Ski Industry News - Top Five Fridays
Top Five Fridays: February 24, 2023
Lead Image: Despite being low-tide and a somewhat short venue, the 2023 stop of the Freeride World Tour at Kicking Horse, British Columbia absolutely delivered. Image: Freeride World Tour on Facebook
#1: FIS Update: Shiffrin Sets Another New Record in Final Week of the 2023 World Championships:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the February 24, 2023 edition! This week, we’re rounding out our coverage of the 2023 FIS World Championships, sharing the latest results from the Freeride World Tour, and then sharing a pair of interesting stories that you’ll certainly want to read in full. To get things started, let’s check out the final results from the 2023 World Championships.
When we left you last week, the takeaway from our FIS coverage was that after winning the giant slalom event, Mikaela Shiffrin was just one medal away from becoming the sole owner of the record for the most World Championship medals won by a single athlete, regardless of team or individual events. Last Friday, Shiffrin held the record for most individual World Championship medals, but was tied with Anja Paerson for the most combined individual and team medals, each owning 13 medals total. On Saturday, however, that all changed, as Shiffrin took home a silver medal in the slalom race, making it her 14th World Championship medal. In that race, Shiffrin was actually in first place after her first run, but unfortunately deteriorating course conditions and mounting fatigue caused her to be out skied in her second run by Canada’s Laurence St-Germain, who ultimately took home the gold in the race. Still, the silver medal got the job done and Shiffrin has officially broken another record in what’s become a historic season for her. Looking ahead, she can resume her pursuit of Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 World Cup wins, this weekend in Crans Montana, Switzerland where downhill and super g race will be held. At present, our guess is that Shiffrin sits out of the downhill as she didn’t partake in the training runs, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not she competes in the super g. If she does, a win would bring her even with Stenmark, and a second win this season would bring Shiffrin to 87 total, breaking perhaps the most illustrious records that exists.
On the men’s side of ski racing, there’s unfortunately not much to report this week. In the final slalom race of the World Championships, the best U.S. result was Luke Winters with a 30th place finish. Looking ahead for the men, FIS World Cup action resumes this week in Palisades Tahoe, with a giant slalom and a slalom race. You can preview those events here.
#2: The Results Are in From the Freeride World Tour’s Third Stop in Kicking Horse, BC:
In other competitive ski news this week, we have results from the third stop of the 2023 Freeride World Tour! Last weekend, competitors met up in Kicking Horse, British Columbia to compete on one of the shorter, more diverse venues on the tour. As you might recall, Kicking Horse was originally scheduled to be the first stop rather than the third, but cold, dry weather resulted in conditions that made the venue unsafe. Instead of holding a high risk competition on a venue that wasn’t ready for it, FWT officials decided to push the Kicking Horse date from the first stop on the schedule to the third, making it the final stop before the cut for finals. While that decision undoubtedly resulted in better snow conditions, we do have to mention, they weren’t exactly perfect. While the resort has received plenty of snow recently, the overall snowpack is still low, resulting in some athletes catching on sharky rocks hidden just beneath the snow. Additionally, it was hard not to notice the sizable avalanche triggered by Leif Mumma, which, while it didn’t cause any harm other than affecting a few runs from other athletes, wasn’t exactly a great look for an event that should be a role model in regards to avalanche awareness. Still, conditions aside, it’s safe to say that the third event from this year’s tour was just as enjoyable to watch as the first two were.
