#1: FIS World Cup Alpine Racing Update: World Cup Recap: Shiffrin’s Super-G Finishes Are Trending in the Right Direction:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the December 17, 2021 edition! This week, we’ve got a bunch of USST Alpine Ski Team coverage to go over from last week’s races, as well as a few athlete specific highlights. In addition to those highlights, we also have updates from the Breckenridge ski patrol and the Balsams Resort in New Hampshire. We’ll start how we always start this time of year though: with coverage of the latest round of race results.
As you might recall, last weekend the women’s circuit found itself in St. Moritz for a pair of Super-G races. Those races ended up being a blessing for Mikaela Shiffrin as she’s historically performed quite well at the venue, despite Super-G not being one of her top two specialties. This weekend carried that trend, as Shiffrin landed on two podiums in just as many days. To kick things off, in Saturday’s race, Shiffrin led the U.S. Team to a bronze medal. Following her lead, Breezy Johnson also earned points, finishing in 12th. Then, a day later, Shiffrin repeated the feat, again finishing in third. Unfortunately Johnson didn’t ski quite as well, but still managed to earn points with a 24th place finish. As a result of the strong weekend, Shiffrin is now the overall FIS leader, with 525 points, a full 90 points ahead of Sofia Goggia who’s currently in second. To check out a recap of the St. Moritz results, click here.
Interestingly enough, as a result of her back to back podiums, as well as her ongoing goal of competing in all disciplines at the Olympics, Shiffrin has had a change of heart and now plans on racing in this weekend’s Super-G race in Val d’Isere. While Shiffrin has a history of success at St. Moritz, it’ll be her first time competing in the Val d’Isere Super-G. So, with that in mind, we wish her luck and will be watching her results with great excitement! To check out the schedule for this weekend’s Downhill and Super-G races, click here.
On the men’s side of the league, things were a bit less exciting for the U.S. Team as the Slalom and Giant Slalom races held at Val d’Isere didn’t play to the team’s strong suits. Still, it wasn’t a total wash as River Radamus put down a 13th place finish in Saturday’s GS race, and USST athlete Luke Winters earned his first ever FIS points with a 25th place finish in the Slalom race. Looking ahead, the men’s circuit is currently in Val Gardena-Groeden, where early results suggest that the Downhill and Super G races will be much more fruitful for the team. You can check out early results and a preview of those races here.
#2: USST Athletes Ryan Cochran-Siegle and Mikaela Shiffrin Receive the Highlight Treatment:
Next up this week is more ski racing news! As you might know, there are times when our FIS race coverage simply isn’t enough to tell the full story of what’s going on in the world of ski racing. This week is one of those weeks as a couple of headlines came across our desk that highlight two of Team USA’s top athletes: Ryan Cochran-Siegel, and of course, Mikaela Shiffrin. Let’s start this double highlight with RCS, as SkiRacing.com published a great article this week that gives us some insight into where RCS is at mentally as he makes his way further into his comeback season. If you’ll recall, he was on a bit of a tear last season as he earned his first podium Downhill result and first Super-G gold within the span of 10 days. Then, shortly after, he suffered a season ending crash that resulted in a fractured spine. Since then, RCS has regained his health while also switching both ski sponsors and ski technicians, giving him something of a fresh start in an Olympic year. Those changes, along with his mental struggle to regain the levels of confidence he had pre-crash, have resulted in a tentative start to the season. Still, it’s not as though he isn’t skiing well; he won the Downhill training race ahead of this weekend’s actual race. Rather, he’s simply in the process of regaining confidence and becoming accustomed to his new equipment. Despite those two adjustments, there’s plenty of belief in RCS to become a force to be reckoned with as the article from SkiRacing.com shares quotes from both teammate Bryce Bennett, as well as top Norwegian skier Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. If you’re interested in learning about where RCS is currently at, as well as his hopes for his season, we definitely recommend giving the SkiRacing piece a read.
Our other FIS athlete highlight this week is all about none other than Mikaela Shiffrin. As is always the case in Olympic years, there tends to be a bit of extra attention on top athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin. This week, we learned that Outside TV will be producing a five part series covering Shiffrin this season as she looks to build her career resume at this year’s Olympics. From the sounds of it, the series will start somewhat retrospectively as we get to know Shiffrin as a person, including all of the storylines that have shaped her recent seasons. From there, it’ll progress into more of a behind the scenes look as she competes to stack results to further build her Olympic and FIS resumes. Truth be told, we’re hoping we get something of a “Hard Knocks”-meets-FIS type of experience out of this series. To learn more about it, check out this preview from SkiRacing.com, or watch the trailer from OutsideTv.com.
