Ski Industry News - Top Five Fridays
Top Five Fridays: March 3, 2023
Lead Image: It really says something when a resort like Alta is having a banner year, producing images like this, receiving feet of snow nearly every week, and it's still not enough to get a full highlight- just a lead image. Image: Alta Ski Area on Facebook
#1: FIS Update: Despite Snowstorm, Palisades Tahoe Hosts First World Cup Races in 63 Years:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the March 3, 2023 edition! We’ve got a somewhat light week of ski news here as the Alpine World Cup circuit slowly resumed after a busy World Championship schedule. While there were still several competitions happening this past week, such as the Dew Tour, Freestyle World Championships, and XC World Championships, we figured we’d take the opportunity to share some non-competitive news*. Of course that doesn’t mean we’re going to completely skip our World Cup recap, there’s still plenty to cover on theat end. So, with that said, let’s jump right in!
This past week, the women’s circuit found themselves in Crans Montana for a super g and downhill event. While we’re eager to see Mikaela return to her pursuit of Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins, a return to racing wasn’t in the cards for her this week as the cancellation of the super g, as well as some fatigue following her successful World Championship run, led Shiffrin to sit last weekend’s races out. With that decision made, we’re finding ourselves staring at the final stretch of races for the 2023 FIS season. Currently, Shiffrin’s World Cup gold medal count sits at 85, one behind Ingemar Stenmark. In other words, to tie his record this year, she needs one more win, and to break the record she needs two. Including this weekend’s races in Kvitfjell, Norway, Shiffrin has up to 9 races remaining on the schedule. Amongst those are two downhill races, three super g races, two giant slalom, and two slalom races. While Shiffin has seen success in the super g this season, the slalom and giant slalom races remain her speciality. So, while she has plenty of opportunities to break Stenmark’s record this season, it’s also worth noting that we’re coming down to the wire here, making for what should be an exhilarating final stretch. Also of note as we enter the final stretch of the season is Mikaela’s standings in the overall points races. Currently, Mikaela is first overall, first in slalom, and first in giant slalom. While her position is secure in the overall, and pretty solid in slalom, her position could fluctuate in both the giant slalom as her lead isn’t insurmountable, as well as the super g, where she is just over a 100 points away from the podium, and only 124 away from first place. While it would take a lot to see Shiffin win the super g discipline, it’s certainly possible with her track record this season and three opportunities left on the calendar. Again, one way or another, the final stretch of this season will be well worth watching. You can preview the remaining races here.
On the men’s side, the circuit traveled to America for one of the most highly anticipated races of the season: the return of World Cup ski racing to Palisades, Tahoe. As you’ll see in our third highlight this week, it’s somewhat amazing that two races were successfully held at the resort this week as heavy snowfall made course preparations particularly difficult. Still, thanks to a “herculean” effort by event staff, who removed 50” of snow from the course, the first two World Cup races since 1960 were successfully held at Palisades. Unfortunately for the U.S. team, the weekend didn’t produce many highlight results, despite some solid efforts from both River Radamus and Tommy Ford, neither of whom were able to complete the race. As a result, the only points on the weekend for Team America were from George Steffey, a team member whose career has been riddled with injury, and who ultimately earned his first career FIS points this weekend. On that note, huge congrats to George Steffey for the personal achievement, and we’ll turn the page to this week’s races in Aspen, CO. You can preview those events here.
*Do you love the competition coverage? Should we include more results from more types of skiing? Or do you prefer ski culture news instead? We’re always trying to bring you the news you’re most interested in, so be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
#2: It’s Bon Voyage for Travis Ganong and Steve Nyman, as Two U.S. Ski Racing Legends Announce Their Retirements:
In other ski racing news this week, we have the bittersweet responsibility of sharing the news of the retirement of two significant members of the U.S. Ski Team: Travis Ganong and Steven Nyman. While the two racers certainly qualify as veterans playing a young person’s game, it’s not as if they’ve lost relevancy. Travis Ganong, in particular, is still skiing at an elite level, his most recent medal being a third place finish just over a month ago at a downhill race in Kitzbühel, Austria on the infamous Hahnenkamm. Still, despite the recent success, Neil Young once said, “it’s better to burn out than to fade away,” and while we’ve never really understood the “burn out” portion of the lyric, it feels like it’s probably appropriate to cite here. Anyways, with that soundtrack playing in our heads, let’s give these men their flowers.
