Top 5 Friday March 11, 2022: Lead Image

Ski Industry News - Top Five Fridays

Top Five Fridays: March 11, 2022

Lead Image: Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, CO. A comparatively small ski area that brings significant value to its community. Image: Howelsen Hill on Facebook

#1: FIS Alpine World Cup Recap: The U.S. Team Bounce Back in a Big Way Heading into the Final Stretch:

Top Five Fridays March 11, 2022: Mikaela Shiffrin Race Image

Mikaela Shiffrin got back on track in a big way last weekend in Lenzerheide. Image: U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team on Facebook

Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the March 11, 2022 edition! This week, we’ve got an encouraging round of FIS Alpine World Cup results to recap, before switching gears into a somewhat unexpected trio of highlights. In summation, that trio of highlights ultimately gives us a bit of a snapshot of where ski culture is at as it continues to progress from a bygone era into a more modern world. We’re sure you’ll have plenty of opinions about the stories we share and the coverage we give them, so please, by all means, air your support and/or grievances in the comments section below. Before getting into the juicer topics of the week though, let’s start with ski racing coverage for one of the last times this season.

As you might recall, our last edition of Top Five Fridays featured some less than ideal ski racing news as the U.S. Team emerged from a disappointing Olympic Games, only to be met by an FIS schedule that played into the weaknesses of both the Men’s and Women’s teams. Thankfully, this week was much different. For starters, it’s with great joy that we share the news that Mikaela Shiffrin has officially bounced back. Last weekend, Lenzerheide, Switzerland hosted a Super G and a Giant Slalom event. In those races, Shiffrin placed 2nd and 4th respectively. Those results were massive for her as she’s now in a strong position in a number of cup standings heading into roughly the final week of competition. At present, Shiffrin is the current overall leader with 1,156 points, a lead of 117 points over Petra Vlhova who’s currently in 2nd. Additionally, she’s ranked second in Slalom, 3rd in Giant Slalom, and 4th in Super G. While all of these results are subject to change as there are two Slalom races, two Giant Slalom races, a Super G, and a Downhill race remaining on the schedule, Shiffrin has to be feeling good about where she’s at. While she mathematically can’t win the Slalom or Super G events, she does have the potential to win the Crystal Globe (overall) and Giant Slalom, while taking 2nd in both the Slalom and Super G. If she could pull that off, this season would have to be seen as a resounding success after a tumultuous past two years. We’ll obviously be keeping you up to date with the latest on this front as races progress throughout next week.

While Shiffrin’s resurgence is certainly the highlight of this week’s ski racing news, we want to be sure to not let it completely overshadow the rest of the women’s team as other athletes continue to make substantial progress in their careers. In last Sunday’s Giant Slalom race, Paula Moltzan finished in 10th, her best result since the 2020 season. Also earning points in that race was AJ Hurt, finishing in 26th. A day earlier, in the Super G race, Isabella Wright and Keely Cashman showed up in the points yet again, earning 28th and 30th in the Super G race. For these two young athletes, these consistent results in speed events suggest substantial promise for the future. Our hats go off to both of them.

On the men’s side of the sport, while we don’t have any podiums to celebrate, we do have several strong results from a number of athletes in multiple races to discuss. In other words, while no U.S. Men’s team athletes landed on a podium, they collectively had an outstanding week. Over the course of the last seven days, they competed in two Downhill races and a Super G at Kvitfjell, Norway, as well as a Slalom race in Flachau, Austria on Wednesday. Of those races, the best results came in last Saturday’s Downhill race, where Ryan Cochran-Siegle earned 5th place, missing the podium by just .25 seconds, while Travis Ganong finished in a tie for 8th. A day earlier, that same pair performed admirably with RCS finishing in 11th and Travis Ganong taking 12th, just .04 seconds behind. Also in that race, Steven Nyman took home 18th while Jared Goldberg grabbed 20th. Finally, rounding out their weekend in Kvitfjell was a Super G race on Sunday, where RCS finished tied for 11th, Travis Ganong earned 21st, and Bryce Bennett took home 25th. Even after a strong weekend from the men’s team though, the action didn’t end. On Wednesday, in a Slalom race in Flachau, rising star Luke Winters took home a career best 7th place result. Again, while no U.S. Men’s team athlete landed on the podium, the week on the whole has to be seen as a success as a number of athletes put in strong finishes, all of which bodes well for the future of the sport.

