itself with updating its name, but also in ensuring that it’s coordinating with all of the area businesses who embrace “Squaw Valley” within either their own brand or merchandising efforts.
Noting the lengthy process involved with rebranding Squaw Valley on the whole, the resort has decided to update the name of its Squaw Creek chairlift ahead of time. As a result, they’ve set up this website to start collecting name suggestions from anyone who’s got one. Submission for new names will be open until 8/15, at which point the team at Squaw will hand pick their favorite ones. From there, they’ll be put to an open vote from 8/20 - 8/25. Finally, after seeing the results of the vote, Squaw will make their final selection and the winner will be rewarded with the knowledge that they renamed the Squaw Creek lift, helping Squaw Valley move beyond its problematic name. To learn more about this or to submit your idea, visit the Squaw Valley website.
#4: PyeongChang’s Olympic Downhill and Super-G Venue to be Dismantled and Reforested:
Finally, we end this week with a bit of Olympic news, albeit maybe not the type you’d expect to hear as the Summer games are winding down. If you follow Olympic news, even casually, then you likely get the sense that they’re becoming more difficult to pull off during each iteration. While there are a number of factors for this, the short version is that most countries have come to realize that hosting the Olympics is a costly experience, and one that often leaves behind vacant venues whose useful lifespan is sometimes only as long as the Olympic games themselves. While there are a number of anecdotes showcasing this dynamic, there’s perhaps none better than the news that South Korea will be dismantling and reforesting the resort it used to host Downhill and Super G races at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
This week, we learned that the South Korea’s Office for Government Policy Coordination has accepted the findings of an environmental task force that has determined that the venue should be reverted back to its natural state. Now, we should point out that this has more or less always been the plan for this piece of land. When it was initially approved as the site of the 2018 Winter Olympic Downhill and Super G races, it was done so due to the fact that it was the only location that the FIS deemed viable. As such, South Korea developed the land with the agreement that it would be reforested after the games. While that plan was tested and put to a task force for further review, this week’s news solidifies the future of the area.
What’s most interesting about this update is the emphasis it puts on the increasing difficulties and problematic nature of hosting the olympic games. With a declining interest in hosting the games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is finding themselves in the increasingly difficult position of having to choose from a less than ideal list of suitors. As such, we’re seeing situations such as this one play out, where a country that’s not inherently well situated to host the Winter Olympics wins the bid, builds entire ski resorts, and ultimately erases the venue in just a matter of years. While we’re huge fans of the Olympics, both Summer and Winter, it’s hard not to feel at least a little concerned about their future as their feasibility becomes more questionable by the iteration. To learn more about this, check out the report from InsideTheGames.biz.