Ski Industry News - Top Five Fridays
Top Five Fridays: March 10, 2023
Lead Image: Earlier today, Mikaela Shiffrin took home the gold in a giant slalom race in Åre, Sweden, her 86th World Cup Gold medal. With that, she’s officially tied the legendary Ingemar Stenmark’s record. More on this directly below. Image: Mikaela Shiffrin on Facebook
#1: FIS Update: Shiffrin Ties Stenmark’s Record, Poised to Break it Before Season Ends:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the March 10, 2023 edition! This week we’ve got some big news from the world of World Cup alpine racing, as well as three additional highlights that we think you’ll find particularly interesting. We’ll get to those in a second, but first, let’s talk about today’s breaking news: Mikaela Shiffrin has just won her 86th FIS World Cup race.
Earlier today, in a giant slalom race in Are, Sweden, Mikaela Shiffrin beat Italy’s Federica Brignone by .64 seconds to earn her 86th World Cup victory. In the race, Shiffrin put up a dominant first run, holding a 1.04 second lead coming into the second run. In that run, Shiffrin kept us on the edge of our seats as she lost nearly a half a second in her first two sectors. Had that pace maintained, it would’ve been an absolute nail biter at the finish line. Fortunately for her, and us, she picked up the pace and beat out Brignone’s time in the final two sectors, ultimately earning herself the win. In doing so, Shiffrin has officially tied Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins. That record could be broken as soon as tomorrow as Shiffrin takes on a slalom race, her best discipline. If history isn’t made in that race, she’ll have up to 4 more chances to earn another gold medal in an individual event this season as next week sees the start of the World Cup finals in Soldeu, Andorra.
While Shiffrin’s gold medal was undoubtedly the highlight of the week, it’s definitely worth recapping all of the races from the last 7 days as they had a real impact in the season long standings. Last week, Kvitfjell, Norway hosted two super g races and a downhill. In the two super g’s, Shiffrin placed 4th and 7th chronologically. In the first race, Cornelia Huetter took first, Elena Curtoni took second, and Lara Gut-Behrami took third. Unfortunately for Shiffrin, these athletes are all ahead of her in the super g standings, meaning the race only widened their lead. Fortunately however, in the second race, none of the top 6 finishers were ahead of Shiffrin in the standings, giving her a chance of finding herself on the podium at the end of the season. While it’s a long shot, Shiffrin could mathematically still claim 2nd overall should she win the super g in Soldeu. In the downhill discipline, despite a strong 4th place finish this week, Shiffrin’s odds of podiuming are even longer. In that discipline, should Shiffrin win the next downhill race while the 5 competitors ahead of her in the standings earn 10 points or less apiece, she could finish the season with the bronze. While highly unlikely, it remains possible. The good news, however, is that Shiffrin’s results this week secured the overall crystal globe for the season, while her points in slalom and giant slalom put her gold medal out of reach for the other athletes. As a result, Shiffrin will definitely finish the season in first place in slalom, first place in giant slalom, and first place overall. Considering the questions swirling around Shiffrin after last winter’s Olympics, this is about as strong of a resurgence as one could ask for.
While Shiffrin stole the spotlight once again this week, we’d be remiss not to highlight some of her teammates who also had an excellent week. Topping that list is Breezy Johnson, who started her week by sneaking into the points in the first super g race with a 28th place finish, then proceeded to take home an impressive 8th place in the downhill race, before rounding things out with a 19th place finish in the second super g. Joining the points party for Team America in the downhill race were Isabella Wright with a 12th place finish and Keely Cashman in 29th.
On the men’s side the week was also packed with excitement as the FIS World Cup made its highly anticipated return to Aspen. While the first of two scheduled downhill races had to be canceled, the second downhill race and the super g both went off without a hitch. In the downhill race, an astounding five athletes finished in the points, led by Bryce Bennett in 10th, Sam Morse in 14th, Travis Ganong in 17th, Jared Goldberg in 19th, and Ryan Cochran-Siegle in 27th. A day later, similar levels of success were had as four men earned points in the super g. In that race, Erik Arvidsson and Jared Goldberg tied for 14th, while Ryan Cochran-Siegle took 18th and Bryce Bennett took home 28th. This weekend, the men will swing through Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, for a pair of giant slalom races before linking back up with the women’s circuit in Soldeu on the 13th for the World Cup finals. To preview those races, click here.
