#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Update: A Lackluster Week for the U.S. Ski Team:
We begin this week as we always do in February: with a recap of the most recent ski racing action. We also begin with a bit of a correction, as last week we misinformed you in stating that the Women’s circuit was on a brief break this week. As it turns out, we misread the FIS calendar, which has this week’s 2021 Ski Championships in Cortina relegated to a different schedule than the one we typically reference. So, that’s the good news: we do have some women’s FIS action to cover afterall. The bad news however, is that due to difficult weather, the first few days of the Cortina event calendar were full of cancellations and no action. As a result, we have just one Women’s race to discuss this week: Thursday’s Super G event. For fans of Mikaela Shiffrin, that race was a bit bittersweet as she laid down an extremely promising performance, ultimately making just one small mistake which many claim is the reason she didn’t finish in first. Still, she put on an amazing show, earning the bronze medal in her first Super G race of the season. Even more impressive, Shiffrin had only spent four days training for the discipline since her last Super G race some 380 days ago. The fact that Shiffrin was able to podium after significantly less training in Super G than her competitors speaks to her natural athletic ability and drive. The good news for the U.S. Women’s team is that Shiffrin wasn’t the only athlete to earn points. Joining her were Breezy Johnson in 15th, Isabella Wright in 22nd, AJ Hurt in 29th, and Jacqueline Wiles in 32nd. Looking ahead, the Women’s team has a number of races coming up in the week ahead, which you can see here.
On the Men’s side of the circuit, there’s a bit more action to discuss as two races were held last week in Garmisch, Germany, before they traveled to Cortina to join the women in this year’s championships. In Garmisch, the men competed in a Downhill and Super G race. Travis Ganong led the way for the U.S. Team, earning a 7th place finish in the Downhill event, and 12th in the Super G. Joining Ganong in the “earned points” column in the Downhill race, were U.S. Team members Jared Goldberg, Bryce Bennett, Erik Arvidsson, and Sam Morse. In the Super G race, Bryce Bennett, Jared Goldberg, and Erik Arvidsson also earned points. Fast forwarding to just yesterday, the men’s circuit also competed in a Super G race at Cortina. There, Ganong once again led the way, finishing in 8th place. Joining him in the points column were familiar faces, Bryce Bennett, and Jared Goldberg. Much like the women’s team, the men have a busy week ahead, provided the weather in Cortina cooperates. To see a list of all upcoming events, we’ll defer you to the FIS website.
#2: A Global Check In With Covid in the Ski Industry:
Moving right along this week is our semi-regular Covid-19 check in, where we scan the news for any articles keeping us up to date on the latest regarding the pandemic’s impact on ski resorts. This week, we came up with a mixed bag of news from around the world, as headlines from Colorado, Ontario, and France all caught our attention. For the sake of proximity, let’s start right here in the U.S., where we have some unfortunate news to share with you from Winter Park, Colorado. Just yesterday, news broke that the resort is currently experiencing an outbreak, with 109 confirmed cases amongst employees. The good news is, that’s the bad news. Despite having a significantly higher case count than any other resort at the moment (Monarch Ski Resort is in second, with 17 cases), all of the cases have been confined to employee housing, and none of the employees have been in contact with guests. Utilizing Winter Park’s stringent quarantine measures, the cases have been considered contained and the resort remains open. For more details, check in with Colorado Public Radio.
In other Covid-19 ski news, we have a brief update from France, where things unfortunately have continued to decline. The last time we left off, French ski resorts were unable to run their chairlifts, while their European counterparts have been allowed to remain open. As such, scenarios have been playing out in which ski resorts in countries such as Switzerland have become swarmed by skiers and snowboarders, while French resort towns remain eerily vacant. This week, we learned that that scenario’s unlikely to change anytime soon as the resort closures have been extended for at least another month. In addition to that, we’ve been seeing articles in which French police are actively denying ski travel, in one case stopping skiers from boarding a Swiss bound train. For whatever reason, it seems as though the French ski industry is the one struggling to adapt to the covid ski season the most.
Finally, we’ll end this highlight with some good news: we also learned this week that restrictions in Ontario are being lifted, and ski resorts will be able to begin operating again on February 16th. This comes as welcome news for Canadian skiers as they’ve found themselves in an incredibly tough situation recently as travel to the U.S. has been restricted, and their local resorts have been unable to operate. As the season’s gone on, many have wondered whether or not the resorts would be able to open at all this winter as the ski season in Ontario typically doesn’t extend terribly deep into the spring. Fortunately though, Covid cases have curtailed in the region, enabling the province to allow skiing once again. For more on this, check out this report from Global News CA.
