#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Update: Shiffrin Finishes Strong, Breezy Johnson Continues Terrific Downhill Pace:
Well, it’s Friday, February 26, 2021, so you know what that means: it’s ski racing recap time! At this time last week, we found ourselves recapping an incredible week long run from Mikaela Shiffrin who was in the midst of a resurgence, having won four medals in four races. As it turns out, her streak wasn’t quite over as she capped the week off with a fifth medal, finishing third in the final women’s slalom race of the World Championships. In related, yet unrelated news, Shiffrin’s successful return to ski racing this season has also resulted in a Laureus World Sports award nomination for the Comeback of the Year award. To be entirely transparent, we aren’t intimately familiar with the stories of the other athletes nominated for this award, but we are exceptionally familiar with Shiffrin’s story, and in our minds it’s one that’s hard to beat. To learn more about this nomination, check out the recap on the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team website. Finally, before turning the page on the 2021 World Ski Championships, we have to give a quick shout out to U.S. Men’s team member Ben Ritchie who finished in 13th place in the final slalom race of the event, earning his first ever career points. At just 20 years old, a result like this gives hope to a promising future for this talented young athlete.
In other ski racing news, we also have an early result from this weekend’s women’s races in Val di Fassa, Italy, where a Downhill race was held earlier today. In that race, U.S. Team athlete Breezy Johnson continued her hot streak and finished in a very respectable 5th place. That result continues an incredible season of success for Johnson as she’s notched numerous top five finishes in Downhill races, and is currently tied for second in the Downhill standings. Also earning points in that race for Team America was Laurenne Ross with a 23rd place finish, and Isabella Wright in 31st. To see a full list of results from that race, click here./p>
Finally, before concluding this highlight, we want to share an open letter that Mikaela Shiffrin penned following the conclusion of the Cortina events. In typical Shiffrin fashion, she spends a considerable amount of time thanking and appreciating everyone from FIS event organizers and Cortina staff, to her coaches and teammates. She also gives us some great insights into how she prepared for this year’s events, and how that strategy differed from how she’s approached competitions in year’s past. The most notable line in the entire piece comes at the end of the letter however, when Shiffrin confirms a hunch we mentioned last week: this year’s success in Cortina is, as Shiffrin puts it, “the start of a new beginning.” We hope that this hot streak in Cortina is exactly what the doctor ordered to bring Mikaela back to her world-class competitive form. To read this letter in full, check it out here.
#2: The 2021 Freeride World Tour is Officially Underway, With Two Stops Within the First Week:
In other ski competition news this week, we’re excited to bring you not one, but two Freeride World Tour event recaps! If you’ve been following along with either our Top 5 Friday posts, or the Freeride World Tour itself, you’re likely aware of the fact that planning for this year’s event has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Initially, organizers hoped to maintain their worldwide, 5 stop format while simultaneously debuting adjustments to the format of the circuit that would encourage riders to push themselves harder than ever before. Unfortunately, that original plan was nullified as a result of the pandemic. Now, event organizers have readjusted their target to host up to 5 events, all within Europe. As of one week ago, we knew for sure that at least three events would be held, with hopes that organizers could find venues for a 4th and 5th stop. Well, as it turned out, at least part of that plan came together rather quickly as two stops were held this past week, both at Ordino, Arcalis, Andorra.
That’s the good news: two Freeride World Tour Events were successfully held. The bad news for both riders and fans of the sport, is that snow conditions at both stops were incredibly challenging as a combination of wind blown snow and a crust layer resulted in a number of crashes and unsuccessful runs. Still, despite the less than ideal conditions, the athletes managed to prevail and the winning runs were all of the same high caliber we’ve come to expect from Freeride World Tour athletes. Because there are two complete competitions to recap, which would take us an incredible amount of space to properly address, we’ll simply defer you to the event recaps to watch all of the action yourself. You can catch a replay of stop one right here in this highlight, and we’ll embed stop two in our edits of the week below. To see a written recap of the action, you can check out FWT’s official coverage of the first stop here, and second stop here. Looking ahead, the athletes will be reconvening in Fieberbrunn, Austria in just 7 days as they await their next event.