Finally, we’ll conclude this highlight with a quick look ahead. This weekend, the women are in Are, Sweden for a Slalom and Giant Slalom race while the men are in Kranjska, Slovakia for a pair of Giant Slaloms. After these events, both divisions will head to Courchevel/Meribel, France for the Alpine World Championships, a week long event in which each division will have one last race in each category, as well as a team parallel event. Some years, these races can feel like formality as overall and event winners have already been determined. This time around, while some events have been determined, there’s plenty left on the line for the athletes chasing the Crystal Globe, and we expect the level of competition to be at an all time high. We’ll bring you the latest updates next week, when we might have an idea about how final results will be shaking out. Until then, you can preview the events here, or check out the official website for the championship week here.

#2: Vail Police Department Warns Poachers that They Could Spend 180 Days Jail if They Get Caught. The Court of Public Opinion Immediately Claps Back::

Top Five Fridays March 11, 2022: Vail Skier

The image accompanying the Vail Police Department’s announcement. The skiers shown are presumably innocent. Image: Vail Police Department on Facebook

Ever wondered what would happen if you borrowed a friend's pass and went skiing for a day? Well, this week we got some clarity on the issue, at least in the town of Vail, where the local police department made a Facebook announcement reminding the public of maximum penalties for such an infraction. So far this season, 31 poachers have been caught using someone else's pass, up from 27 throughout the entire course of last season. With historic trends indicating that pass borrowing tends to increase as the season progresses, Vail and the Vail PD likely made this public announcement to curtail this particular crime’s rate before things get out of hand. As such, they let it be known that those caught using a different person’s pass could face fines of up to $999 and/or 180 days in jail. Now, their post also says that suspects are, “either issued a summons into court and released or arrested,” suggesting that in all likelihood, it’s rare that perpetrators ever end up spending half a year in jail or paying nearly a thousand dollars. But, the fact of the matter is that they could, and the Vail PD is actively looking for poachers and holding them accountable.

This all seems well and good, right? The law’s the law and there are consequences for those who break it. Enter: gray area. After reading Vail PD’s post on Facebook, we immediately scrolled down to review the response from the court of public opinion. Interestingly, and hilariously, the responses from commenters were unanimous. In brief, they all more or less asked, “who cares?” After a year in which Vail has lost favorability amongst its customer base, responses to this announcement ranged from sassy retorts directed at the police department, to legitimate gripes from those wondering why the local police department is helping further Vail’s negative impact on the town by enforcing such strict penalties on locals. Or, in the words of one top commenter, “Very good use of time. Priority one: protect Vail Resorts from the citizens.” At a time when Vail should really be focusing its PR efforts on repairing its customer relations ahead of Epic Pass pre-sale season, this latest announcement doesn’t seem to be particularly well timed. Still, it’s been made, and you can read it in full right here.

#3: Colorado’s City and Town Owned Ski Areas Highlight the Importance of Small Ski Areas:

Top Five Fridays March 11, 2022: Howelsen Ski Area Image

Looking up at Howelsen Hill, a small community ski area in Steamboat Springs that offers a big sense of community. Image: Howelsen Hill on Facebook

If that last headline left you feeling a little unsettled about the current state of skiing, don’t worry, this next highlight might revive you. In recent weeks, we’ve found ourselves discussing a number of different ways that people are experiencing skiing without becoming a multi-pass holder. From going to backcountry resorts like Bluebird Backcountry, uphill skiing at local ski areas, and multi-day backcountry adventures, to the impending rise of indoor ski facilities, there are actually a number of ways to ski these days without owning a multi-pass such as Epic or Ikon. This week, we caught an article from Colorado’s 9 News that highlights the importance of a handful of small city owned ski areas in the state. Specifically, the article shares the stories of Lee’s Ski Hill in Ouray, Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, and Lake City Ski Hill in Lake City. The common thread between these ski hills goes beyond the simple fact that they’re city owned and operated. In the story, reporter Stina Sieg does an excellent job of peeling back the layers and really showing the value of small ski areas such as these. From accessibility in terms of price and location, to the unrivaled sense of community, these types of ski areas are what give children the kind of ski experiences that establish them as lifelong skiers. While these experiences and memories can also be created at larger resorts, there’s just something about these local community ski hills that generate feelings of passion and community in a way that gets lost at large ski areas. Although these ideas can be difficult to convey, Stieg does an excellent job of communicating them in their article, which we’d highly recommend reading.

