#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Recap:
Well, at this point in the season, there’s no other way to say it: this year’s edition of the FIS World Cup has become downright weird. We’ll get into some more of those details in highlight number 2 this week, but for now let’s get right into a discussion of last weekend’s race results from the women’s circuit. Or, lack of results as the case may be. This week, the women’s division found itself in La Thuile, Italy for what should’ve been a trio of races. Unfortunately, weather caused two of the three races to be cancelled, meaning that only a Super G race was held last Saturday. In that race the American women found themselves huddled between 27th & 34th, with Alice McKennis taking 27th, Breezy Johnson in 30th, and Alice Merryweather in 34th. Unfortunately, this weekend doesn’t offer any opportunities for redemption either, as the races scheduled for Ofterschwang, Germany have already been cancelled. As such, the next opportunity for the women to compete will be in Are, Sweden from March 12-14. Even that however, is far from certain as you’ll learn in this week’s second highlight.
On the men’s side, things went a bit more according to plan. While there are no podium finishes to report, the men’s team performed admirably with the regular faces showing up more or less in their regular places. The highlight of the weekend was arguably the Giant Slalom, where Tommy ford took 12th, Ryan Cochran-Siegle took 15th, and Ted Ligety ended up in a tie for 16th. Coming in a close second to the that race was the Super G, where Travis Ganong took home 15th, Ryan Cochran-Siegle secured 16th and Steven Nyman grabbed 19th. Finally, a recap of last weekend’s races wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that Bryce Bennett took home 9th in another Super G and 21st in an Alpine Combined, while Ryan Cochran-Siegle took home 11th and 18th in the same two races respectively. Looking ahead, the men are currently in Kvitfjell, Norway for a Downhill and Super G race. To check out this weekend’s schedule, click here.
#2: 2020 FIS World Cup Ski Season Facing an Uncertain Ending:
Now that we’ve got this week’s results taken care of, let’s zoom out a step and take a look at what lies ahead. “Why,” might you ask? Well, because judging by this week’s headlines, the end of this particular season is bound to be anything but typical. For starters, we caught the excellent news this week that Mikaela Shiffrin has decided to return to the tour after being away from competition for over a month as she’s had to work through all that comes with the untimely passing of a father. The announcement that Mikaela will be returning to the tour needs to be taken with a grain of salt, however. As Mikaela herself said in the announcement video she posted on Instagram, she has no expectations, and is unable to even say for sure whether or not she’ll be fit to race when the time comes. Between her continued grief and the lack of training since the end of January, it’s safe to say that no one could blame her if she ultimately decides that she’s simply not ready to compete at her highest level.
With that in mind, if she does decide to race, it could make for an extremely entertaining finish to the season as Shiffrin currently sits in second in the overall standing, second in Slalom, third in Giant Slalom, fifth in Downhill, and seventh in Super G. If all had gone according to plan, the women would have a total of nine more races left on the schedule. Unfortunately, that plan’s already been spoiled as this weekend’s races in Germany have been cancelled. That leaves Shiffrin with just one Parallel Slalom, one Downhill, one Super G, two Giant Slalom, and two Slalom races remaining to accumulate points, should she return to competition in Are, Sweden on March 12th.
Unforuntately, even that seven race scenario may not be a possibility. This week, word leaked out from the FIS that officials are beginning to consider canceling the rest of the season’s races due to concerns surrounding the Coronavirus. Officials have already decided to hold the final event in Cortina without any spectators as Italy’s been hit especially hard by the virus, and they are now reportedly wrestling with the decision as to whether or not the rest of the season should be canceled entirely. That decision is expected to come either later today when officials discuss their final decision regarding the Cortina stop, or shortly after. If the remaining stops are cancelled, it’s likely that the final standings for the Women’s division would remain unchanged from today, while the Men will have one final weekend to accumulate points. For more information, check in with the official press release from FIS.
