#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Update: Shiffrin Solidifying Return to Form:
It was just under a month ago when Mikaela Shiffrin ran through the World Championships in Cortina, earning a stack of medals and prompting us to wonder whether her successful run was a sign of her return to form. Since then, Mikaela took a few weeks off before returning to competition this past week in Jasna, Slovakia, where she competed in a Slalom and Giant Slalom race. In the first of those two races, Shiffrin added to our suspicions that her competitive edge may have returned as she ended up winning the race, earning her 45th slalom gold medal. Ultimately though, it’s the aftermath of the second race that’s proved to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that Shiffrin’s edge is back. In that race, Mikaela Shiffrin was the leader after the first run, ahead of Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova by .16 seconds. Then, at the start of her second run, Shiffrin was held up at the starting gates for about two minutes while course workers fixed a broken gate. As a result, Shiffrin says she was thrown off her game, and ultimately clocked only the 11th fastest second run, ultimately earning her a third place finish. After the race, Shiffrin voiced frustrations with the race officials, going so far as to say, “I just felt like she [Vlhova] is a good enough skier to win these races on her own and doesn’t need this unprofessional act from something that she doesn’t have control over, I don’t have control over, but just to say, ‘Oh, she is in the lead, let’s see if we can do something to get into (Shiffrin’s) head.'” Of course, for their part, race officials denied the accusations of intentionality and instead cited the delay as a routine part of ski racing. Regardless of where the truth lies in the matter, this episode is both incredibly revealing and encouraging for Shiffrin fans. While early results and interviews left us wondering whether or not her competitive fire had left after her traumatic year, this week’s fiery response to a debatable situation absolutely confirms that Shiffrin’s spirit is back. To learn more details about this, you can see Shiffrin’s post race comments here, as well as the official response here.
As for additional results, also placing in the Slalom race in Jasna was U.S. team member Paula Moltzan who finished in 13th place. In the GS race, Moltzan also earned points, finishing in 19th while AJ Hurt came in 22nd. On the men’s side of the circuit, a Downhill and Super G race were held in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria. In the Downhill race, Erik Arvidsson led the way, finishing in 8th place, followed by Bryce Bennett in 10th, Travis Ganong in 36th, and Jared Goldberg in 48th. In the Super G race, Bryce Bennett was the fast American, finishing in 9th place, while Jared Goldberg took 25th, Travis Ganong earned 28th, and Erik Arvidsson finished in 30th. Looking ahead, the Women find themselves in Are, Sweden for a pair of Slalom races, while the Men are in Kranjska Gora, Slovakia for another pair of Slalom races. After this weekend’s events, both circuits will converge in Lenzerheide, Switzerland for a number of season-ending races. To review the full FIS calendar, click here.
#2: Jessie Diggins Caps Career Year With First Ever World Cup Cross Country Crystal Globe Won by an American Woman:
As you well know, we spend plenty of time here talking about FIS World Cup Ski Racing, but far less time discussing the other competitive ski circuits, such as freestyle and nordic. We’ve toyed with the idea of doing a separate periodic recap dedicated purely to the competitive side of our sport, but have always held back out of concern that there might not be enough news to dedicate consistent coverage to. Over the last couple of months however, we’ve been starting to reconsider that idea as U.S. athletes in these other sports have started creating a substantial amount of noise. Most notably, U.S. Cross Country athlete Jessie Diggins has put together a historic season on the FIS circuit, formerly highlighted by her first place finish in the Tour de Ski. In case you missed the highlight in which we covered that news, the Tour de Ski is the race of the year. Modeled after the Tour de France, this race features 8 stages taking place across 10 days. When Diggins won that event, she became the first American to do so, an accomplishment that was the highlight of her career up to that point.
