#1: The 2019-2020 FIS World Cup Tour Comes to a Screeching Halt:
Last week, the writing was on the wall. This week, the Coronavirus has poured gasoline all over said wall, and burned it to the ground. As we’d mentioned, last Friday FIS officials met to discuss the fate of the final stop of the FIS World Cup, scheduled for Cortina, Italy. Previously, officials had decided to follow through with hosting the event, albeit without spectators. Last Friday, they made the difficult decision to cancel the event outright. Since then, the entire sports world has been rocked to its core as the NBA, NHL, NCAA, MLB, and numerous other organizations have either cancelled or postponed entire seasons and tournaments. As a result of the growing global impact of the Coronavirus, the FIS has also announced the cancellation of the remainder of this year’s races, bringing the entire season to a sudden, unexpected close.
There is however, one last stop to recap from last week: the men’s trip to Kvitfjell, Norway. There, the Men were scheduled to compete in a Downhill and Super G race. In the Downhill event hosted on Saturday, U.S. team member Travis Ganong earned himself a 5th place finish. Further back in the pack, teammates Bryce Bennett and Ryan Cochran-Siegle finished in a tie for 17th. Just 0.08 seconds behind them was teammate Jared Goldberg in 20th. As (bad) luck that would have it, that proved to be the final race of the season as the Super G planned for Sunday was cancelled due to unsuitable weather.
As such, the 2019-2020 FIS World Cup has officially come to a close. Unfortunately for fans of Mikaela Shiffrin, that means she won’t get the chance to retake the course this season after her father’s unexpected passing. With the season over, her more than one month long absence from the tour will ultimately lead to her worst finish in the overall standings in years. Of course, considering her recent string of first place finishes, that’s not necessarily a bold statement. Still, it’s a disappointing end to a season that had the potential to end in spectacular fashion. Ultimately though, it wasn’t meant to be. On the women’s side, Federica Brignone took home first place in the overall standings, followed by Mikaela Shiffrin in second and Petra Vlhova in third. In terms of other podium finishes, Mikaela managed to retain second place in the Slalom standings, and third in the GS standings. Ultimately, it’s still an impressive haul for a World Cup ski racer, and one who spent a significant time away from competition this season.
On the men’s side of the sport, Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde took home first overall, followed by Frenchman Alexis Pinturault in second, and fellow Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen in third. The U.S. Men’s team will enter the offseason without any significant results in the standings, although late season finishes by Tommy Ford and Travis Ganong, as well as consistent finishes in the mid-teens by Ryan Cochran-Siegle suggest that next year could be much improved for the men’s team. With that, we conclude our coverage of this year’s FIS World Cup circuit. Until next year!
#2: 2020 Freeride World Tour Stop 4 - Fieberbrunn Recap
In other competition news, the Freeride World Tour’s fourth stop of the season was hosted earlier this week in Fieberbrunn, Austria. There, quality snow conditions and a diverse venue presented the one highlight this week in the world of sports. Featuring fresh snow and terrain that presented everything from mellow drops and rollers to chutes and massive cliffs, the Fieberbrunn stop of the 2020 Freeride World Tour proved to be one of the most entertaining stops yet. Well, for the men’s division anyways. In that category, a number of athletes went absolutely all out, to varying degrees of success. Markus Eder for example, who ended up in 22nd place, was putting together an absolutely insane run, featuring a massive cross-mountain backflip over a wind drift transfer. Ultimately though, his adrenaline rush got the best of him as he elected to make a high risk decision that didn’t pan out as his massive flat 3 at the bottom of the course resulted in arguably the most impressive crash of the day. For others however, the all in attitude paid off. At the end of the day, Craig Murray took home first, Isaac Freeland grabbed second, and Hank Bilous took home third. Each of these athletes put together insane runs, each of which you should most definitely watch.
On the Women’s side, the misfortune of being the third category to take the course on the day had significant ramifications. Anyone who’s ever shown up to a powder day past noon is likely familiar with the difficulty of skiing powder that’s had lines cut through it all day. If you haven’t had the pleasure, just know that the choppy terrain makes it incredibly tiring and difficult to ski. For the women, these conditions resulted in a number of crashes and DNF results, despite their best efforts. Ultimately only 7 out of the 10 females finished the day with scores. Of those 7, it was Italy’s Arianna Tricomi who took home first, followed by Americans Jackie Paaso and Jacqueline Pollard in second and third, respectively.