#2: 2023/2024 Ikon Passes and Epic Passes Are Officially on Sale - Here’s What We Know About Pricing and Benefits:
Next up in ski news this week is an annual announcement of sorts that we suspect a majority of our readership will want to know about: 2023/2024 Epic Passes and Ikon Passes have officially gone on sale. Along with the headline news comes a number of adjustments to each pass offering, some of which are likely more exciting than others. To start, let’s talk pricing.
For the 2023/2024 season, both pass options see an uptick in price. For the Epic Pass, the full monty will cost you $909, while the Epic Local Pass is priced at $676. Compared to last season, the full Epic Pass is up $50 and the Epic Local Pass is up $37, or roughly 6% apiece. This is more or less equal to the current U.S. inflation rate, so the price increases make sense. What’s interesting to note, is that Epic Pass prices are slowly creeping back up to what they were prior to the 20% price discount which sent the ski world into a consolidation frenzy. Prior to slashing prices ahead of the 2021/2022 season, the Epic Pass was $979, while the Local Pass was $729. Should the rate of price increases stay the same, 2024/2025 prices will be nearly the same price as the 2020/2021 rates, with 2025/2026 passes surpassing them.
As for the Ikon Pass, it’s a bit trickier to compare pricing as they offer a renewal price for current pass holders looking to continue skiing at Ikon resorts next year. Due to the fact that we can’t find information regarding last year’s early bird price for renewing members, we’ll be comparing prices for new memberships here. With that in mind, here’s what we’ve got: for new buyers, the full Ikon Pass is $1,159 for the 2023/2024 season, up about 7.5% from last year’s $1,079 cost. For the Ikon Base, the price increase is similar, rising about 7.8% from $769 to $859.
In addition to the price adjustments, there are a few other notes worth mentioning here. For the Epic Pass, the good news is that pass holders will continue to have access to Andermatt-Sedrun in Switzerland, with additional access to Disentis, a ski resort in the same region. The bad news for many, is that Telluride will be moving to a reservation model. While this will cut down on crowding at the resort, it’s a development that many locals aren’t particularly fond of. As for the Ikon Pass, there haven’t been any new mountain announcements this week, but there are some new, interesting member benefits being offered. In addition to the existing benefits, such as their first tracks program, 15% off food and beverage, and discount lift tickets for friends and family to name a few, Ikon has also introduced three new partnerships this season that offer pass holders discount opportunities with select brands. This list includes a free Outside+ membership (a $59 value), a 20% off discount to The North Face for a purchase over $200, and two discount codes to be redeemed with Smith. As the business of multi-pass selling evolves, we have to admit, we’re pretty impressed with the introduction of this concept as it’s a partnership that offers value to all parties involved, including pass holders who can actually save quite a bit of money on necessary equipment. Of course, as always, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts on this as well. Do you plan on buying an Epic or Ikon Pass next year? What do you think of the added benefits from the Ikon Pass? Let us know in the comments below!
#3: Killington Residents Approve $47 Million in Funding for the Creation of a New Base Village and Infrastructure Upgrades:
In other news this week, voters in the Killington area collectively decided to approve $47 million in tax increment financing (TIF) in order to move forward with phase one of the Killington Forward Initiative. This massive development plan can be more or less split into two parts: the creation of a new pedestrian village at the base of the mountain, and necessary infrastructure upgrades to improve the overall health of the community. Let’s start by talking about the fun stuff: the development of Six Peaks Killington.
Located at the base of the mountain, Six Peaks Killington is designed to be a full fledged resort village. At the core of the concept is the creation of 1,500 residences, including both short term lodging as well as employee housing. In addition to these units, Six Peaks will also include, “quaint shops, restaurants and bistros, outdoor cafes, galleries and parks, a village green and ski plaza”. In addition to traditional streets, a number of pedestrian lanes of “mews” will connect the newly developed buildings, creating a pedestrian friendly experience that can be enjoyed by visitors regardless of the season. Whether it's accommodating winter travelers looking to ski or board, or summer guests experiencing mountain biking at the resort or a festival or sorts, the overarching goal for Six Peaks is to create a vibrant community at the base of Killington, ultimately providing an economic stimulus to the region.
