Ski Industry News - Top Five Fridays
Top Five Fridays: December 23, 2022
Lead Image: Cool, calm, and fast: Travis Ganong lofts himself into a left hand turn on an Italian downhill course last week. More on his results below! Image: U.S. Ski and Snowboard on Facebook
#1: FIS Alpine Racing Recap: Shiffrin & Men’s Team Show Off Speed Prowess:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the December 23, 2022, holiday edition! This week, the most important ski news largely comes from the world of FIS sports, as we have big updates from three different categories of competitive skiing. Getting our coverage underway, as always, is a recap of alpine racing action, where a number of U.S. athletes put up impressive results. At the time of publication last week, we noted that Shiffin did compete in the first of three races in St. Moritz, a downhill, but left it at that. What we omitted is the fact that not only did Shiffrin compete, but she actually finished in an impressive 6th place position, one spot behind fellow U.S. teammate Breezy Johnson, who finished in 5th. Joining them in the points that race were U.S. athletes Tricia Mangan who finished tied for 17th, and Lauren Macuga, who finished in 30th.
From there, the points kept flowing for the U.S. Women’s alpine team. The next day, in another downhill race, Shiffrin just missed the podium, finishing in 4th place. Behind her, Isabella Wright came in 11th and Breezy Johnson earned 25th. Finally, the highlight of the weekend came in a super g race on Sunday, as Mikaela Shiffrin took home the gold medal, the 77th of her career. That total brings her to within 5 gold medals of Lindsey Vonn, and 9 away from Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 world cup victories. Perhaps even more exciting is the simple fact that Shiffrin just finished in the top 6 in back to back downhill races, and in first place in a super g. While she’s accomplished these feats before, three strong results in three consecutive speed races across three consecutive days is an impressive feat nonetheless. As a skier who’s known for her technical skills on the slalom course, the fact that she can compete at such a high level across all disciplines speaks volumes of her abilities. To fully appreciate this, simply refer to the World Cup overall standings, where Shiffrin currently ranks first in multiple categories, and is one of the only athletes with points in every discipline. Looking ahead, the women’s circuit has a quick break before returning to Semmering, Austria for two giant slaloms and a slalom race. You can preview that schedule here.
If you thought our recap of the women’s races were fun, just wait until you see what the U.S. men were up to last week as a hectic schedule brought them a total of five races across three venues last week. Let’s take a look at the results in chronological order, starting with the two downhill races that were held in Val Gardena / Groeden, Italy. In the first of those two races, the U.S. team was surprisingly led by Sam Morse, a U.S. athlete who’s bounced around between professional circuits and had the best two day stint of his World Cup career last weekend. In the first of two downhill races, Morse turned in a 10th place finish. Following his lead from the U.S. men’s team were Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who finished in a three way tie for 14th, Jared Goldberg in 23rd, Bryce Bennett in 29th, and Travis Ganong tied for 30th. Two days later, this same list of athletes appeared once again in the points for a second downhill race, although in a very different order. In that race, Travis Ganong led the way with a tie for 7th place, followed by Jared Goldberg in 8th. Behind them, Sam Morse finished in 15th, Bryce Bennett took 23rd, and Ryan Cochran-Siegle took 25th. All in all, it was a very successful stint in Val Gardena / Groeden for the Men’s team.
But, the action didn’t stop there. Also securing finishes of note last week were River Radamus and Tommy Ford in Alta Badia, Italy, where they took home 10th and 15th respectively in a giant slalom. While no U.S. team members earned points in the slalom race at Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, it’s hard to be upset when the team put in such a solid performance earlier in the week. Looking ahead, the men’s circuit is heading to Bormio, Italy next week for a downhill and super g race. Let’s hope the American speed team can keep their momentum and put up another strong performance. You can preview the races in Bormio here.