Looking ahead, one stop remains on this year’s Freeride World Tour schedule: the championships in Verbier, Switzerland. At the time of publishing, FWT officials have announced that the final stop of the series will go on as scheduled, however all spectator events have been cancelled. As we’ve seen all week long, this announcement is obviously subject to change as the situation surrounding Coronavirus is continuously monitored. One area in which officials will have to pay extra consideration is the ability of athletes to travel to and from the venue. If the competition goes on as scheduled, it will be held sometime between March 28 - April 5th. To see the full list of results from this week’s stop in Fieberbrunn, click here. To stay up to date with the latest regarding the Verbier stop of the tour, check in with the Freeride World Tour’s official website.
#3: The Coronavirus is Already Impacting Ski Resort Operations:
Next up this week is possibly the most disheartening Top 5 Friday highlight we’ve ever written. As we’ve already mentioned multiple times this week, the Coronavirus has taken the world by storm, forcing countless cancellations in the world of sports and beyond. In essence, if there’s a crowd, it could be cancelled. That surreal concept lingered in the back of our minds this week as the rapid cancellation of significant sporting events, music festivals, and the final stop of the FIS World Tour made us wonder if ski resorts could elect to close for the season early. Unfortunately, as of yesterday (3/12/20), that unlikely reality has become true.
The first instance we've heard of a North American ski area closing due to Coronavirus concerns is Berkshire East, a small to mid size ski area located in Western Massachusetts. In a press release issued by the resort on Thursday, resort GM Jon Schaefer cites confirmed cases in the surrounding hill towns as the reason behind the decision. Then, later in the day, Whiteface Mountain in New York’s Adirondack Mountains announced that they’ll also be adjusting operations as a result of the Coronavirus. While they currently plan to remain open, the resort will be operating with “limited capacity”, regulating seating capacity on lifts, keeping their indoor facilities to 50% density, and shutting down gondola operations for the remainder of the season. Trouble is also brewing in Aspen as 9 people have been diagnosed with the virus, while 3 others are showing symptoms but refusing to be tested. Despite these facts, the four resorts in the area (Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass) all plan to remain open into the Spring. Still, with what we’ve seen in the last week in regards to how rapidly major events were cancelled, it’s not impossible that we could see this year’s ski season come to an unexpectedly quick close due to the Coronavirus. Hopefully that scenario won’t come to fruition, but if it does, we’ll be sure to keep you updated.
#4: SLVSH Announces Their First Ever World Tour:
Finally, let’s round the week out on a more positive note. Our freestyle inclined reader’s will likely be excited to hear that SLVSH (pronounced as “slush”) has announced plans to take the next step in evolving their competition. For those uninitiated, the game is played just like HORSE in basketball. A skier sets a trick and if they land it, their competitor has to match their trick. Despite the simple format, games of SLVSH can be wildly entertaining as they force skiers to do tricks they’ve never done before, string together full lines of tricks, and pull off ridiculous feats in land-it or lose-it scenarios. The game’s been around for a handful of years now, and we’ve posted it in our Top 5 Friday edits of the week multiple times over the years. If you’re unfamiliar with the completion, click here to check out their YouTube page.
Consider that the backdrop to this week’s big news: SLVSH has announced plans for their first ever World Tour. Backed by Marker, Dalbello, and Volkl, the inaugural SLVSH World Tour will have 3 stops: an 8-person cup at Sierra at Tahoe (which you can already watch here), and 8-person cup in Utah, and a final 16-person cup at Grandvalira. In addition to these 3 initial stops, the team behind SLVSH has big ideas about where they’re hoping to take this new competition format. For starters, they’ve already introduced a ranking system which compares all athletes who’ve ever competed in SLVSH games, providing a way to compare individual levels of success. While this leaderboard will need continued development and a tiered system of ranking athletes could be something to look into to provide further context, the fact that it exists at all is a big step forward. Additionally, former professional skier and SLVSH co-founder Matt Walker says, “we’d also like to encompass more stats that show how good riders are at consistently setting tricks, defending tricks and which tricks appear to be harder or easier.” That level of analysis would bring another level of legitimacy to the competition format, ultimately making us wonder just how big this concept could grow. At the moment, it appears as though the team behind SLVSh has their sights set on making the competition the free skiing equivalent to the Freeride World Tour. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, let’s just appreciate the fact that this grassroots competition is starting to gain some serious traction. To know what we know, check out this article from Newschoolers.com, and visit the official SLVSH website.