#3: 2020 Freeride World Tour Stop 3 - Ordino Recap:
2020 Freeride World Tour which went off in Ordino Arcalís, Andorra this week! This time around, the women’s ski division dropped first, giving them the most optimal, fresh conditions. That fact wasn’t lost on any of the athletes who all came out swinging in the third stop of this year’s tour. From XL cliff drops to backflips and 360’s, it’s safe to say that the women’s field at this particular stop let it all hang out. While some of that energy resulted in reel-worthy crashes (such as Emma Patterson’s massive cliff drop to yard sale combo), it also manifested as a number of incredible feats, such as Hedvig Wessel’s absolutely stomped backflip off a wind-drift placed perfectly atop a cliff. Ultimately, that trick played a significant role in Wessel claiming first place. Behind her on the podium was Jaclyn Paaso in second, and Elisabeth Gerritzen in third. On that note, we’d like to quickly give a shout out to the entire women’s field who’ve been absolutely crushing it all season long and proving that the decision to be awarded equal prize money was not a mistake. For a full list of results from the women’s category in Ordino, click here.
On the men’s side, things were equally as impressive. Despite being the third category to drop and facing inclement weather conditions (which forced the competition to be put on hold multiple times), the men’s field came out swinging. Amongst the pack of 24 athletes, countless backflips, 360’s and gnarly cliff drops were attempted, although not at a 100% success rate. Still, compared to the struggles the men’s field experienced in Kicking Horse, the Ordino stopped proved much more fruitful. Even beyond the podium, numerous athletes put down runs that at a different venue may have seen them finish within the top 3. At the end of the day, when all was said and done, it was ultimately Leo Slemett who took home first, while Isaac Freeland grabbed second, and the overall standings leader Kristofer Turdell took home third. As for the trick of the day? Well, it’s an unofficial award, but this particular writer would have to give it to Isaac Freeeland for his unique switch Misty 5 at the top of his run. As always, congratulations to all of those who competed. To see a full list of results for the men’s category, click here. Looking ahead, the Freeride World Tour has a quick turnaround as the athletes will gather this week in Fieberbrunn, Austria for an event scheduled sometime between March 7-13.
#4: What Happens When You Leave the Epic Pass Behind? Arapahoe Basin Spills the Beans:
Finally, let’s end the week on a non-competitive note. As you might recall, we shared with you the news back in August that Arapahoe Basin had elected to end its agreement with the Epic Pass in the spring of last year, instead choosing to become a member of the Mountain Collective and Ikon Passes. A primary reason for making these moves was that the management of the mountain felt that overcrowding had led to a diminished guest experience. As such, it was their hope that by realigning with a different multi-pass setup, they could reduce visitor traffic by approximately 20%. That alone is a noble move as it seems to contradict the reason any business exists: to make money. Now, in addition to making that counterintuitive move, we’re also benefiting from a level of transparency rarely experienced in the ski industry.
In a blog post made by Arapahoe Basin COO Alan Henceroth this week, some very specific numbers were shared that discuss the results of the off-season’s decisions. While there are too many details to discuss them all (you can read the full blog post here), the overarching takeaway is that, through February, skier visits are down 35%. Again, that may sound like bad news from a business standpoint, but the general vibe of the blog post is positive, shaping the statistics to suggest that everything is more or less going according to plan. Of course it’s hard to know how this has impacted revenue and whether or not it’s sustainable, but assuming it is then Arapahoe Basin may be pioneering a new niche for in-demand ski areas who wish to remain independent. While we’re not privy to the details of the agreement between Arapahoe Basin and the Ikon or Mountain Collective passes, the idea that a sought after ski area could structure a deal in which they remain independent from consolidation, while being a part of a multi pass and simultaneously keeping skiers visits in check is both impressive and revelatory. Of course at this point only time will tell whether or not this is a viable business model moving forward. So, just as we did in August, we’ll have to label this story as one to continue watching. To read Alan Henceroth’s full blog post, click here.