#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Recap & Mikaela Shiffrin's Sports Illustrated Coverage:
This week, things we’re very quiet on the FIS Ski Racing front, as the men’s circuit essentially had the week off and Mikaela Shiffrin’s continued leave of absence from ski racing resulted in a lack of notable finishes for either U.S. Ski Team. That said, there were two results that require mentioning before moving on. First, 18 year old New Zealand rookie Alice Robinson won her second World Cup race this year, taking home the gold medal in a Giant Slalom event in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, proving that her win earlier this year wasn’t a fluke, and that she is in fact an athlete to watch for in the future. Second, Petra Vlhova took home a first and second place finish last weekend, meaning she’s officially surpassed Shiffrin’s lead in the World Cup Slalom standings. Despite that change in the leader board, Shiffrin still remains on top of the overall standings, with 1,225 points compared to Federica Brignone’s 1,148 and Petra Vlhova’s 1,121. While we hope to see Mikaela return to ski racing in time to defend her crown, we also understand that she’s dealing with a very difficult situation in which she can only be healed by time.
Speaking of which, we feel compelled to share with you an article published by Sports Illustrated this week which highlights Mikaela Shiffrin’s season. Already planned prior to the passing of Mikaela’s father Jeffrey, the article published by Sports Illustrated shares the story of an athlete who seems reluctant to accept the reality of her greatness. Driven not by accolades or fame, but instead by an internal desire to simply be the best, Shiffrin’s Sports Illustrated profile’s original intention was to highlight the contrast between how Shiffrin sees herself vs. how the world sees her, as well as how she looks to build upon her seemingly endless success, particularly in the aftermath of losing her beloved Grandmother last season. Then, her father passed away inbetween the photoshoot used for the cover of the magazine and the time the article was released. This added unexpected, deeply tragic plot twist adds yet another layer of complexity to the incredible human being that Mikaela Shiffrin is. If you’re a fan of Shiffrin, ski racing, or simply stories of amazing people, we can’t recommend this Sports Illustrated article enough.
#2: 2020 Kings and Queens of Corbet's Competition Recap:
Next up this week is a recap of results from this year’s Kings and Queens of Corbet’s, as we promised last week. While the event itself was hosted just about two weeks ago, the competition’s unique judging format meant that we had to wait until this week to discuss the results. For those unfamiliar with the event, here’s a very quick explanation: each year for the past three years, Jackson Hole has hosted a rider judged event at the resort’s legendary Corbet’s Couloir. The goal for athletes is simple: put together the most impressive run you can, starting by dropping into the couloir and mixing in as many hits and tricks on the numerous jumps built by riders between the entrance and the finish line. Each year this format has lead to an insane amount of first-evers and jaw dropping attempts. This year was no different.
Highlighting this year’s event was two absolutely ridiculous drop ins. First and foremost, we have to mention Veronica Paulsen’s massive backflip entrance. It’s a trick she’d been trying for years, and her success in this year’s event marked the first time Corbet’s had ever been backflipped by a woman. Ultimately that history making effort was more than enough to secure a first place finish for her. Second, on the men’s side, was Sam Kuch’s absolutely insane double cork 1080, which necessitated the use of a purpose built jump set back from the lip of Corbet’s. On his jump, Kuch popped hard off the lip, finding himself on an upward trajectory as he floated past the edge of the cliff before ultimately completing his second rotation and riding away. The fact that Kuch found himself in third place in a rider judged event is simply a testament to the level of competition at this year’s contest. As for results, the women’s side was won by Veronica Paulsen, followed by Arianna Tricomi in second, and Caite Zeliff in third. On the men’s side Parking Costain took home first (largely due to absolutely stomping a massive double backflip entrance), followed by Hans Mindnich in second, and Sam Kuch in third. As always, this year’s event was a massive success, and one that’s worth watching footage of. You can check out a full replay of the event here, as well as men’s highlights and women’s highlights. For a full list of results, click here. Finally, one last shout out to all of the athletes who competed in this year’s event- you all crushed it.
#3: French Ski Resorts Helicopter in Snow, Outrage Ensues:
Things are getting weird in France. More weird than normal anyways. This week, we caught a frustratingly interesting news story from the country, where multiple ski resorts in the Alps and Pyrenees Mountains have started helicoptering in snow to subsidize their current conditions. In short, the dramatic measure was taken due to a lack of snow at the resort’s lower elevations where a majority of beginner slopes are located. With a holiday week on the horizon, officials at the ski resorts feared that they’d be unable to offer beginner terrain to visitors over the course of one of the busiest weeks of the year. As a result, they opted to spend €5,000 - €6,000 transporting snow via helicopter in favor of keeping an additional 50 - 80 staff members employed.
All of this of course ignores one brutal fact: to combat the effects of climate change, French ski resorts are taking measures which undeniably contribute to climate change. In other words, they’re implementing a temporary solution while exasperating the cause of the problem. It’s this dynamic that’s angered French politicians who’ve made climate change one of their leading issues. Feeling infuriated for obvious reasons, France’s environment minister has elected to hold an emergency crisis meeting between government officials and ski resort decision makers to attempt to discover solutions for this difficult problem. While it’s unlikely that a clear answer will emerge due to the complex nature of the issue, we’re hopeful that some sort of common ground can be reached and more favorable policies can be implemented moving forward. For more on this, check out the recap from Travel and Leisure, or the full story from The Local France, which is unfortunately blocked by a pay-wall.
#4: Kim Jung Un’s Ski Dreams Transitioning into Nightmare Territory:
In other international ski news this week, we also caught an article from Bloomberg discussing the increasing difficulties being faced by Kim Jung Un as he looks to bolster North Korea’s tourism economy through the development of ski resorts. Realizing that that entire first sentence has the potential to read as though it came from an alternate reality, allow us to provide some background. Since Kim Jung Un first came to power in North Korea in 2011, he’s made tourism a focus of his economic policy. While that may sound ridiculous to Americans, the hermit country does in fact allow visitors from a handful of nations, many of which are also home to mountainous regions. Most important in regards to skiing are Switzerland, Russia, and of course, China. As a result of these two factors, Kim Jung Un has began making an effort to create a ski industry in the nation, starting with the creation of Masikryong Ski Area in 2013. Despite the fact that resorts in North Korea is unable to tap into the latest and greatest in ski technology due to trade restrictions (many of their lifts are decades old), Un’s plan seems to be at least moderately successful as a reported 200,000 Chinese tourists visited the country in 2018.
There is of course, a massive looming issue. First, as is the case in France as well as the rest of the world, climate change is already beginning to have an impact on the feasibility of ski resorts in the country. Despite having a similar latitude as Colorado, the mountains in the country lack the necessary elevation to ensure snow security. Masikryong’s peak elevation is just 1,363 meters, putting it at a lower elevation than European ski areas which are already feeling the pressure of climate change, and a full 2,000 meters below the peak of Aspen. The effects of climate change are already beginning to show in the region as foreign skiers visiting Masikryong have reported concerns regarding whether or not the resort would be open during their planned vacations. Compounding that issue is the recent decision to temporarily disallow visitors from China due to concerns surrounding the spread of the Coronavirus. While that may not be a death-blow to North Korea’s ski industry, it’s still notable as it’s cut off the nation’s largest tourism market during peak ski season. As such, it’ll add further stress to a situation that’s already feeling pressure from the impacts of climate change. To learn more details regarding this story, check out the full recap from Bloomberg.