This week, Diggins hit another massive milestone, as she’s now set to become the 2020-2021 FIS World Cup Cross Country overall winner. After amassing a 342 point lead over second place competitor Yulia Stupak, who has 904 points, Diggins is unofficially the overall winner as the point spread is insurmountable within the races remaining on the schedule. Notably, in third place, is fellow American team member Rosie Brennan, signifying a potential rise to dominance from the U.S. Team in the years to come. But this week is about Diggins, who with her win will become the first U.S. woman to ever win the overall standings in the FIS Cross Country World Cup, and only the second American ever. This weekend, the final races of the season will be held in Engadin, Switzerland, at the end of which Diggins will be handed the crystal globe and her victory will become official. Huge congratulations are in order for Jessie Diggins for this amazing accomplishment. To read more about this, check in with this report from the Washington Post, or the FIS website to review her historic season.
#3: A Number of Ski Resorts Announce Extended Seasons:
Next up in ski news, we have a highlight that’s sure to make a number of our readers quite pleased. This week, a number of resorts announced that they’ll be extending their seasons in light of great conditions. In the Rocky Mountain states, Vail has announced that Beaver Creek, Keystone, Vail, and Park City have all had their seasons extended by at least a week. Of those on that short list, the resorts in Colorado may have their seasons further extended, provided weather conditions remain strong through the beginning of April. Additionally, Vail has also announced that its Californian resorts, Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood, will all also have their season extended by a week. Further to the North, in Washington, resorts are also announcing fluid plans to extend their season, with Steven’s Pass, Crystal Mountain, Summit at Snoqualmie, Mt. Baker, White Pass, and Mission Ridge all putting forth some sort of plan to operate into at least April, with Mt. Baker and Crystal even leaving the door open to operations lasting into May. Finally, we’ve also learned that Aspen Snowmass will be extending their season by a week. Along with the Aspen announcement, we also received an excellent article from the Aspen Daily News that delves into the details regarding an all around uptick in business in the area within the past month. If you’re looking for a read that’ll make you feel like we’re almost in the clear with this whole Covid thing, this article’s worth a read./p>
#4: It's Time to Rethink the Role of Backcountry Tour Guides in America:
Finally, we end this week with a really high quality article from Outside Online that takes a look at a topic that’s rarely discussed here in the states: tour guiding. In the piece, author Marc Peruzzi discusses the recent growth in the U.S. ski guiding industry, particularly in comparison to the historical prominence of the industry in Europe. To set the scene, he reviews the culture and importance of mountain guides in Europe, where remote communities such as Zermatt, Switzerland, were once economically transformed when locals began offering guided trips into the mountains to wealthier urban Europeans. In that situation, the scale and dangers of the terrain made it overwhelmingly apparent to vacationing Europeans that entering the mountains without a guide was an extremely dangerous idea. Here in America however, our history with ski guides is much different. Built on the backs of legendary ski mountaineers such as the Skoog brothers, Bill Briggs, and George Sormer, the culture surrounding ski touring in the U.S. is more of a “DIY” approach, as Peruzzi puts it. That is, rather than relying on a tour guide, skiers in the U.S. have more often than not taken it upon themselves to explore the mountains independently. As such, the tour guiding industry has existed here in limited capacity, with something of a reputation as being meant for beginners surrounding it.
In his piece however, Peruzzi discusses the idea that this notion is primed to change due to a confluence of factors that have emerged over the past year or so. For starters, the Covid crisis has undoubtedly resulted in an uptick in interest in the backcountry as skiers of all abilities are beginning to see remote terrain as another potential venue for downhill recreation. In addition to the cultural drive, the improvements in ski touring equipment in recent years have taken the sport’s approachability from being only understood by experts, to something that even intermediate skiers can wrap their heads around and comfortably use. Finally, and tragically, the increased awareness of avalanche risks this season has also forced people to realize that some level of backcountry education is necessary before venturing out into the mountains. As a result of these factors, Peruzzi believes that a new era of ski tour guiding may be on the horizon here in America as skiers of all abilities may come to realize that heading into the backcountry with a guide who knows the terrain may be less of a beginner’s move, and more of an excellent way to further one’s knowledge of backcountry skiing and mountaineering while also providing access to incredible terrain. All in all, this piece is great read for a number of reasons, and we highly recommend checking it out.