Lead Image: With Skimo set to appear in the 2026 Winter Olympics, we continue our preview coverage, along with some slight adjustments to the scheduled events. Image: ISMF World Cup Ski Mountaineering on Facebook
#1: Olympic Skimo Preview Coverage Continues with Insights from ISPO.com:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the July 22, 2022 edition! First up in our highlight reel this week is an article from ISPO.com that provides some excellent insights into the world of ski mountaineering, well ahead of its Olympic inclusion in 2026. In an article this week, we learn quite a bit about the history of the sport, the recent factors that have brought it to this point, and what we can expect to see in the 2026 Olympics. Before really diving into this piece, we have to start by saying that we apologize for any time in which we referred to Skimo’s inclusion in the 2026 games as being its debut. As a matter of fact, we learned from this ISPO article that the sport originally appeared in 7 editions of the Olympics, from 1924 - 1948 before going on hiatus. Noting how far skis, and particularly uphill equipment, have come since then, it’s fascinating to imagine what those mid-20th century events must have looked like.
In addition to sharing that interesting anecdote, the ISPO article also does an excellent job of previewing the sport’s second appearance in the games, both hyping its debut while bemoaning some of the shortcomings of its inclusions. First, reasons for excitement: being the only ski event that features both uphill and downhill skiing, competitors in this discipline are some of the most well rounded skiers in the world. As such, the frantic uphill endurance race, combined with the technical aspect of having to rapidly transition to downhill mode by removing the skins from the skis, as well as the need to be a proficient downhill skier, should make for compelling television for both skiers and mainstream viewers. That kind of exposure, combined with the already increasing interest in uphill skiing, including the creation of ski touring parks in Europe, suggest that the 2026 Winter Olympics could become a catalyst for explosive growth in this category. If that’s the case, names like Arno Lietha, Emily Harrop, and Robert Antoniolo could soon make their way into the mainstream ski lexicon.
Unfortunately though, the article also points out one major let down of the sport’s inclusion. Upon initially announcing Skimo being added to the 2026 Winter Olympic agenda, there were five races planned: men’s and women’s sprint, men’s and women’s individual events, and a team relay. Now, as the result of a decision made in an IOC meeting last month, that lineup has been trimmed to just three events: the two sprints and the team relay. While we’re still very excited to see these races in the Olympics, it’s unfortunate that the individual events have been called off as those are the disciplines that reflect the true heart and soul of skimo. As you can see in the accompanying image, the sprint event is a shorter form, very structured race on a ski slope. The individual discipline on the other hand was scheduled to include a series of three ascents and descents with race times expected to exceed an hour and a half. Noting the exposure the Olympics will bring to the sport, it’s a shame that new viewers won’t get to witness a race that’s more reflective of the sport’s origins. Still, we remain excited to watch and hope that a successful re-debut could result in the inclusion of individual races in future years. To learn more about Skimo’s inclusion in the upcoming games, check out this article from ISPO.
#2: As Russia Continues its Invasion of Ukraine, the Ski Industry Supply Chains Braces for Interruptions:
In other news this week, we caught an article from PlanetSki.eu that brings us up to speed on the status of ski factories located in Ukraine. While there are a few factories in this region to be aware of, perhaps the most prominent one is the Fischer skis factory which produces an estimated 50% of all the skis and snowboards sold in Europe each year, under both the Fischer brand as well as others. That factory, you might recall, suffered a massive fire in October of 2020, causing it to be completely shut down for over a year as it was rebuilt. Finally, in January 2022, the factory was able to reopen as a world class facility. Months later, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, with airstrikes targeting a nearby jet fighter training military base. Fortunately, the Fischer factory went unscatched. Still, the Russian invasion hasn’t been without impact. From the onset of the war at the end of February, the factory temporarily closed for roughly a month and a half, having just reopened a month and a half prior. The good news though, is that since the closure, the factory has been back up and running ever since, meaning that for the moment, no supply chain interruptions are expected. Additionally, for those interested in stories with silver linings, the massive fire suffered by the factory also created new supply chain agreements between Fischer and European factories, meaning that if the Russian war on Ukraine does cause the factory to shut down once again, manufacturing can be subsidized using these previous connections.
