#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Recap: Mikaela Shiffrin is a New FIS Record Holder:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the January 14, 2022 edition! This week feels a lot like last week as we start things off with a recap of FIS action before bringing you updates on two ongoing stories regarding Vail Resorts that we discussed just seven days ago. We’ll get into those headlines shortly, but before we do, we’re going to start with a double header of FIS World Cup coverage. To get that underway, we’ll start by checking in on the latest from the world of FIS Alpine Ski Racing.
After a pretty subdued week two weeks ago, last week was full of drama. For the women’s circuit, their week started in Kranjska Gora, Slovakia where a giant slalom and a slalom race were held. The first of those two races, the giant slalom, went okay for the U.S. team as Mikaela Shiffrin finished in 7th, but was the only U.S. athlete to earn points in that race. Also qualifying was Paula Moltzan, but unfortunately she finished with a DNF. A day later, the women competed in a slalom race which was overall slightly better, as Paual Moltzan finished tied for 13th, while Nina O’Brien finished in 25th, and Katie Hensien came in 28th. If you’re wondering where Mikaela Shiffrin’s name is on this list, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, after putting down an incredible first run in which she was just .25 seconds off the first place pace, she ended up straddling a gate just 15 away from the finish line. In other words, she earned a DNF, her first one since 2018. While she was frustrated after that result, the good news is that things got better as the week progressed. After the two races in Slovakia, the women’s field moved to Schladming, Austria for a slalom race. There, Shifrrin made history. In that race, Shiffrin came in first place, earning her 47th slalom gold medal, breaking the legendary Ingemar Stenmark's record of 46 wins within a single discipline. In doing so, she also remained at the front of the FIS Alpine overall standings. In addition to Shiffrin’s performance, Nina O’Brien also earned points for the U.S. team in that race, finishing in 19th place. Looking ahead, the women’s team is currently in Zauchensee, Austria for a downhill and super G race. To preview that event, click here. To learn more about Shifrrin’s record breaking race, click here.
On the men’s side of the circuit, results were a bit less fruitful, although not unsurprisingly, as the only opportunities to compete were a slalom and giant slalom race, both held in Adelboden, Switzerland, and neither of which are strong suits of the men’s team. Still, they weren’t entirely void of U.S. points. In the giant slalom race, Brian McLaughlin earned 2 points, finishing in 29th, while Luke Winters came in 10th in the slalom race. Looking ahead, the men are currently in Wengen, Switzerland for a super G, two downhill races, and a slalom. With those disciplines playing into the strengths of the men’s team, we hope to have more exciting news to share with you next week. Until then, you can review their results from Adelboden here, or preview their races in Wengen here.
#2: FIS World Cup Freeskiing Recap: The U.S. Team Had a Strong Showing in Mammoth
In other FIS Olympic skiing news, the U.S. Freeskiing team had itself a pretty big weekend in Mammoth last weekend. There, the men’s and women’s circuits both conveneed for a slopestyle and a superpipe event. In all instances, the U.S. team found success. On the men’s side, the slopestyle event was the highlight of the weekend as Alex Hall took home the gold, followed by Nick Goepper in second, and Mac Forehand close behind in fourth. The event itself was incredibly entertaining to watch as the top spots were only solidified late in the second round. For a moment, there was even hope that the U.S. team could sweep the podium, until Canadian athlete Evan McEachran snuck into the bronze medal spot. Still, the showing was strong for the men’s team, with Alex Hall’s run feeling particularly dominant. Also joining these three in the points column were U.S. athletes Colby Stevenson with a 15th place finish, Hunter Henderson in 18th, Konnor Ralph in 20th, and Ryan Stevenson in 29th. While the slopestyle event was a strong showing for the men, so too was the superpipe, where again, the U.S. team claimed three of the top four spots. In that event, David Wise finished in 2nd, Aaron Blunck took home 3rd, and Birk Irving took 4th. Joining them in the points category were eleven other U.S. athletes, meaning that the U.S. team took home a ridiculous 14 of the top 30 places. All in all, not a bad weekend for the men. You can review the results from the weekend here.
On the women’s side, the results were equally as encouraging. For them, the superpipe event offered the stronger showing, as Brita Sigourney took home third, with Hanna Faulhaber hot on her heels in second. To no one’s surprise, Ailing Gu took home top honors in that event, followed by Kelly Sildaru. Much like the men’s team, the women’s team also dominated the results, with an additional nine athletes earning points, for a total of eleven U.S. athletes finishing in the top twenty six. Again, much like the men, the women’s team also found success in slopestyle, with Maggie Voision taking home the bronze for Team America. In that event, the top two finishers were familiar faces, although their position flipped, with Kelly Sildaru taking home gold and Ailing Gu securing second. Joining Voisin in the points for the U.S. team were an additional five athletes, for a total of six athletes finishing in the top twenty three. All in all, it was a strong showing for the women’s team, and things are certainly trending in the right direction as the Winter Olympics approach. Looking ahead, the FIS Freeskiing circuit is in Font Romeu, France for a men’s and women’s slopestyle event- the last competitions ahead of the olympics. With the games coming up and the U.S. roster more or less solidified, it’ll be interesting to see if any U.S. athletes compete in those events. To preview them, click here.