#3: Recently Unionized, Breckenridge Ski Patrol Easily Reaches First Contract Agreement with Vail Resorts:
Alright, let’s switch topics here and take a look at another headline from this week that builds on a story currently snowballing through the industry. As you may recall from our recap a few weeks back, the Park City ski patrol, which is unionized, has been struggling to come to an agreement with Vail Resorts over their renewed contract. As such, they’re currently working without a contract in place, resulting in a tenuous situation that has the potential to shut down the resort should patrol decide to strike. This week, we learned that the Park City ski patrol and Vail have met an astounding 44 times in an effort to come to an agreement on the terms of their contract. As eye popping as that number is, it’s also not the headline we’re looking to share with you this week. Instead, that honor goes to the Breckenridge ski patrol who, after unionizing just last Spring, has managed to reach a successful agreement with Vail Resorts.
After voting to unionize last May, the Breckenridge ski patrol found themselves in the rare position of facing their first ever contract negotiation. Being aware of the ongoing battle between Park City patrollers and Vail, there was some obvious nervousness about how the situation would play out. But, on December 14th, the new contract was ratified after a nearly unanimous vote. This of course begs the question, “why?” Why was it so much easier for Breckenridge patrollers to come to an agreement than Park City patrollers? Well, without knowing the details within either contract, we can’t point to any specific numbers or requests, but we can refer to some seemingly significant anecdotal evidence provided by the Summit Daily. In that piece, patroller Ryan Anderson, who helped lead the negotiation efforts, cited local management’s backing of their ski patrol as a main reason their requests were well received. While we can’t pretend to know what Park City’s management is like, Anderson cites the fact that the management at their resort advocated strongly for their patrollers, resulting in the somewhat surprising statement that, “We’re very satisfied with how easy it was.” It’s quite a contrast to the situation in Park City, and only adds to the intrigue regarding that particular situation. Regardless, congrats to the ski patrollers at Breckenridge who’ve seemingly managed the transition to unionization incredibly well. To learn more about this, check in with the Summit Daily.
#4: The Balsams Resort is Coming Back! Well, if All Goes to Plan:
Finally, rounding out this week’s news is an update from New Hampshire’s Balsam Resort. For those in our neck of the woods, the name and story behind this currently closed resort is probably familiar. For the rest of you, the shortened story is essentially this: in the first half of the 20th century, the Balsams resort was a premier location for skiers and those seeking a mountain getaway. A mix of grand lodgings, picturesque settings, and ski trails had the Balsams resort thriving for a number of years. Eventually however, their success dried up and in 2011 the resort was sold for just $2.3 million. Since then, the resort’s been closed to the public, although there’s been no lack of effort in terms of attempting to redevelop and reopen the area. Previously on Chairlift Chat, we’ve shared highlights covering these ongoing efforts, including the initial announcement from current owner Les Otten for his grandiose plans to greatly expand the skiable terrain at the area. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, his plans have stagnated in the half decade since their announcement.
That is until this week, as things have taken on a significantly more promising tone. In an article published by the Boston Globe, we’ve learned that Les Otten has lined up some promising new investors to help him reopen the resort. In a unique type of investment partnership, Otten has teamed up with Louisiana nonprofit “Provident Resources Group” to essentially crowd source an estimated $125 million in funding through the sale of specialized bonds. We won’t get into the nitty gritty of it here, as the Boston Globe has us well covered on that front, but in short, this partnership allows investors to back the project through secure bonds rather than shares. Notably, none of these funds are set to be used for the ski resort side of the business. Instead, they’ll be used to redevelop the Balsam’s base area to create new condos, a conference center, a spa, a revamp of the golf course, a performing arts center, and much more. In other words, this round of funding is meant to reestablish the Balsams base area as a destination in and of itself. With this serving as the foundation, Otten hopes to be able to rebuild the ski resort side of the business, with a planned reopening as early as the 2023-2024 ski season. If he can successfully pull this off, the resort might be well on its way in returning to the glory days as Otten’s master plan for the ski resort is nothing short of spectacular. For more on this, check out the writeup from the Boston Globe, or refer to the official Balsams Resort website.