#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Update: Ryan Cochran-Siegle Earns First Career Gold, Breezy Johnson Finds First Two Podiums:
Happy New Year, and welcome to the first Top Five Friday of 2021! Hopefully along with our refreshed calendars, the world itself will turn a page and we’ll find ourselves back on track. Of course that’s a pretty big ask, and only time will tell, but at the very least we’re for sure able to start the year with some pretty incredible news from the world of ski racing. As you might’ve noticed, we took last Friday off as it fell directly on Christmas Day, which means we now have two weeks worth of races to recap. As it turns out, both week’s brought excellent news for the U.S. Teams.
To be truthful, recapping two weeks full of action is going to be impossible to do in our limited amount of space, so we’re going to simply stick to the highlights. On that note, it’s with significant excitement that we share the news that Breezy Johnson earned her first two career podiums over the course of two days, placing 3rd in Downhill races in Val d'Isere, France on December 18th and 19th. In other good news from the Women’s team, Mikaela Shiffrin also found her way back to the podium this past week, coming in third in a slalom race on December 29th, in Semmering, Austria. In addition to these podium performances, there were also a slew of other US Women’s team athletes earning points, including Nina O’Brien who finished a career best 9th in that same slalom race in Semmering, Austria. To get all the results, check in with the official FIS website.
On the men’s side of things, we have just as much, if not more reason to be excited. Rather than slowly recap results from the five races that’ve happened since our last update, we’ll just cut right to the chase: Ryan Cochran-Siegle made good on his promise to let it all hang out this year, earning his first ever first place finish, and a seventh place finish in back to back days in Bormio, Italy. In a Giant Slalom race held there on December 29th, Ryan Cochran-Siegle put in an exhilarating performance that ultimately put him well into first place, finishing a full .79 seconds ahead of second. In doing so, he became the first American in 14 years to earn a Super-G gold medal. Again, just like with the women’s team, the men’s team also accounted for numerous point-earning finishes over the course of the last two weeks, and we’d encourage you to check the results for all of the races if you’re intrigued. Beyond that, we’ll just say that this year is finally shaping up to be the year that we’ve been waiting for from the men’s team, with consistent shots at the podium and numerous athletes earning points on a weekly basis. Congrats to all U.S. Ski Team members, on both the men’s and women’s team. Way to end the year strong!
#2: Coronavirus Wreaking Havoc on EU Ski Industry, Creating Political Tension:
In other news from the past two weeks, we found ourselves catching a handful of significant international ski industry, covid related news. Rather than share the same old updates from North America, we figure we’ll use slot #2 this week to discuss a couple of important European headlines. First up on that short list is news from Switzerland, where the nation’s decision to enforce a mandatory quarantine upon UK visitors resulted in surreal scenes of travelers secretly leaving the country under the cover of night. Essentially what happened was, on December 21st, the Swiss government implemented a travel ban on visitors from the UK and South Africa, areas in which new strains of the coronavirus have been detected. In addition to prohibiting entry from these nations, visitors currently in the country were immediately subjected to a 10-day quarantine period. That second clause is what ultimately caused many UK citizens who were on ski vacations in Switzerland to covertly flee. With Swiss airports being unable to fly to the UK under the current restrictions, many found themselves having to first go to France to take a flight back to the UK. For those who’ve been following the recent ski-related travel concerns in the EU, the fact that UK vacationers had to flee Swiss ski resorts and travel through France of all places, is likely one to rankle the French government, and further raise tensions in the EU. To read all of the details behind one of the more surreal stories caused by Covid-19, check out this article from CNN.
