Ski Industry News - Top Five Fridays
Top Five Fridays: February 17, 2023
Lead Image: The 2023 Kings and Queens of Corbet's featured non-stop jaw dropping action when it came to athletes entering the couloir. Here are just two images highlighting that. Left Image: Jackson Hole on Facebook. Right Image: also Jackson Hole on Facebook
#1: FIS Update: Shiffrin Sets a New Record, U.S. Team Pulls Off a First Ever:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the February 17, 2023 edition! If you read our recap last week, you likely know what you’re in for this week as we previewed two of our highlights at the end of last week. Still, we sneak in one highlight this week that you won’t see coming, and we saved it for last. With all that said, let’s jump into this week’s news, starting with the latest FIS Alpine results from the ongoing World Cup Championships.
When we left off last week, we mentioned that while Mikaela Shiffrin had announced her intentions to skip the downhill event, we still expected to see her in four more races: the team parallel, parallel, giant slalom, and slalom events. As it turns out, we were super wrong. Not only did Shiffrin opt out of the downhill, but she also skipped the team parallel and parallel events. As such, rather than having four chances to surpass the record for most individual World Championship records, Shiffrin was down to just two. Fortunately, that was all she needed. In yesterday’s giant slalom event, Mikaela Shiffrin took home the gold, her first ever World Championship gold in that event. With that achievement, Shiffrin became the singular record holder for the most individual medals at the World Championships. At present, she is also tied with Anja Paerson for the most World Championship medals total, with 13, although two of Pearson’s came as part of team events. Looking ahead, there’s one race left for the World Championships, and it just so happens to be Shiffrin’s best: the slalom. If Shiffrin can earn a medal, she’ll be the overall record holder, regardless of team or individual medal count. That race is scheduled for tomorrow, February 18th, and will be the only race of the week. As you might guess, we’ll be back next week with a recap.
Now that the Shiffrin news has been shared, let’s circle back to the rest of the U.S. team. You know that team parallel event that we expected Shiffrin to compete in? Well, just because she wasn’t involved doesn’t mean it wasn’t a highlight for Team America. In fact, it was just the opposite, as the U.S. Team consisting of Nina O’Brien, River Radamus, Paula Moltzan, and Tommy Ford (along with Katie Hensien and Luke Winters as substitutes) took home the gold medal, beating the Norwegian team in the finals. For all six athletes on the team, it was their first World Championship medal, and it was also the first ever medal in this event for the U.S. Ski Team. For that medal to be gold is even more amazing.
Beyond these medals, there were a handful of other races and results to recap. In the interest of brevity, rather than dive into full recaps for each one, we’ll simply recommend checking out the results for yourself. You can see the women’s downhill results here, parallel results here, and women’s giant slalom results here. On the men’s side, you can find the downhill results here, parallel results here, and giant slalom results here. On that note, best of luck to all the athletes in this weekend’s slalom races, which close out the 2023 World Championships!
#2: The 2023 Kings and Queens of Corbet’s Was a Thriller:
Next up this week in competition news is a recap that we promised to bring you last week: coverage of the 2023 Kings and Queens of Corbet’s. A quick refresher for those unaware, this event simply asks riders to put their best run down Jackson Hole’s iconic Corbet’s couloir. In addition to the entrance, there are also a number of small jumps scattered throughout the run, with a massive park style jump at the bottom. Most years, the entrance to the run is the highlight, and this year proved to be no different. As you’ll see in the accompanying video, most athletes took a high risk, high reward approach to the competition as athletes seemingly had no fear as they hurled themselves off the lip of the couloir. Over the years, entrances to the couloir have become more and more unbelievable, in both the size of the hit and the tricks being attempted. In this year’s event that trend continued, as numerous athletes attempted double backflips, and those who didn’t still sent large rotations and backflips deep into the couloir. Unfortunately, with these bigger hits comes fewer successful landings, meaning the event more or less came down to the select few who managed to keep it together after their first hit.
As such, this year’s champion was Colby Stevenson, whose first run was flawless. Starting with a massive switch rodeo 5 into the couloir, followed by a huge backflip, and ending with a double cork 1080, Colby’s run was absolutely worthy of the gold medal, regardless of the number of competitors who fell. Also of note from Stevenson, is that despite having what was almost certainly the run of the day in his pocket already, he continued to push the limits in his second run by attempting a switch double flatspin 900 into the couloir. While he didn’t hold it together, the attempt itself was incredibly impressive. As for the queen, that title went to Claire McPherson, who took a decidedly safer approach to entering Corbet’s, threw a large backflip midway through her run, and played it safe with a cossack on the park jump. By simply putting down a solid run while still mixing in a backflip, Claire’s ability to stay on her feet earned her the queen’s crown.