#3: In an Effort to Make Things Right, Vail Promises $2/hr Employee Bonuses:
Moving on from the world of competitive skiing, we have an update to a story we brought you in full last week, and one that’s been growing in volume as the season’s progressed. Before we get into this one, we want to be sure to preface what we’re about to share with you by saying that this week’s news isn’t a complete answer to an immense problem, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. As you might recall if you caught last week’s update, one of the highlights we shared with you was the growing outcry in regards to the lackluster guest experience at many Epic resorts this season. As we just alluded to, the issue itself is quite complex, so we won’t get into all of the details again this week (if you want to know more, check out last week’s recap). Instead, we’ll just remind you that the first step to resolving the many issues plaguing Vail resorts this year is to simply compensate their employees better. Now, as much as we’d like to pretend that Vail leadership gets all of their great ideas directly from our weekly recaps, the truth is that their decision this week to give all of their employees a bonus at the end of the season likely came from some other source of inspiration.
Regardless of where the idea came from, Vail made headlines this week when they announced that their employees will all be eligible for a $2/hr bonus at the end of the season if they stuck it through. Along with the announcement came acknowledgement and appreciation from Vail CEO Kirsten Lynch, who recognized the incredibly challenging season that Vail employees have had to endure. Recognizing those difficulties, she announced that any employee who makes it to the end of the season will receive a bonus of $2 for every hour worked since January 1st. In essence, it’s a $2/hr raise, applicable to this season only, with wages to be renegotiated prior to next season. This announcement of course comes on the heels of a substantial amount of negative publicity in the previous weeks as Vail has endured a multifaceted attack on its reputation, including but not limited to: outcry regarding low wages, long lift lines, limited terrain openings, a petition with almost 40,000 signatures protesting their management, the firing of the General Manager at Steven’s Pass, and plummeting stock prices. Again, while we don’t know the discussions being had amongst management at Vail, it’s hard to imagine that this update isn’t a response to the growing unrest of those invested in Vail, either literally or as guests. Ultimately, it’s yet to be seen if this is the first step in Vail re-establishing itself as a top level employer, capable of providing world class guests experiences, or if it’s another case of too little too late. As with all things, only time will tell. For now, check out the latest news in this article from the Summit Daily.
#4: After Voting to Go On Strike, Park City Ski Patrol Has Finally Reached a Tentative Deal With Vail Resorts:
Finally, ending this week, we have a second update from another ongoing story that we’ve been sharing here on Top Five Fridays. In tandem with the aforementioned troubles plaguing Vail this season, there’s also been a story growing in significance regarding the ski patrollers in Park City, and their difficulties in reaching an agreement with Vail resorts regarding their wages. Last week when we checked in, we learned some of the specific demands being made by Park City ski patrol, as well as some of the reasons why they were unhappy with their current arrangement. In short, the disagreement came down to wages, as the Park City ski patrol had been left out of Vail’s $15/hr minimum wage promise. As such, first and second year ski patrollers were the lowest paid employees on the mountain, earning just $13.25 and $14.50 respectively, despite being one of the more skilled professions in Vail’s workforce. To remedy that situation, the unionized patrollers were demanding a starting wage of $17/hr, with a $1/hr increase each year for the first three years. At the conclusion of last week, Park City Ski Patrol had endured 47 fruitless negotiations.
This week, things got worse. Last weekend, the Park City Ski Patrol union held a vote in which they agreed to strike if their demands weren’t met. If a strike occurred, Park City Resort would have two options: either close the mountain until their ski patrol was willing to come back, or hire temporary employees in order to keep the resort open. Neither option would have been ideal, as replacing ski patrol with so-called scabs would undoubtedly have had negative reverberations across the ski industry.
And then, shockinglingly, things got better. Just hours before writing this week’s news, it was announced that Park City ski patrol and Vail have reached an agreement in principle. In other words, the two haven’t finalized a formal agreement, the negotiating groups have reached an agreement which will be put to a vote amongst the Park City ski patrol in the coming days. In theory, that should mean that this long saga of disagreement could finally come to an end. While we don’t know the details of the new agreement, and particularly where the two parties ended up on the wage issue, it’s a very positive sign that the two leadership teams issued a joint statement announcing that they’ve reached an agreement in principle. At this point, it seems likely that whatever concessions were made, Park City ski patrol will likely approve the contract and the strike crisis should be averted. All in all, we’re thankful that a resolution was reached in this matter. To learn more, check in with the Park Record.