#3: It’s Been Another Nightmarish Week For Avalanches in America:
Next up, is a followup to a highlight we shared last week, and one that we really wish we didn’t have to revisit. If you read our Top 5 Friday report last week, you know that it was an absolutely tragic week in regards to avalanche deaths. At that time, three incidents resulting in fatalities had occurred, ranging from Utah, to Colorado, and New Hampshire. Unfortunately, this week’s news brought more tragedy, prompting us to continue our coverage of this ongoing issue, in an effort to do our small part to help spread awareness and caution in the backcountry.
To start this somber highlight, we regrettably share a story coming out of Utah, where an avalanche in Mill Creek Canyon, a popular touring area in the Salt Lake City region, took the lives of four people. In this particular incident, there were two parties involved: one group consisting of three skiers were ascending a peak, while a second group of five had traveled to the ridgeline above the lower group via a neighboring peak. At some point, the group on the ridge triggered an avalanche that would catch seven of the eight skiers in its path. While all eight skiers had appropriate backcountry safety gear, including beacons, shovels, and probes, and were eventually able to self-recover everyone who was caught in the avalanche, four skiers tragically died in the incident. That casualty count, unfortunately, matches the highest one in modern Utah history. It’s also worth noting before rounding out this story, that once again, all members of both groups were considered to be highly knowledgeable regarding backcountry safety, and well equipped with the right gear. Unfortunately, this serves as an extremely sad reminder that the forces of nature do not care who you are or what you know. Avalanches are a very real danger for anyone in the backcountry, and the best piece of safety equipment is a strict vigilance to an awareness of the conditions. To learn more about this incident, give this article a read. If you’d like to know more about the skiers who lost their lives in this tragedy, The Salt Lake Tribune put together an amazing tribute piece, which you can read here.
Finally, before ending this… low-light, we want to share just two more articles on the subject. First is an article from Vermont Ski and Ride that profiles the story surrounding last weekend’s fatal avalanche in New Hampshire. If you’d like to learn more about how that day played out in an excellently humanized piece, we recommend giving that a read right here. Additionally, we also have an article from CNN that gives a quick recap of all of the recent avalanches here in North America. Believe it or not, despite our coverage over the past two weeks, there are still additional avalanche incidents that we haven’t discussed here. To learn more about those, check out this article. Lastly, on a closing note, we once again ask our readers to please, please be careful out there. We can all relate to the incredible joy and temptation of untouched powder, but we can also all relate to the feeling of kicking off those ski boots, leaning back, and reflecting on an amazing day of skiing. Let’s be sure we put ourselves in position to keep enjoying both for years to come.
#4: How Are Ski Areas Preparing to Battle Climate Change? The Wall Street Journal Shares 12 Different Ways:
Finally, let’s round out this week with some ski news that, while not necessarily positive, is at least interesting for those who keep an eye towards the future. As we all know, climate change is a growing issue in the world of skiing, with many projections predicting dramatically less snowfall in the decades ahead. We’ll leave that discussion for another day, but we do want to share with you an article posted by the Wall Street Journal this week that discusses how ski areas are hoping to handle more dramatic climate change in the years ahead. In this particular article, WSJ lists 12 different ways ski areas are either currently, or could potentially, reimagine their business to remain competitive, even as mother nature attempts to put them out of business. Now, to be honest, those of you who regularly read Top Five Fridays are going to be familiar with most, if not all of these practices. But, we also think it would be unfair to assume that everyone reading this week’s Top Five Fridays has read every Top Five Friday. Therefore, we feel like this article’s worth sharing as it gives a great bird’s eye view of all the latest techniques in trends in the fight against climate change. On the list are some predictable ideas, such as more efficient snowmaking equipment, more strategic grooming, and even indoor skiing. But, the list also has some less conventional ideas that might be new to a lot of this week’s readers, such as the concept of cloud seeding, or the method of snowmaking in which snow is made in a climate controlled storage container before being blasted out onto the slopes, helping alleviate the need for cold temperatures. We’ll cut ourselves off there as we don’t want to give too much away, but if this kind of thing interests you, we highly recommend giving the article a look! Unfortunately, you will need a Wall Street Journal subscription though.