#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Update: Paula Moltzan Secures Her First Career Podium Finish:
Well, it’s a Friday in December, so you know what that means: we’re starting this week’s news cycle with a recap of last week’s World Cup Ski Racing action! Last week, both the men’s and women’s circuits convened in Lech / Zuers, Austria for a parallel slalom race. If by chance you’re unaware, parallel slalom ski races are often the most exciting to watch as it’s the only format in which two racers are on course at the same time in a head to head format. In most seasons, this style of race generates a raucous crowd, creating an incredible environment for the fans and athletes alike. Unfortunately, as we’re painfully aware, this season’s a bit different. Still, the race went off without a hitch and produced some compelling results.
On the women’s side of things, U.S. Ski Team member Paula Moltzan came seemingly out of nowhere to notch her first ever podium finish, securing second place. While Moltzan had a strong career as an NCAA athlete, winning the 2017 Slalom Championship, her World Cup career had yet to take her to similar heights. Now, with her first podium under her belt in just the third race of the season, Moltzan will look to further make a name for herself over the remainder of the season. To celebrate Molztan’s first FIS podium, Ski Racing Media published an article that shares more details regarding last weekend’s race as well as her past. Also earning points at last week’s race was AJ Hurt, who finished in 25th place. On the men’s side, things were much quieter as no U.S. athletes finished in the top 30.
Looking ahead, both the men’s and women’s circuits have a busy week. For the women, back to back Super G races are planned for St. Moritz, Switzerland. Unfortunately, for those eager to see Mikaela return to prominence, it was announced this week that she’s decided to skip this weekend’s races. As she eases back into world class competition, Shiffrin’s decided to skip speed events for the time being, instead focusing her attention on technical races such as slaloms and giant slaloms. After this weekend’s races, the women will head to Courchevel, France for a pair of giant slalom races next weekend. On the men’s side, two giant slalom races will be held in Santa Caterina Valfurva, Italy. From there, the men’s circuit will head to Val d'Isere, France to begin practice runs midweek in preparation for a Downhill and Super G event. To learn more about upcoming FIS races, we’ll refer you to their event calendar.
#2: A Disastrous Week for Skiing in the EU:
Moving right along this week, we unfortunately find ourselves tasked with returning yet again to the world of the coronavirus and its impact on the ski season. We’ve covered this topic extensively already here in North America (and will continue to do so in highlight #3 this week), but now we have to turn our attention to Europe as there’s an evolving story there that threatens ski tourism within the EU. At the start of this week, we began seeing headlines discussing a fracture amongst European nations in regards to how to handle cross-border ski tourism, as well as the operation of ski resorts in general, particularly with the upcoming holiday season. Then, as the week went on and the sides began to solidify in their positions, what started as a handful of headlines in European news outlets eventually began making headlines in American publications such as The Hill and the New York Times.
By and large, the situation is this: there’s disagreement within the EU in regards to how to best balance health and economic concerns. In France, Italy, and Germany, leaders are inclined to lean into more cautious mindsets, prioritizing public health over economic health. As a result, these nations will be taking a strict stance on ski tourism, disallowing international visitors, enforcing quarantines for those who choose to return after skiing in another country, and in the case of France, shutting down ski lift operations. On the other side of the aisle are nations whose economies rely on ski tourism more heavily, such as Switzerland and Austria. There, officials plan to allow ski resorts to operate through the holidays without international restrictions. The argument on this side is almost painfully simple: the money matters too much. Backdropping all of this of course, is last March’s outbreak stemming from loose regulations at Austria’s Ischgl resort. At the moment, this story is still ongoing as it remains to be seen whether or not the EU will manage to come to an agreement on a collective policy ahead of the holiday season. In the meantime, we’d recommend checking out this article from the BBC, as well as this article from the New York Times to learn more about where the situation currently stands.
#3: Skiing in a Pandemic: Updates from Across North America:
Now that we know what’s going in Europe, let’s revisit the scene here in North America. With ski resorts having been open for a few weeks now, we’re starting to get a clearer idea of what the season ahead might come to look like. In the buildup to the start of the season, we were well aware that it would be dominated by difficult details and a number of nuances that simply couldn’t have been predicted. What we didn’t necessarily see coming however, was how diverse and regionally specific the nuances would be. So, keeping that train of thought in mind, let’s take a closer look at how the first few weeks of skiing are going right here in the U.S.
