#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Update: A Solid Showing for the Women's Team, the Men Lose Another Big Name:
It’s been a full week since our last check in, so you know what that means: we’ve got a fresh round of FIS race results to discuss! This week, the women’s team had a moderately successful showing, while the men’s team also managed to earn some points, although the mood was hampered by an injury to a key member of the team. We’ll get back to that in a second, but for now let’s take a closer look at the women’s results.
To start the week, the Women’s circuit was in Crans Montana, Switzerland for a pair of Downhill races and a Super G event. At that stop, it was Breezy Johnson leading the way for the U.S. team as she earned a 3rd and 5th place finish in the two Downhill races. These types of results are continuing to pile up for Johnson who’s in what’s proving to be the best year of her career. In the Super G event, the results were less favorable, although Isabella Wright and Laurenne Ross each managed to earn points, finishing 28th and 35th respectively. After the triple header in Crans Montana, the women then traveled to Kronplatz, Italy for a Giant Slalom race. There, Mikaela Shiffrin maintained what’s become her expected results this season with a 4th place finish. While she certainly hasn’t had the year that she used to have before last season, she’s still performing admirably considering her adjusted mindset. Despite only having competed in Slalom and Giant Slalom races this season, Shiffin finds herself in 6th place in the overall cup standings. What’s notable about this is that of the 5 athletes above her, they’ve all competed in either 4 out of 5, or all 5 divisions. Shiffrin, on the other hand, has competed in just 2. In other words, while Mikaela might not be leading the pack like she’s used to, her results in the races she’s competed in have been particularly strong. One additional note here is that Breezy Johnson is currently holding 14th place in the overall standings, with only Downhill results to her name (a category in which she’s currently 2nd). To see the current Women’s World Cup overall standings, click here.
On the Men’s side of the sport, things were unfortunately a bit less exciting this week. As you may or may not be aware, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who’s been poised to have a breakout year, took a serious fall in last week’s Downhill race at Kitzbuehel. Despite suffering a minor neck fracture in that accident, Cochran-Siegle still hopes to return to racing before the end of the season. Compounding on top of that bad news, it was also announced this week that the injury Tommy Ford suffered at a Giant Slalom race in Adelboden, Switzerland back at the start of January has been deemed season-ending. In addition to this injury news, we fortunately do have some point-earning results to report this week. The highlight of the week was undoubtedly the pair of Downhill races hosted in Kitzbuehel, Austria last weekend. In the first of those two races, Travis Ganong led the way for the U.S. team with an 11th place finish. Joining him in the “earned points” column from that race were Jared Goldberg in 19th, and Bryce Bennett in 24th. Two days later, the same trio earned similar results in another Downhill race, with Travis Ganong finishing 12th, Jared Goldberg in 24th, and Bryce Bennett in 41st. To see all of the results from last week’s races, as well as the upcoming schedule, check in with the official FIS schedule.
#2: X-Games 2021 is This Weekend, Here's Your Preview:
Next up in competition news, we have some good news this week as, despite the pandemic’s best efforts, the ESPN X-Games are scheduled to go down this weekend in Aspen. Unfortunately, we’re not able to say, “go down as planned,” because well, that’s not the case this year as a number of changes have been made to the event to enable it to happen at all. The first and most immediately noticeable change for this year’s games will be the lack of spectators. As has become par for the course with all sports this year, limiting or eliminating fans entirely is an unfortunate necessity. The other major change is that the competition schedule has been scaled way back to include just the snowboard and ski events. In previous years a number of other events have grown in popularity, including snow motocross and snowmobile events. Still, despite the reduction in events, this year’s X-Games will include 14 competitions across Men’s and Women’s Ski and Snowboard divisions. Additionally, all of these contests will be broadcast via a number of sources, which you can find here. So, beyond the changes to the event’s structure, what else should we expect from this weekend’s games? Well, we’d love to break it all down for you, but to be perfectly honest, the Aspen Times has already done that quite well, so we’ll turn you over to them for a full breakdown of each event, and who to watch. For those intent on not missing a minute of action, the games officially kickoff today at 2PM Eastern with Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle. To see the full schedule, click here.
#3: Pandemic Update: Vail and Aspen Snowmass CEO's Talk Impacts of a Strange Winter:
While we’re admittedly trying to keep pandemic talk to a minimum these days, as we’re all feeling pretty fatigued from it, we did catch an article this week that provides some solid perspective on how the pandemic is impacting the industry, from the point of view of two powerful players. In an article from Vail Daily, and reshared by Summit Daily, recent comments made by Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Mike Kaplan and Vail CEO Rob Katz have been collected and consolidated to provide insight into how these two high profile leaders of the industry view the impact of the pandemic on the ski industry. Put succinctly, the takeaway is this: there have been some winners, and some losers. In the win column, it should come as no surprise that real estate markets in mountain towns are by far the biggest winners. As we’ve mentioned in Top Five Fridays over the last several months, home sales are way up in mountain towns across America as a combination of both urban health risks and the rise in work from home culture have motivated those with means to relocate to somewhere more tranquil, like their favorite mountain town. As Katz points out in this article, while that has negative implications for current mountain town residents hoping to buy a house, it also suggests there will be an influx of year-round residents. In that case, it could help to balance some of the seasonality associated with ski town economies.
Speaking of ski town economies, both Kaplan and Katz agree that the service and retail industries based in mountain towns have been some of the biggest losers as a result of the pandemic. This should really come as no surprise to anyone as both travel and operational restrictions have led to a reduction of business in a brick and mortar setting. What’s interesting about this observation though, is how Katz reads into it in terms of what it means for the future. Citing the market crash of 2008, and Vail’s subsequent ability to begin expanding its empire, Katz mentions that once we’re on the backside of this pandemic, it could create an environment in which, “people are sometimes interested in having strategic discussions again.” In other words, due to the shakeup caused by the pandemic, Katz is suggesting that there may be another post-pandemic buying spree, at least on the part of Vail. Make of that what you will, but don’t be surprised if we see a number of new acquisitions in the years ahead. For more on this, check in with Summit Daily.
#4: Finnish City Launches World's First Urban Ski-Sharing Program:
Finally, we end this week’s news with a fun, lighthearted story from the Finnish city of Lahti, where city officials have just rolled out what they’re calling the world’s first urban ski-sharing program. For those unfamiliar with the area (ourselves previously included), Lahti is the 8th largest city in Finland, clocking in at approximately 120,000 residents as of June 30, 2019. It also boasts a robust nordic skiing culture, hosting both the Lahti Ski Games and the Finlandia-hiihto XC Ski Races annually. Additionally, it’s played host to the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships seven times, dating back to 1926. In other words, Lahti isn’t just a mid-size city in Finland. It’s arguably the Nordic skiing capital of the entire country. Keeping that in mind, it makes complete sense that the city would roll out a nordic ski-sharing program to help its citizens and visitors get around during the cold, snowy winter months. While it’s still limited in size, the current program is set up to work just like a bike or scooter share program in any other city. Those interested can rent the Nordic skis from one of three locations, and drop them off at any other location once they’ve completed their practical or recreational mission. In launching this program, the city hopes to provide an alternative, emission-free method of transportation at a time when the city is too covered in snow for biking to be practical. While we don’t suspect this is an idea that’ll catch on at cities all over the world, mostly due to the snow requirements, it’s a pretty excellent idea and we wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the world’s snowier cities following suit. To learn more about this story, check in with Forbes.