In addition to our champions, there are a few other names we need to call out before wrapping this highlight up. On the women’s side, defending champion Piper Kunst took two of the most unique entrances into the couloir, with a double down the cliff on the skier’s left of the entrance in her first run, and a standing frontflip into it on her second run. Had Kunst not fallen on the final park jump feature in her first run, she might’ve taken home the crown once again. Also on the women’s side, Veronica Paulsen is a must mention, as she attempted a massive double backflip into the couloir on her first hit, ultimately catching her tips at the absolute worst point of her rotation and falling on her face. Undeterred, she returned to the top for her second run, proceeding to once again throw a massive double backflip, this time slightly over rotating. While she didn’t put either feat to her feet, she did win the women’s People’s Choice award. On the men’s side, we have to call attention to Karl Fostvedt, whose second run was looking incredibly promising after starting with a perfect 720 high mute. Unfortunately, just as he popped to switch in preparation for his final hit, he caught some loose snow and fell. Finally, while we really do recommend watching the event in its entirety, the last athlete we want to call out here is the men’s People’s Choice award winner, Ben Richards. In his second run, Richards absolutely stomped the only successful double backflip of the day, before lofting a perfectly executed flatspin 360 / lincoln loop on a cross court air. Finally, on the park jump, Richards was 90% of the way through executing a perfect cork 7 blunt grab, only to find himself landing somewhere between a 720 and 900, ultimately causing him to lose a ski on the landing. Had he rotated just 90 degrees more, it’s without a doubt that Richards would’ve been crowned the king. All in all, while there were far more falls than successful runs, this year’s Kings and Queens of Corbet’s event was yet another successful and thrilling competition. For full results, check in with the official website.
#3: In it’s Return, Red Bull Playstreets Proved to Be One of the Most Entertaining Events for Spectators and Athletes Alike:
For our third competitive highlight of the week, we’re bringing you coverage of the 2023 Red Bull Playstreets event. Just like the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s, we briefly previewed this event last week, so a majority of you should already have an idea of what this contest is about. For those who missed last week’s update, the long and short of it is that Playstreets is a competition in which Red Bull transforms the streets of Bad Gastein, Austria into a slopestyle course. This year, in its first year back after a three year hiatus, a new park architect was in charge of putting the course together, and his work did not disappoint. While the most novel feature was a mandatory jump to trampoline, the entire course featured well positioned hits that provided athletes with the speed and flow required to pull off high caliber tricks all the way down the run.
As for the event itself, it featured a tournament style format, with athletes competing head to head. Unlike most events, this format allowed both judges and spectators to quickly and easily compare runs to decide which athlete should advance. While this resulted in consistent judging, the one thing we will point out about it is that by the end of the event some of the runs began feeling repetitive. By the final two rounds, the question became less about what tricks each athlete had, and more about whether or not they’d be able to put together a clean run. Still, even with that asterisk in place, we have to admit, the final round between Jesper Tjäder and Andri Ragettli was thrilling to watch. Even knowing their runs, we held our breaths as we watched for cleanliness, noting each and every small error and imperfection. Ultimately, they both put down seemingly comparable runs, making it an incredibly tough decision for the judges. In the end however, it was Jesper who came out on top, edging out Ragettli by just 3 points. All in all, it was a spectacular return for the event, and we hope to see it come back once again next year. Until then, check out the event results on the Red Bull website, and watch the accompanying video for a full recap!
#4: Alterra Mountain Company Announces Settlement in Class Action Lawsuit. Pandemic Pass Holders to Collectively Receive $17.5 Million:
Finally, for those of you who’ve been awaiting non-competitive ski news, this one’s for you. This week, Alterra Mountain Company finalized their settlement of a class action lawsuit, filed against them in the wake of the 2019-2020 season’s early closures. As you’ll surely recall, that season ended abruptly as the covid-19 pandemic forced resorts to close quite literally overnight. While many skiers and riders were understanding of the circumstances, not everyone was. In the wake of the closures, twelve different individuals sued Alterra. Seeing an opportunity, the law firm Dovel & Luner offered to combine the cases into a class action lawsuit, taking it on as a contingency. In other words, the law firm would only be paid if the lawsuit was successful.
Within the lawsuit itself, the plaintiffs claimed that they neither received the full value of the passes they purchased, nor were they refunded as a result of the closures. As a result, Dovel & Luner ran the numbers and determined that pass holders were shorted approximately $17.5 million in services. With that figure, they turned around and offered a settlement to Alterra for that value, plus an additional $2.9 million for the law firm’s efforts. Alterra agreed to that offer, and a judge approved it back in September 2022. This week, the lawsuit has been finalized and Ikon passholders from the 2019-202 season will begin receiving credits to their Ikon accounts. For those who used their passes seven or more times, a $10 credit will automatically be deposited in their accounts. For those who used their pass one day or less, $150 will be deposited. Once these refunds are granted, Alterra should finally be able to move on from the pandemic season, a primary reason for their agreeing to settle the lawsuits.
What’s interesting to us about this story though isn’t necessarily the lawsuit or settlement itself, but how Ikon navigated this situation as compared to Epic. In April of 2020, just about a month after the pandemic closures went into effect, Epic announced that it would be granting passholders somewhere between 20-80% of their pass’s values as a credit to use towards a 2020-2021 pass. As a result, the company spent an estimated $106 million issuing credits, roughly 5 times as much as Alterra has just settled for. In addition to this refund via pass credits, Epic also faced a class action lawsuit of its own, featuring an identical claim. That lawsuit was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson back in October 2021, in part because it was decided that Vail closed its resorts when “skiing was no longer safe.” The other factor in the judge’s decision was that Vail offered compensation to its plaintiffs already. Unhappy with the outcome, the plaintiffs in the case filed for an appeal in November 2022, and the outcome of that decision is still pending. In other words, two companies in identical situations handled themselves very differently, resulting in one spending just over $20 million to settle the damages, while the other has spent over $100 million, and could be on the hook for even more. Now that the Alterra settlement is finalized, it’ll be interesting to see if it has any impact at all on the pending decision regarding the Epic lawsuit. To learn more about this story, check out the report from the Colorado Sun. If you were an Ikon passholder in the 2019-2020 season, click here to learn more details regarding your compensation.