On the men’s side of things, the winning run was laid down by Max Hitzig, an athlete in the midst of his first full year on the Tour who had previously placed 4th in each of the first two stops. In his run, Hitzig started off strong with a 360 off the cornice before skiing into a dicey zone that required full commitment to a double stage drop to escape. From there, the fireworks happened, as Hitzig sent a backflip off the point of an absolutely massive drop. We’ll confess to not knowing the exact measurements of the feature, but if someone said it was an 80’ drop that Hitzig took to 100’, we wouldn’t be surprised. This hit was absolutely massive, and Hitzig landed it perfectly. For his effort, he was easily awarded the gold. Following behind his lead were Marcus Goguen and Valentin Rainer, who each put down impressive runs of their own. Before wrapping up the men’s side of this highlight, we want to give an extra special shout out to Xander Guldman, who threw maybe the most stylish trick of the day with his perfectly executed 360 Genie grab (crossing your legs and grabbing your opposite ski, underfoot, and behind your back). Unfortunately, that trick wasn’t quite enough to earn Xander the points he needed to make the cut, and he ended up being the first athlete on the wrong side of the bubble. Still, his performance put him firmly on the radar and will certainly be someone to watch next season. To see a full list of rankings, and to see who qualified for the final two stops, click here.
On the women’s side of things, current Tour leader Molly Armanino got things underway for the division in her typical style: by choosing an absolutely bonkers line that no one else dared to descend. In the first two stops of this year’s tour, this strategy worked flawlessly as her high risk, high reward approach paid off with two second place finishes. Unfortunately, at the third stop, the risk overtook the reward as Armanino found herself rocketing out of a steep, technical line, ultimately succumbing to a combination of speed and gravity which forced her to the ground. Fortunately, she was already guaranteed to make finals, so we’ll get to see more Armanino action in this year’s Tour. On the other side of potential outcomes, Megane Betend ultimately took home the win, putting down a run that featured everything from high speeds, sizable consecutive drops, and strong fluidity. Joining here on the podium was Elisabeth Gerritzen with a second palace finish, and Addison Raddford in third. With these results these four women, plus Justine Dufour-Lapointe will make up your women’s finals. As a reminder, the Freeride World Tour features a two stop final, with stop #4 featuring two runs per rider. That’s scheduled to take place in Fieberbrunn, Austria, in roughly 15 days. Once it goes down, we’ll report back with results. Until then, check in with the FWT website to see a full list of results from this week’s action.
#3: Meet Ava Keenan, the 12 Year Old Skier Who Hopes to Become the Future of the U.S. Mogul Team:
Next up this week we have an excellent story about an incredibly talented upcoming athlete who has big hopes for her future. Ava Keenan, a 12 year old skier hailing from Vail, Colorado, is currently the top U.S. mogul skier in her age group. She’s also ranked #2 in the 15 and under group, #7 in 17 and under, and the 28th best mogul skier regardless of age. If you ask Ava what her goals are, she’ll tell you that she hopes to win three consecutive gold medals at the Winter Olympics when she becomes eligible, which could happen as early as 2026, but will more likely occur in 2030. While her prodigious talent is more than enough reason to write a story about Ava, it turns out that’s just the start.
In addition to being wildly talented, Ava also happens to be Black. As such, her story is about so much more than her talents alone. Exemplifying that are Ava’s own goals. In addition to wanting to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals, Ava also wants to be the first Black person to make it to the Olympic mogul event. Even at 12 years of age, Keenan knows how significant that would be, saying, “Hopefully other Black children or other people of color would look at it, and think, ‘I want to try that now.’ And, hopefully, that would bring more exposure to the sport.” While Ava is obviously aware of her abilities, she’s also very clearly aware of her potential to be a changemaker for her community. For her, skiing isn’t just about winning for herself, Keenan is hoping to win for representation, so that she can become a beacon for other Black people to realize that there is a place for them in the world of skiing.
As you might recall, just a couple of weeks ago we covered a story about how the National Brotherhood of Skiers is playing a crucial role in diversifying the sport. At their recent annual gathering, they hosted a wildly popular uphill clinic that introduced hundreds of Black skiers to the concept of ski touring. In addition to that effort, the NBS also sponsors a team of athletes through their Olympic Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to athletes chasing Olympic dreams. In existence since 1973, the scholarship fund has helped four Black athletes make it to the Olympics so far, and currently has 23 athletes on its roster. Amongst them is Ava Keenan, whose father currently spends more than $100,000 per year to support the competitive skiing of his three daughters.