This week, Travis Ganong announced that after this year’s World Cup Finals in Soldeu, Andorra, he will retire after a 17 year long career. During that stretch, Ganong competed in two Olympics, and just barely missed the podium in Sochi, having finished in 5th place. In other global stage endeavors, Ganong fared slightly better, with a silver medal to his name after finishing second in the downhill at the 2015 World Championships in Beaver Creek. As for World Cup results in general, Ganong is retiring with at least 6 podium finishes, undoubtedly highlighted by this year’s bronze in Kitzbühel. According to Ganong, medaling on the Hahnenkamm was a career goal of his. With that in mind, we can’t help but wonder if completing that achievement is one of the impetus for his retirement. After retiring, Ganong is looking forward to reconnecting with the sport of skiing in a non-competitive way. Actively involved in Protect Our Winters, Ganong plans on continuing to be a strong advocate for the environment as he lets his skiing take a more adventurous course. While we’ll miss seeing his name in the results next season, it goes without saying that we’re very excited for Ganong to be able to refocus his energy on skiing for the pure enjoyment of skiing. To learn more about his career, decision, and plans, check out the recap from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team.
Just prior to Ganong announcing his retirement, so too did Steven Nyman. After a 21 year career, the 41 year old has decided to throw in the towel following a season that never really got started. In December, Nyman shattered his hand, putting him on the sideline for the season. In a career that’s been littered with untimely injuries, this season’s setback resulted in Nyman spending more time with his family and casually skiing powder. That experience brought him to the realization that it’s time to turn the page. Over the course of his career, Nyman found considerable success. A part of four Olympic teams, eleven World Cup podiums, and three World Cup gold medals, Nyman’s career often felt like a rollercoaster as promising stretches would give way to untimely injuries. In the 2016 season, Nyman went on a stretch where he podiumed at four straight events, one of which was a test race for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. Unfortunately, Nyman injured himself just weeks before the 2018 Olympics, preventing him from participating. Still, Nyman’s perspective on his career is all positive, saying, “As a kid I dreamt of the Olympics and racing on the World Cup and in World Championship events… I exceeded those dreams many fold—standing on the top step of World Cup podiums, competing in multiple Olympic Games and World Championship events. There is nothing like expressing yourself on a mountain in such a vulnerable fashion.” That positive spirit will be put on full display when Nyman takes his final downhill run in Aspen this weekend, where he plans to wear a pair of jeans and a sleeveless denim vest (a Canadian tuxedo if you will) as he casually skis the course. That attitude and “it’s not that serious” spirit will put the perfect cap on his career. To learn more about Nyman’s retirement, check out the writeup from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team.
#3: It Happened Again: Mammoth Mountain and the Tahoe Region Got All the Snow:
You knew this highlight was coming. While we continue to try and avoid “snowfall news,” sometimes the totals are too impressive to ignore. Such was the case yet again this week as many areas in the west received significant snow. Specifically, it was the Tahoe region and Mammoth Mountain coming through yet again with some of the deepest snow of the year. In Tahoe, a nearly weeklong series of storms dropped several feet of snow, with reports of 5-9 feet at upper elevations, and 2-5 feet in towns surrounding the lake. As you might guess, with that amount of snow, coupled with the existing snowpack and high winds, many resorts in the area had their operations impacted. Palisades, for example, was closed entirely on Tuesday and resumed operations in limited capacity on Wednesday. During its one day closure, the resort reported receiving 38” of snow in the previous 24 hours. At Kirkwood and Heavenly, it was a similar story as chairlifts started turning a little later than usual, giving mountain ops time to dig out the chairlifts in order to operate them. Finally, really driving home the immensity of the snowfall in this region is the fact that a three story apartment complex was hit by an avalanche in Olympic Valley. Fortunately nobody was injured in the incident, but the images and statistics from the event are dramatic. Fully engulfing the first two floors of the apartment building, the avalanche measured 200’ wide and 25’ deep. While the building was occupied at the time, all occupants miraculously escaped.
