#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Update: Tight Races Highlight the Week:
Welcome back to the second installment of Top Five Fridays in 2021! While the world around us seems to grow more chaotic by the week, we hope that in writing this weekly column we can add some level of normalcy to your news cycle. In an effort to make good on that goal, we start this week, as we always do in January, with a recap of last week’s ski racing action!
After last week’s action packed coverage which included two weeks worth of news and quite literally too many standout results from both the men’s and women’s teams to adequately cover, things were a bit more quiet on the FIS front this week. Much of that is due to the fact that just two races in total were held, a Women’s Slalom and a Men’s Slalom, both in Zagreb, Croatia. While neither race produced particularly exciting results for the U.S. Ski Team, both races were well worth the watch as they both featured incredibly tight finishes amongst the top tier of competitors. In the Women’s race, the top four finishers were separated by just .27 seconds. Unfortunately it was Mikaela Shiffrin on the backend of that four-set as she just missed the podium, finishing in fourth place. Also earning points in that race was Paula Moltzan finishing in 14th, and Katie Hensien who finished in 18th. On the men’s side, while the top four finishers had slightly more spacing, an insane 16 competitors finished within 1 second of each other. For comparison, in the women’s race, the fifth place finisher was 1.4 seconds off of first, and there was a 2.83 second spread between 1st and 16th. So, while unfortunately no Americans earned points in an incredibly tight race, it was an entertaining watch for fans of the sport nonetheless. Looking ahead, action is already underway for this weekend as the women’s circuit is currently on course in St. Anton, Austria for a training run of tomorrow’s Downhill race, with a Super G scheduled for Sunday. On the men’s side of things, athletes are currently in Adelboden, Switzerland for a Giant Slalom and Slalom race, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday respectively. To follow along with this weekend’s results, click here. To see the full results from last weekend’s races in Zagreb, click here.
#2: North American Covid Report: Resorts Forced to Close Due to Covid:
Up next this week is a check-in on the status of skiing in North America, as the winter sports community trudges on through attempting to maintain a regular season amidst a pandemic. Unfortunately, this week’s news reminds us that ski area operations remain fluid, and that closures can happen with little notice. The first example we have of that is at New York’s Hunter Mountain. Located just a couple of hours North of New York City, Hunter Mountain was forced to suspend operations this week due to Covid. As it turns out, there’s more to the situation than initially meets the eye. Let’s start at the start though: earlier this week, two ski patrollers tested positive for Covid-19, resulting in quarantine measures for them, as well as several other patrollers who were considered close contacts. In an effort to fill the vacancies left from this situation, resort management began reaching out to volunteer ski patrollers past and present. The problem however, is that none of these volunteers were interested in coming to the resort’s rescue. While concerns regarding the spread of Covid-19 were undoubtedly a part of the reason for their refusal, a growing disdain for Vail’s ownership of the resort also played a large part. Since being sold to Vail resorts in July of 2019, resort management took away a number of perks previously offered to volunteer ski patrollers, such as free passes for family and friends. As a result, Vail found themselves in the unenviable position of attempting to call in favors from a group of people they aren’t on particularly good terms with. As outsiders, it’s tough to pass judgement either way in this situation, so we won’t. Instead, we’ll refer you to the full story from The Times Union.
In other, similar news, one of our favorite new resorts, Bluebird Backcountry, was also forced to temporarily close this week due to Covid-19. While the situation there is free from sub-layers of drama, it’s still an unfortunate reminder that ski resorts, like all businesses, could be impacted by the pandemic at any time. In this instance, the staff at Bluebird Backcountry reported that a person who had been at their mountain last weekend had tested positive, and therefore they would be closing in order to properly conduct testing on all staff that was present on those days. Fortunately, the resort plans to reopen next week, provided results come back negative and they’re able to mitigate the issue. For more on this, check out the brief writeup from the Denver Post’s In The Know.
#3: Mt. Spokane Announces New All Day Touring Policy, Ponders Uphill Skiing Lessons:
Moving right along, we’re excited to share a story that’s significantly more positive than that last highlight. As you’re well aware, we’re huge fans of the alpine touring movement, and have been following its steady progression over recent years, and its trajectory during this pandemic in particuar. That’s why when we saw an article about Mt. Spokane introducing a new all-day uphill skiing policy, we instantly clicked in to give it a read. At first, the article was intriguing as yet another ski resort had implemented an official policy and plan to allow uphill skiing at their resort. But, it was only when we read the resort’s plans and hopes for this program that we really became interested.
This week, Mt. Spokane announced that uphill skiers will be able to ascend the mountain using a designated route, at any time of the day, provided they have a $50 uphill specific season pass. What was also shared, was that the mountain is interested in taking this program even further if there’s interest, by eventually offering uphill skiing lessons at the resort, and that is when our interest really piqued. We’ve long been proponents of the trend towards making ski touring a more mainstream part of our sport, so hearing for the first time that a ski resort is considering providing uphill ski lessons is exceptionally exciting. If that happens, and if it’s a trend that spreads, it should serve to create an easier entry point for those new to the sport from both an access and education perspective. For the moment, the concept is still just an idea that’s in the works, but we remain excited to hear that a mountain is beginning to see the sport in that light regardless. For more on this, we’ll turn you over the Spokesman.com where we first heard the news.
#4: New York Times Gives Kai Jones the Full Editorial Treatment:
Finally, for our last highlight this week, we have one of our absolute favorite types of articles to share: a New York Times feature. Occasionally the good folks over at New York Times will put together an article that features a full screen layout and really engaging interactions. One of our all time favorite examples of this is their coverage of the Tunnel Creek Avalanche. This week, we were treated to another one of these experiential articles, this time focusing on 14 year old skier Kai Jones. If that name sounds familiar to you, it might be because we shared an edit of his back in October. Or, it might be because Kai is the oldest child of Todd Jones, founder and owner of Teton Gravity Research. Either way, if you’ve seen his antics (and if you haven’t, you can watch them here), then it feels safe to say that Kai’s future is exceptionally bright. Being raised in a family that’s immersed him in the world of skiing from an early age, and one that’s well versed in navigating the upper echelon of the industry, it’s only the addition of Kai’s own internal drive that’s truly tipped the scales in his favor and solidified him as a must-watch name in skiing. While some would be quick to say that his pedigree is the reason he’s growing in name recognition, the fact of the matter is that Kai’s success isn’t the result of sheer luck- it’s the result of natural ability combined with an excellent work ethic. This week’s article from the New York Times does an excellent job of examining this dynamic in depth, ultimately painting a picture of a young man who’s both wise beyond his years, and also still a child who’s equal parts unsure and excited about what the future holds for him. As per usual with this kind of thing, we’d much rather turn you over to the New York Times to check out the article for yourself rather than parse each and every detail here. Enjoy the read, you’re in for a treat.