In addition to the Fischer factory, Tecnica, Rossignol, and Amer Sports (parent company of Salomon, Atomic, Armada, and more) also have factories in Ukraine. At present, it isn’t clear if the Tecnica or Amer Sports factories are operational, although we believe they are. The Rossignol factory however, is known to be closed. What all of this comes to mean at the moment is essentially this: while there aren’t currently any supply chain disruptions, the situation is one which requires attention. At a time when the ski industry is already meeting, but not exceeding demand, any supply chain issues could have a big impact in the following season. As such, while we’re feeling pretty good about inventory for the upcoming season, changes to factory statuses due to the war in Ukraine could impact equipment availability in the 2023-2024 season. As always, we’ll keep you updated as this story progresses.
#3: Could Communal Van Life Communes Be a Partial Solution to Ski Town Housing Issues?
In other news this week, we came across an article that, while not ski specific, has a significant amount of crossover with the ski world. In other words, this article isn’t directly related to skiing, but seeing as it’s the middle of Summer and it focuses on a business concept that we think could be of interest for a number of our readers, we figured we’d give it a share it anyway. This week, in Bloomberg, we learned of a business called Kift that offers a type of Airbnb / WeWork / #Vanlife hybrid to outdoor enthusiasts who have the ability to work remotely and suffer from a condition known as wanderlust. In short, the business works like this: Kift allows those already living or interested in the vanlife to park their converted vehicles outside of one of four “community houses” across the Western United States. These community houses operate as something of a hub for a number of other vanlifers who’ve opted to temporarily live at one of these locations. Inside the house, members have access to kitchens, bathrooms, showers, and communal work areas. Additionally, the community houses offer programs such as guided meditations to their guests. The sum of this offering is essentially this: a new generation of remote workers who’ve come to embrace the nomadic van-dwelling lifestyle can pay to utilize one of Kift’s community houses for modern conveniences, while still living in and sleeping out of their van. This enables them to remain mobile, meaning they can continue traveling and exploring in their vans without being tied to one location, but without forgoing modern conveniences such as unlimited running water or a fully stocked kitchen.
For a seasonal sport like skiing, this set up has particular appeal as it could enable skiers to post up in a location for the winter without having to commit to living there for the long term. Additionally, with the difficulties that exist in terms of finding accommodations in mountain towns, this solution could make it easier for seasonal residents to call mountain communities home. At present, most of the locations offered by Kift are not mountain destinations, for obvious reasons. There’s no question about it, winter van life is much more difficult than warm weather van living, but it’s a feat that’s achieved by hundreds, if not thousands, every winter. Keeping this in mind, the idea of Kift is particularly interesting to us from a ski perspective. Currently, Kift does have a Mt. Hood location if this concept appeals to you and you’re interested in giving it a test run. If you’ve got the interest but not the van, Kift can also help you purchase one through their procurement process or will rent one to you. To learn more, you can visit their website here, or check out the writeup from Bloomberg here.
#4: The Members of Newschoolers.com Name Team America The Greatest Ski Edit of All Time:
Finally, we round out this week with something of a lighthearted update as Newschoolers.com has officially named The Greatest Ski Edit of All Time. As you’ll recall, we shared this story back at the end of May when the website initially launched the just-for-fun poll encouraging their users to vote for the best freeskiing edit of all time. At that time, there were 18 edits in the running, all of which could make a strong case for the title. Since then however, users have voted and trimmed away the nominees that proved unworthy of the title, right up until this week when just one edit remained: The Greatest Edit of All Time. While there were a number of classics in this contest, the ultimate winner was the Team America JOSS ’09 edit.
Now, freeskiing nerds will immediately know this edit, and can easily vouch for its credentials and to be honest, now that the voting is over, this edit almost feels like it was the obvious choice all along. Afterall, it has everything. For starters, it features an all-star cast of Tom Wallisch and Simon Dumont in front of the lens, backed by the cinematography and production of Level 1’s Josh Berman and Poorboyz Productions Tyler Hamlet. If you weren’t involved in the freeskiing scene in 2009, just know that these were by far four of the most talented individuals in the sport at the time. Beyond that, there are a number of other qualities that make this edit the cream of the crop. It’s got Salomon G-Suit era Dumont and hyphy era Tom Wallisch. It’s got humor that’s both representative of the time and good for a laugh to this day. On top of all that, it was also an entry into Jon Olson’s Super Sessions, one of the first professional skier created, invite only events in skiing. In other words, this edit is the perfect encapsulation of a beautiful and important moment in the history of freeskiing. Now that the contest is all said and done, we have to say, the winner almost feels like it should’ve been a foregone conclusion, despite the field being full of incredible nominees. If you’ve never seen this video before, we’d encourage hitting play on the accompanying video. You can also check out a full list of the entries here.