Not to be outdone by its neighbors to the east, Mammoth Mountain also put up some ridiculous numbers this week. Over the course of three days, the resort reported totals of 65-68”. Or, in comparison to Tahoe, about 5.5 feet. With this week’s totals, the mountain has received 524” of snow at its base this season, with 673” at the summit. With plenty of season left for the mountain, our minds are starting to wonder not how much more snow the resort will get, but how long they’ll stay open. In the 2016/2017 season, a season just slightly more snowy than this one, the resort managed to stay open until August 8th. While more snow is required to repeat that stat, the resort isn’t all that far off, and either way, should be open well into the summer.
Before wrapping this highlight up, we do want to quickly remind everyone that with great snow comes great danger, and should come with great caution. Along with all of the positive news this week, we also came across a number of tragic headlines regarding avalanches. In British Columbia, nine people were caught in an avalanche, injuring four and killing another three. In Colorado, three avalanches in three days took three lives. Even here on the East Coast, where snowfall has been comparatively modest and avalanches far less common, one was triggered last weekend at Tuckerman’s ravine. All of this is to say, no matter where you are, please, please don’t let the excitement of fresh snow cloud your judgment. If you’re in the backcountry, be prepared with the tools, knowledge, and decision making you need to ski another day.
#4: New “My Epic” App Introduces Mobile Lift Tickets, Eliminating Need for RFID Pass:
Finally, rounding out ski news this week, we have an announcement from Vail Resorts: in the Fall of 2023, their EpicMix App will be replaced by the new My Epic app. The highlight of this upgrade is the ability for the new app to transform your phone into your lift ticket. With this new app, users will be able to simply login to their Epic account, which will then confirm that they have a pass that’s valid for that day. Assuming they do, skiers and riders can simply hit the lock screen on their smartphone, stuff it in their pocket, and go about their day. From there, Bluetooth Low Energy technology does the rest as their phone now acts as their pass. Pretty cool, right?
Of course here on SkiEssentials, we have a tendency to scan a new concept for problem points, trying to predict the ways it could go wrong. With that in mind, as soon as we read the press release for this new technology, we immediately jumped down to the FAQ section to learn more. With questions swirling in our head such as “what if my phone dies?” and “technology can be finicky, what happens if the bluetooth doesn’t work?”, we began our quest for answers. As it turns out, Vail’s thought a lot of this through. First and foremost, this new app and functionality is meant to be an additional option for guests, not a total replacement for RFID cards. While this is certainly part of their Epic Promise plan, and inline with their goals to move to to a net zero operating footprint by 20230, guests will still be able to use physical cards to get through the lift gates. As for that first question, “what if my battery dies?”, well, Vail’s thought of that too, announcing in the FAQ’s that they plan on implementing more charging stations across their resorts so that guests can keep a full battery throughout the day.
All in all, it’s a pretty cool update for Epic Pass holders. With this new app, not only will they never have to worry about forgetting their pass again (provided they remember their phone), but the app will also bring forth a new level of convenience. In addition to being able to purchase lift tickets from your phone, and then use your phone as the lift ticket, guests can also use their Epic accounts to pay for purchases around the mountain. Beyond these financial features, the new app will also offer improvements to its on-hill GPS features, lift line predictions, interactive trail maps, and more. All told, this comes across as some subtle, yet exciting news for Vail and its guests. To learn more, visit the My Epic app announcement page.
#4.5: Our March Bracketology Sale is Now Live:
Bonus highlight! Our SkiEssentials March Bracketology sale is now live! Go check it out if you haven't already yet, we've got some excellent deals in there!
2 thoughts on “Top Five Fridays: March 3, 2023”
Love the World Cup stufff
Great coverage and vids.