Finally, one last note we’d like to make on this subject before moving on. While we try to remain impartial as we cover topics on this blog, sometimes the weekly news can make it seem like our view is skewed in a similar direction. As such, we’d just like to clarify that we’re in no way against multi-passes. In fact, our home resort of Stowe is part of the Epic Pass, and there’s quite a bit of good that’s come because of that. Instead, we’ve come to think of approaches to skiing just like skis themselves: there’s a perfect option for everyone. For some skiers, that might mean taking the family to a free 75 foot vertical rope tow. For others, that means buying into a pass that gives them regular access to a local resort, as well as several others that they might want to vacation to. As is the case with ski equipment, we think the growing diversity of options is excellent for the future of skiing as it helps more people experience skiing in the way that’s best for them. But, that’s just our two cents. Now back to the show.

#4: The End of an Era? Physical Ski Maps Rapidly Declining in Popularity:

Top Five Fridays March 11, 2022: James Niehues Map Painting Image

James Niehues, the man behind an insane number of trail maps dating back to 1988, would purposely paint with skiers in mind, giving personality to each resort’s trails. Many hope this artistic touch isn’t lost in the digital era. Image: James Nieheus on Facebook

To round out this week, we’re ending with a thought provoking article from the New York Times that catalogs the ever changing ski experience. Over the course of the last ten years or so, it’s certainly felt like the ski experience has been changing drastically. One of the largest factors in this shift has undoubtedly been technology, an influence that was further accelerated when the pandemic hit and a number of physical tools went online. Amongst the tools that have gone digital is the once omnipresent trail map. In a bygone era, you could hardly turn your head in a ski lodge without seeing a trail map- whether spread out on a table, displayed on a wall, or stacked 50 deep in a rack by the door. Now, thanks to a combination of pandemic protocols, environmental concerns, and financial decisions, trail maps have largely gone digital. At some resorts, such as Killington, Mt. Bachelor, and all Ikon and Epic skis resorts, the digital versions of these maps have leveraged the power of their online environments to expand their capabilities. Using apps at these resorts, skiers can locate their friends on the mountain, check to see which trails are open, and even get an idea of what lift lines are like. By bringing traditionally physical trail maps into the digital world, the ski experience is allegedly becoming even better thanks to modern conveniences.

But, there remains a population of skiers who aren’t quite ready to let go of ski map culture, and for some good reasons. First of all, there’s the practical element. In the words of Garry Milliken, a designer at VistaMap, one of the most valuable aspects of the physical trail map is, “being able to read and hold something in your hand, regardless of the temperature or the weather.” Taking that concept a step further, physical trail maps also offer a foolproof way to navigate the mountain, even when your phone battery dies, the internet won’t load, or your experience any number of other issues that could arise when relying on technology. Those are the strongest strategic arguments on the pro-printed map side of the aisle. And then there’s the intangible arguments. The feelings of nostalgia that come with possessing old trail maps from previous trips. The ski culture aspect of framing a trail map and hanging it as a wall decoration to remind you of times spent at your favorite hill. These are the invaluable values that come from printed trail maps that many fear will be lost if physical maps are replaced by digital versions. Thankfully, despite the trend, it sounds like eradication of paper maps isn’t likely to happen any time soon, as pushback against going full digital has been significant in ski communities. To learn more about this intriguing niche story, check out the report from the New York Times.

#5: And Now, Your Edits of the Week: Join Wiley Miller and Tanner Hall as They Make Their First Entry in “Logbook”:

Nobody Skis Park Like Henrik Harlaut. Nobody. Need Proof? Watch “Zermatic”:

Finally, a Well Deserved Shout Out to All of the Women in the Ski Industry:

Written by Matt McGinnis on 03/11/22

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