To be fair, we’re giving this story a bit of a whirlwind treatment as there’s a lot to unpack, and we’d really recommend giving the original article from the Colorado Sun a full read as it has a ton of excellent information and details. Before we round out this highlight though, we want to quickly circle back to a topic that we discussed at length this summer: the problems plaguing the U.S. Ski Team’s talent pipeline, as well as possible solutions. One of the problems that we covered this summer is the incredible cost of competitive skiing for youth skiers. Here, that problem is plain to see. Even with the support of the NBS Olympic Scholarship Fund, Ava Keenan’s dad is spending six figures a year to fund the dreams of his three daughters. If he wasn’t in a financial position to be able to do that, a potentially generational talent would never have a chance of representing America on a global stage. The second point we want to highlight is, yet again, the value of diversifying the demographic of skiers. If one of the ways we can strengthen the talent pipeline is to cast a wider net, encouraging more athletes to give competitive skiing a chance, then being more inclusive of more races and cultures is an absolute must. It’s for that reason that athletes like Ava are so important. She has the talent, she has the mindset, and now she just needs the support to make her dreams a reality. If she does, she’ll undoubtedly open the door to an entire generation of Black skiers who realize that maybe they do have a place in competitive skiing after all. For more on this, check out the article from the Colorado Sun.
#4: Ever Feel Like You’ve Been Duped By a Snow Report? You’re Not Alone:
Finally, we’re rounding out this week's report with a story from the Salt Lake Tribune that hits on a topic that’s often discussed amongst skiers, but we’ve never seen reported before: misleading ski reports. If you’re an avid skier or snowboarder, and we assume you are if you’re reading our Top Five Fridays report, chances are you’ve experienced this scenario at least once in your life: you wake up early, check the ski report, and get fired up about the amount of snow that fell over night. Then, you get to the resort and quickly realize there aren’t nearly as many inches on the ground as you were led to believe. You’ve been had.
The good news is that you’re far from being alone in this struggle. In fact, the occurrence has become so common that the Salt Lake Tribune took a deeper look into the issue this week to try and determine the cause of these inconsistencies. As it turns out, there’s actually more good news: ski resorts don’t seem to be intentionally misleading their guests. Instead, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, there are a variety of factors that lead to these misrepresentations, such as what elevation the snow total measuring station is at, whether it’s exposed to wind and sun, how often the snow totals are checked, and even who’s responsible for checking the readings. Take for instance, a scenario in which a resort’s measuring station is measured once a day, in a known wind zone, at the base of the mountain, by a marketing intern. That’s going to read quite a bit differently from a measurement station that’s located at a higher elevation, in an area that’s protected from wind, and is automatically measured hourly by sonar. In either case, guests may find the reality of on hill snow totals to differ from the readings that were shared via the snow report.
So, what’s the solution here? According to OpenSnow’s Utah Forecaster, Evan Thayer, Alta is the gold standard in snow reporting. There, the resort has installed a MesoWest weather station at the top of their Collins lift. This weather station more or less follows the second example that we outlined above: every hour, snow depths are calculated via sonar and an online database is automatically updated. These measurements are additionally verified twice a day by ski patrol for accuracy. Of course, the problem with this solution is that it’s quite expensive, and ultimately, this “problem” isn’t really a problem for most resorts. Whether or not their reported snow totals are entirely accurate likely has little bearing on their bottom line. So, they’ll continue to do their best to report snowfall, and as skiers and riders, we’ll continue to show up whenever there’s even a morsel of hope for a powder day. Besides taking snow reports with a grain of salt, all you can really do is head up to the mountain and see for yourself. Or, if you happen to be skiing Stowe, you can always check out our daily snow reports on Instagram, at @stowesnowreport.
2 thoughts on “Top Five Fridays: February 24, 2023”
Lov jib league. Lso much more enjoyable than hyper tense racing. More fun and joyful instead of beating others by a measure of seconds or hundredths of seconds.
The story inner story of Bonnie St. John in the Ava Keenan article was wonderful. Talk about a pioneer! She was in uncharted waters. There's a lot more she could tell I'm sure.