#2: FIS Freeskiing Update: U.S. Team Has Strong Showing in Big Air and Halfpipe Events at Copper Mountain:
In other FIS news this week, we also have action to recap from the world of freeskiing, as Copper Mountain played host to big air and halfpipe competitions for both the men and women. In the big air events, which took place on Friday, the U.S. team stayed competitive through finals in both events, particularly on the men’s side. In that event, while the U.S. team barely missed the podium, four athletes did finish in the top ten, with Hunter Henderson taking home 5th, Troy Podmilsak earning 6th, Mac Forehand in 8th, and Alex Hall in 9th. Before moving on from these results, we want to take a second to highlight the judging in this event, particularly in regards to Mac Forehand and Alex Hall, who many believe were criminally underscored for their runs. Alex Hall’s run in particular stirred up some controversy as two of his runs featured that unique 180-pretzel like body contortion that he does at the end of his rotation, causing his dub-10 to become a dub-900. Despite the incredible technical difficulty of the trick, it was judged as an under rotation, earning Hall scores in the mid-high 60’s. To be clear, we don’t raise this point as a critique on the judging of the event, but more as a concept to consider. In events like this, should a trick that features less rotation but far higher technical difficulty be scored roughly 30 points lower than a trick like a dub-19? Honestly, we don’t know, but that’s a question that will need to be answered quickly as it’ll have significant implications for the direction in which big air skiing progresses. For the women’s part, U.S. athlete Grace Henderson, sibling of Hunter Henderson, finished in 7th place. To see a recap of results, click here. To read a written recap with a full breakdown of tricks, check out the writeup on Newschoolers.com.
While the big air event was generally successful for the U.S. team, the halfpipe competitions a day later are where Team America’s strengths really showed. In the men’s event, Birk Irving took home the gold medal, his first in nearly three years. Behind him, just missing the podium with a 4th place finish was Alex Ferreira, followed by Hunter Hess in 8th. Outside of those who made the cut for finals, there’s another number we need to discuss: 13. Thirteen additional U.S. athletes finished in the top 30, meaning that out of the top 30 finishers in the contest, more than half were U.S. based. Now, it should be noted that the event was held in Colorado, so there was a higher number of U.S. athletes competing in it, but still, that percentage of top 30 finishers is notable, and suggests that the halfpipe talent pipeline is incredibly strong here in the states. On the women’s side, the U.S. presence was just as strong, as ten out of the fourteen competitors were from Team America. In the finals, Svea Irving (sibling of Birk Irving) led the way with a 4th place finish, followed by Hanna Faulhaber in 6th, Brita Sigourney in 7th, and Carly Margulies in 8th. All in all, it was a very successful event for the women’s halfpipe team. To view a full list of halfpipe results, click here, and to read the Newschoolers recap, click here. Looking ahead, the next event on the FIS Freeskiing calendar is a men’s and women’s slopestyle event in Font Romeu, France, on January 12-14th. Click here to preview that event.
#3: Jessie Diggins Becomes Most Decorated XC Skier in American History:
For our third FIS World Cup highlight this week, we’re bringing you a story from the world of cross country skiing, where U.S. athlete Jessie Diggins has just become the winningest World Cup XC athlete in U.S. history. Before jumping into this story and her recent results, we want to briefly apologize for our lack of coverage of World Cup XC skiing. The simple fact of the matter is, we often have more news to cover than we can handle, and rather than turning our Top 5 Fridays into a weekly competition update, as it’s become this week, we like to spread our focus around a bit. That said, if you’d like to see more World Cup XC coverage, or enjoy FIS coverage in general, let us know in the comments section below and we’ll be sure to share more news of this nature if it’s what you’re interested in! With that said, let’s get on with this week’s news.