First, let’s start with the not-so-great news. Topping that list is news out of Whistler Blackcomb that Covid-19 has infiltrated its staff housing. While details remain sparse, it appears as though the outbreak has been kept under reasonable control and is limited to just one housing complex. As such, the outbreak won’t have an impact on the resort’s wider operations. Still, the reality of the situation should be taken seriously, especially when considering the wider picture of employee housing at other ski resorts. Hopefully this is a one off headline and we won’t find ourselves reporting similar news over the course of the next few months. To learn more about what we know regarding this story, check out Pique News Magazine.
In other Covid news, California finally released their official guidelines for ski resort operators, and as has become expected, it’s mostly good news with just a dash of disappointment. First the good: ski resorts will be allowed to operate under the currently expected protocols (ie. social distancing, mask wearing, etc.), regardless of what level of restrictions the state is under. In other words, no matter how bad things get, it’s highly likely that ski resorts will be allowed to operate. The small dose of disappointment is that resorts won’t be allowed to offer same day lift tickets. Instead, all tickets must be either pre-purchased or reserved prior to the day of use. While atypical for most years, the pre-planning mentality is becoming the norm this time around. To learn more about California’s newest regulations for ski areas, check out this writeup from KTVU.com.
Finally, let’s round this highlight out with a piece of positive news. This week, we learned that Oregon’s Timberline Lodge Resort has decided that their reservation system is no longer needed, and will be cancelled immediately. Of course, that doesn’t mean that some form of capacity restrictions won’t be in place, it just means that they’ve found the reservation system to be overly restrictive. In its place, they’ll be monitoring the parking lots to control on-hill capacity. While this doesn’t necessarily mean anything for pass holders at other resorts that are utilizing a reservation system, it does inspire some hope that they could be done away with should crowds and covid prove to be less of a concern at any point during the ski season. For more on this, check out the report from KPTV.com.
#4: More Updates the World of Ski Racing: Ski Racing Media Spotlights Ryan Cochran-Siegle, and an Exciting New Ski Racing Podcast:
Finally, because we desperately want to end this week on something of a high note, we’re circling back to the topic of ski racing as we came across two separate updates this week that are deserving of our attention. First on that list is a story from Ski Racing Media that spotlights Ryan Cochran-Siegle (RCS) ahead of the majority of the upcoming season. If you followed the sport last year, you likely noticed that RCS began making a name for himself. Over the course of his career-best stretch, he placed 6th in the Downhill at Beaver Creek, CO, before finishing 5th a week later in an Alpine Combined race in Bormio. That last detail is important, as it hints at one of RCS’s core beliefs: that he can be top-5 in any event. To do so, he’ll be leaning into a “let it all hang out” type of mindset this season, which he cites as a solution to his tendency to overthink details while on course. Of course there’s plenty of other great details in the piece from Ski Racing Media, which we’d recommend giving a read, right here.
The other highlight is a promising new podcast from new U.S. Ski Team member, and experienced podcaster, Jimmy Krupka. For those who were previously unaware (ourselves included), Krupka started and hosted the official Ski Racing Media podcast from February 2020 - June 2020 before stepping away to focus on his promising racing career. Now, about 6 months later, Krupka is back with an all new podcast of his own, titled “Arc City.” Much like his career in ski racing, his podcast too has much promise. What leads us to believe that? Well, two things. First, the podcast’s theme song is apparently the sound of a starting gate, remixed, and then blended into the instrumental for Dr. Dre’s 2000 anthem, “Still D.R.E.” Regardless of your musical taste, I think we can all agree that that’s true art. Secondly, episode one features a full length interview with ski racing legend Julia Mancuso. So, keeping those two certified facts in mind, it’s with great confidence that If you’re someone who enjoys ski racing, you should absolutely check out this new podcast. You can learn more about it in this article from the U.S. Ski Team, or give it a listen directly on Apple Music.