Speaking of stimulating the region, the other half of the approved plan is to greatly upgrade the infrastructure of the area. At present, one of the biggest issues plaguing the town of Killington is a lack of municipal water. Currently, businesses are forced to either treat or import water due to PFOAs in well water. With this newly approved plan, Killington will create a municipal water system, providing clean water to the schools, local businesses, and new Six Peaks village. Additionally, this massive redevelopment project will also include improvements to the mountain road. On that to-do list are line items such as the creation of multi-use paths, the widening of sidewalks, the creation of bus pull offs, a new roundabout, and more. Looking ahead, the town of Killington has also preemptively purchased a 70-acre parcel of land upon which it hopes to develop an additional 250-300 residential units to further ease housing issues in the area. All in all, this is exciting news for both the resort and town itself as this package was smartly put together in a way that allows the resort to grow and provide a better mountain experience for guests, while also offering improvements that residents will benefit from, even if they never set foot on the resort’s property. To learn more about this announcement, check out the report from Ski Area Management.
#4: Two Tibetan Athletes Win Gold Medals at Ski Mountaineering World Championships:
Finally, rounding out the news this week was a story we were particularly interested to see: at this year’s Ski Mountaineering World Championships, two Tibetan athletes, competing under the Chinese flag took home gold medals for the first time ever. Now, at first read this headline might not seem particularly impressive, but bear with us as we unpack the full story to reveal its value. First, let’s start with some quick background about the sport itself. As you may or may not already know, Ski Mountaineering is set to make its Olympic debut at the 2026 Winter Games. In this iteration of the Olympics, there will be a men’s and women’s sprint race, in which athletes race uphill to the top of a short uphill course, transition to downhill mode, and ski down as quickly as possible. There will also be a team relay version of this event. Seeing as it’s a new event, it’s yet to be determined which nations will immediately rise to prominence. Historically speaking, European nations have competed well in Ski Mountaineering, but with its addition to the global games, other nations have taken notice. This week’s news is case in point.
In this year’s World Championships, two Tibetan athletes competing for China made statements on the global stage. 19 year old Yuzhen Lamu won the gold medal in the U20 women’s sprint event, while 17 year old Yuzhen Cidan took home the gold in the U18 vertical race, as well as the individual race, which is a much longer, steeper course. Before we get into some of the deeper storylines at play here, we want to take a moment to congratulate these two athletes for their accomplishments.
Now, let’s talk politics. First, and foremost, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room here: given China and Tibet’s political beef regarding the sovereignty of Tibet, as well as China’s increased interest in competing in the Winter Olympics, it’s both awkward and concerning to see two promising young Tibetan athletes compete at such a high level. Clearly these competitors are people that China will want to claim as their own, but we have to wonder whether or not they personally identify as Chinese, Tibetan, or both. As outsiders, we’re in no place to make assumptions or jump to conclusions, but we will absolutely be keeping an eye on this dynamic as this story develops.
The second, more positive aspect of this story, is that athletes from this part of the world finally have a way to highlight their talents. It’s no secret in the world of ski mountaineering that locals to the Himalayan region are some of the most fit and capable high altitude athletes in the world, but unfortunately their role has been that of sherpas for the past several decades. Despite being superior athletes, many locals in the high mountains of Tibet are relegated to the role of cargo carrier, and rarely earn recognition for their feats. While that’s starting to change thanks to social media and films like “14 Peaks,” the world is still a long ways away from truly recognizing the elite talent amongst locals in the area. Now, with two athletes earning a total of three gold medals on the world stage, and an Olympic event just three years away, it feels as though these athletes might be on the precipice of finally receiving their dues. To us, that’s the feel good story here: long overdue respect may finally be on its way to a community that’s highly deserving of it. To learn more about this story, check out the writeup from SixthTone.com.
4 thoughts on “Top Five Fridays: March 10, 2023”
You guys at Ski Essentials are absolutely the best.
Your reviews of skis have set a new standard for ski testing.
I would not ever consider a ski purchase without watching your category and individual test.
The fact that you walk the walk with your videos is amazing. You make great turns.
I wish my home mountain was Stowe. I would probably be bothering you at the shop every day. Thanks for being you!
Ikon pass now “includes a free Outside+ membership (a $59 value)”? Outside+ acquired SKI magazine and changed its content and editing, and ran it into the ground. SKI is now available only online and Outside+ is pushing the print version of Outside magazine, with its self-serving hippie vibe and editing. Apparently that endeavor is not going well either, if they are now resorting to giving it away.
I own the Ikon pass. It works well for me. I probably saved about 400.00 in lift tickets. I used the food discount as well so it was a pretty good deal. I did pay for a day at Powder Mountain as there was 4’ of snow on the ground. Couldn’t pass that up! Epic! I was hoping to read that Telluride locals would be exempt from the reservation model. Show up with a local address and they’d let you through. Only seems fair since they do pay pretty high tax premiums to live there. How many locals per day? 200? Let ‘em in!
Oh and I hope Bob feels better soon!