Despite our lack of XC coverage, you likely know that Jessie Diggins is the Mikaela Shiffrin of the XC world for the U.S. Team. So far this year, Diggins has two first place finishes, and has only finished outside of the top 10 once in the month of December. Currently, she sits in second place in the overall XC standings. This past week, on the 18th, Diggins earned her second gold medal of the season, finishing in first place in a 20km race in Davos, Switzerland. In doing so, she earned her 14th World Cup gold medal and became the winningest U.S. XC athlete of all time. What’s more, is that Diggins doesn’t appear to be even close to being done. As we just mentioned, she’s had an incredible December, a month in which she’s notched two first place finishes, and is coming off a year in which she won the FIS Crystal Globe, having finished in first in the overall standings in 2021. So, while Diggins set the new benchmark this past week, we suspect she’s not nearly finished tallying up first place finishes and the benchmark will be much higher by the time she calls it a career. Her next chance to raise the tally with another win, will be next weekend in Val Müstair, Switzerland. You can preview those races here. To learn more about Diggs’s accomplishments, check out this writeup from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team.
#4: The New York Times Summarizes the Good, the Bad, the Heart, and the Soul of Skiing in 2022:
Finally, we round out this week with an article that does a great job of tying a number of stories together that we’ve previously shared, in a way that tells a more holistic story of where the sport of recreational skiing currently finds itself. Here on Top Five Fridays, we take the news as it comes, covering and dissecting a number of individual issues on a weekly basis. What we like about this New York Times article, is that it gives us a chance to share a story that tells its own story by combining these threads. In other words, while we tend to tell the story of each grain of sand, this article tells us the story of the beach. That story, as it turns out, is a story in which financial influences are having a massive impact on the landscape of skiing, but at its core, the act of skiing remains a pure, fulfilling experience. As a result, skiers are finding ways to catch that feeling, regardless of what’s happening at resorts. Allow us to explain.
In the New York Times article, we start by recapping the less desirable themes impacting the industry. Massive sales of multipasses, overcrowding, parking and traffic issues, housing shortages, staff shortages, and the like. In other words, from a certain perspective, the sport of skiing is in turmoil, as the commodification of the ski experience has, in a sense, ruined it. But, the thing about skiing is, for those who’ve experienced a long arcing turn, moments of powdery solitude, or even landing a trick in the terrain park for the first time, the feelings of pure bliss that skiing offers are hard, if not impossible to find anywhere else. It’s this inherent power of the sport that keeps those who’ve discovered it coming back for more, regardless of all the noise surrounding skiing at certain resorts.
The second half of this story, the one about skiing’s powerful influence on those who fall for it, is ultimately what the New York Times article is about. In their recap, the Times article shares a number of ways in which people in the ski industry are finding ways to forge new lanes in skiing that are unaffected by the influence of multipasses. Take Arapahoe Basin for instance, where COO Alan Henceroth recently made the unique decision to pull out of the Epic Pass back in the Fall of 2019 in an effort to reduce crowding. For Henceroth, it was a decision based on providing his customers with the ski experience they were chasing, not one made in the interest of profits. Or, take the story of Tyler Ray, the founder of the Granite Backcountry Alliance, an organization that clears and maintains backcountry glades in New Hampshire and Western Maine where skiers can earn their own turns in the solitude of nature. Or, how about the story of Annette Diggs, who we highlighted here on Chairlift Chat just two weeks ago. Diggs, a Black skier based out of Steven’s Pass, WA, is committed to diversifying the sport of skiing by being a familiar face for black and indigenous women of color who are interested in skiing, but can feel uncomfortable entering a predominantly white-male world. Ultimately what we really love about this article is that it does an excellent job of collecting a number of stories we’ve previously shared, and collecting them in a way that reminds us that no matter what might happen on a corporate level, skiing is still skiing and skiers are still skiers. As such, the sport of skiing will continue to grow in a way in which more people will discover the sport in ways which expose them to the pure joy of it- and not the complications we’ve experienced in recent years. All told, it’s a good, reassuring feeling to know that one way or another, it’s inevitable that the spirit of skiing will live on through the efforts of those who’ve experienced it. For more on this, check out the full writeup from the New York Times.
One thought on “Top Five Fridays: December 23, 2022”
Hard to believe you didn't mention Sofia Goggia's stunning downhill win on a course she broke her hand on the day before. The FIS reporting seems to be a bit too USA centric if it misses a great story like that one.