#3: 2021 X Games Real Ski Edits Are Live and Ready for Your Vote:
Moving right along this week, we come to our third competition highlight, in yet another category of skiing. This time, we’re talking about the X Games Real Ski competition, the video entries for which were just released on Monday. If this competition is new to you, allow us to give a quick recap: first launched in 2016, the Real Ski competition is a video based contest hosted annually by ESPN as an extension of the X Games. Until this year, the contest has featured 6 athletes who’d been tasked with putting together their best urban-only edits from the first half of the season. This year, that format has changed slightly as athletes have been able to open up their play books a bit more, with urban features not being the sole option. One thing that hasn’t changed this year though, is the format. As with years past, entries will be judged by both a panel of X Games judges, as well as by fans who can cast their votes online between now and next Monday. The winners of both the tiers of judging will be announced at the conclusion of an hour long program set to air on ESPN next Monday.
Now that we’ve set the stage a bit, let’s talk about this year’s entries. In short, as per usual, we’ve been blessed with 6 edits that are all worthy of consideration in their own right, and all continue to push the sport forward. It’s also arguably the most diverse group of competitors we’ve seen as freeski legend Tanner Hall finds himself competing against relative newcomer Taylor Lundquist and current competitive freeskiers Alex Hall and Ferdinand Dahl. To be honest, it’s way more fun to go into these edits without knowing any of the big tricks or features to watch out for, so we’ll hold back on providing any spoilers here. We will say though, that each and every edit is well worth a watch, and deciding who you cast your vote for is going to be a tough decision. To check out this year’s edits, we’ll send you over to the X Games Real Ski 2021 website.
#4: The 2021 Edition of Kings and Queens of Corbets is in the Books:
Finally, let’s round out this ultra competitive edition of Top 5 Fridays with a review of last week’s Kings and Queens of Corbet’s competition. As we did with our recap of the X Games Real Ski event, allow us to provide a quick overview of this particular competition as it’s pretty unique in both the worlds of skiing and snowboarding. Now in its fourth year, this event asks skiers and snowboarders to accomplish one simple task: put down the most impressive run through Jackson Hole’s iconic Corbet’s Couloir. There are a few catches though. First, athletes are encouraged to use the days leading up to the event to plan a creative entry into the couloir, which ultimately means jumps are built to enable them to unleash a slew of tricks. Second, snowboarding and skiing are combined, with the only two categories of judgement being a men’s and women’s division. Third, the contest itself is entirely rider-judged, meaning the athletes in the contest are in control of crowning the king and queen. With this unique format, the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s event has quickly become one of the most interesting events to watch each year.
So how did this year’s event go? Well, we’ll start by saying that the weather wasn’t quite as pleasant as it could have been. Between low visibility, which became worse as the event went on, as well as frigid temperatures, the riders were asked to not only put down jaw dropping runs into one of the most difficult in-bounds chutes in the country, but to do it in challenging conditions. The result was, unfortunately, a whole lot of uncompleted runs. That said, the low completion rate was largely a result of riders pushing themselves to the limit despite issues with visibility. In fact, this year’s event resulted in some of the most eye popping entry attempts we’ve seen yet. From the skiers, we saw multiple zero spin attempts from Aaron Blunck, as well as two 540 efforts from Thayne Rich. Just to ensure total clarity, that means these two both attempted to land switch in a powdery couloir after absolutely boosting off the lip. While neither of these athletes were ultimately successful, their attempts were extremely impressive to watch. Ultimately though, the trick of the day has to go to snowboarder Hans Mindnich who pulled off an absolutely insane 270 Tail Grab to wallride. Despite that effort however, it was Karl Fostvedt who took home the gold after putting together the most complete top to bottom run. To watch this year’s event in full, simply hit play on the accompanying video. To read more about this week’s event, check out the recap from Jackson Hole.