In related news, we also caught an article from the New York Times this week that highlights another nation’s ongoing struggle with balancing the ski economy and health concerns. In the article, New York Times reporter Melissa Eddy brings us up to speed with the current scene in Austria, where officials believed they found a way to properly balance the situation at hand by allowing ski lifts to operate, but only for Austrian residents. Unfortunately, that decision doesn’t seem to have played out favorably as reports suggest that, despite the nation being in a state of lockdown, long lines and social crowding are occurring at Austrian ski resorts. To be perfectly honest, the article has a ton of great information on that situation, as well as the wider picture of the status of the ski industry in Europe, so rather than pile on individual details here, we’ll simply recommend giving it a read in full.
#3: French Lift Closures Result in Increased Touring at Ski Resorts:
Next up this week is an article from the New York Times that is something of a second chapter for a story we first started sharing back in early December, and also touched on in highlight #2. At this point you should be well aware that the EU has had a tough time forming a consensus amongst its members in regards to how to handle ski tourism during the holidays. For countries like Switzerland and Austria, officials considered the value of maintaining a healthy economy more important than the relatively low health risks of operating chairlifts. On the flip side of that argument were countries like Italy, Germany, and most prominently, France, who all forced their resorts to cease operations. Couple all of that with what you learned from our second highlight this week, and you should quickly realize that things in Europe are quite messy at the moment.
Fortunately for this highlight though, we’re steering clear of the political chaos and instead have an opportunity to focus on the human element. In an article from the New York Times this week, reporters on location in Chamonix talked to various locals who found themselves milling about the resort despite the lifts being shut off. While there’s plenty of angles to focus on within the story, the one that intrigues us the most is the fact that many people are taking advantage of the unique circumstances to tour the closed resort. This anecdote catches our attention because of what it could mean for the bigger picture. As heard time and time again, the impacts of Covid-19 on society are likely to be long lasting. For skiers, that likely means the sport of ski touring will see a significant rise in popularity as more people use it as a way to escape crowds and head into the backcountry. As it turns out though, backcountry access is only one of the ways to tour. Another popular use is to skin at ski resorts either before or after lift operations start for the day, or after the resort closes for the season. In recent years, resorts have begun implementing a range of policies to handle this use of their mountain. Still, that segment of the sport feels underdeveloped at the moment. While this is purely speculation, we find ourselves wondering what could happen if the mass of people using resorts in this way grows, either in Europe due to lift closures, or even here in North America. There’s no way of knowing for sure, but our hope would be that if momentum within this segment grows, eventually resorts will be unable to ignore the demand, hopefully leading to more favorable uphill travel policies. For more on this, check out the article from the New York Times.
#4: Candide Thovex Launches New Outerwear Brand:
Finally, we’re happy to end this week’s recap on a fun note as we share with you the news that ski legend Candide Thovex has just launched his own outerwear company. Following the recent footsteps of his peers Pep Fujas and Eric Pollard, who also launched companies of their own, Candide’s new venture looks to directly leverage his celebrity to sell a line of technical outerwear. The thing about it though, is that upon our initial review, the product itself looks to be of the same high quality as Candide’s skiing. The core of the lineup for both men and women is relatively simple, as it should be for a brand new venture. The C1 Jacket and Pants are the staples of the lineup, as they are available for preorder in both Men’s and Women’s cuts, in all colorways. Within those silhouettes, there is a 3L option for the jackets, and bibbed/regular options for the snow pants. To fill out the line, Candide has also put together some stylish mid layer and aprés options, available in black or navy.
While the brand is brand new and we haven’t been able to see any of the product in person, our initial review leaves us impressed by the potential of the company. Utilizing simple, bold colors and well designed pieces, Candide outerwear reminds us a lot of the man himself: understated, yet directly to the point. At the moment it’s too early to know what the availability of Candide outerwear will be like, or if they’ll even be selling via a traditional retail model. What we can say for sure though, is that we’re very much hoping for the opportunity to check these pieces out in person, and hopefully add them to our great lineup of brands. Of course, we would also love to hear your feedback on this one- what do you think? Should we try to add Candide outerwear to our inventory? Take a look at the new website for yourself, then let us know in the comments below!