#1: FIS to Vote on Interim President on June 4th. Here Are the Candidates:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays! This week we’re kicking off the highlight reel off covering a topic that’s been on our radar for a few weeks now, but one that we’ve been waiting to grow in information so that we can give it the coverage it deserves. That story is the current race to find the next president of the FIS. Before we jump into the meat of this story, let’s get a quick review of how this all works, and why there’s currently a race to find a new FIS president. Much like the U.S. Presidency, the FIS Presidential position is a four year long term, with a new vote occurring on the same schedule. Unlike the U.S. however, the FIS president can hold the position for as many terms as they’d like. Currently, Gian-Franco Kasper is the president of the FIS, and has been since 1998. In 2019 however, he announced that he won’t be running for re-election and would instead be stepping down in the Spring of 2020, despite his term officially ending in 2022. Then, presumably due to the pandemic, Kasper extended his decision to leave by a year, bringing us to Spring 2021. While it would be a jump to conclude that his decision was due to controversial statements he’s made regarding climate change, dictatorships, or female ski jumpers, it feels much safer to simply say that it’s time for Kasper to let someone else sit in the driver’s seat. As such, an election is scheduled for June 4th to find a new interim President whose term will last for approximately a year, at which point another election will be held to find the next full-term President.
All of this is a prelude to the news we really want to share this week: following a May 5th deadline for applications, there are officially four candidates competing to become the next president of the FIS, all of which have strong backgrounds and bring unique strategic visions to the table. Over the past several weeks, SkiRacing.com has done an excellent job of telling each candidate’s story, so rather than take a deep dive into each one here, we’ll simply give you a brief preview before directing you to SkiRacing.com to learn more. So with that, let’s get into some candidates!
The first candidate on our alphabetically-ordered-by-last-name list, is Mats Arjes, the current FIS Vice President and Swedish National Olympic Committee (NOC) president. If elected, Arjes plans to leverage collective insights from national ski clubs at all levels in all nations. In other words, his approach would have an exceptionally democratic feel as input from ski racers of all levels across all nations would be embraced and used to steer the FIS. You can read more details about his approach here. The second candidate, alphabetically, is current HEAD CEO Johan Eliasch. Of the candidates on this list, Eliasch might have the most unique background as his experience is in revitalizing a world class brand rather than developing ski racing organizations. Leveraging that to his benefit, Eliasch would look to build the FIS and ski racing “brands” into more recognizable worldwide entities. In his words, ski racing is a, “sleeping beauty,” a fact which he would look to change in his role as President. You can learn more about his approach here. Third on the list is Urs Lehmann, the Swiss Ski President whose leadership has propelled the Swiss team into a league of their own in terms of FIS competition results. If elected, Lehmann would look to take the same techniques that have built the Swiss team into the powerhouse that it is, to the FIS level. More about Lehmann's vision can be found here. Finally, the fourth candidate up for consideration is Sarah Lewis, who worked for the FIS for 26 years in the role of secretary general. If elected, Lewis will bring the most focused, current approach to the table as her candidacy leans on a three point plan that would start by focusing on Covid recovery efforts and a focus on the 2022 Beijing Olympics. To learn more about Lewis’s approach, click here. Finally, before we close the book on this highlight, we’d like to wish all candidates the best of luck, and we look forward to updating our readers after the election is held on the 5th!
#2: Will the FIS World Cup Speed Racing Season Start at the Matterhorn in Future Years? Probably. Maybe as Soon as 2023 in Fact:
Next up, in other ski racing news, we caught an interesting article this week from SnowIndustryNews.com that highlights plans to introduce a new venue to the FIS schedule as soon as the 2023 season. While it’s not a new idea, a new cableway being installed at the base of the Matterhorn is giving new life to the concept of hosting an FIS Downhill race on the mountain. The new tram system, which is expected to be completed in 2022, would enable organizers to transport athletes, teams, and spectators to the proposed venue, making a full fledged FIS race on the iconic mountain a reality for the very first time. While the race itself is still in the early planning stages, the concept being discussed would be to add a new DH race to the FIS calendar on either the last weekend in October, or first in November. In doing so, the sometimes lengthy delay between the season’s first and second races would be interrupted by this exciting new venue. Additionally, the placement would have the added benefit of not requiring an interruption or reorganization of the existing event schedule, and would also enable athletes to train on the Theodul Glacier in preparation for the race. Further adding to the cool factor for this idea, is the fact that the proposed course would start in Switzerland, and end in Italy. As symbolic as it might be, this seems like a terrific way to kick off the FIS speed-racing season, as it puts the action against one of the most iconic backdrops in skiing, while also highlighting the international spirit of the circuit. While the entire idea is still simply just that, an idea, it does seem to be one that has significant interest from all parties involved, and one that will very likely be tested in the Fall of 2022. If that experiment goes well, it’s extremely likely that we’ll be seeing a Matterhorn DH race at the end of October or the start of November, 2023. Until then, check out the full writeup from SnowIndustryNews.com to know what we know.
#3: Alterra Establishes “Alterra Mountain Company Community Foundation” to Financially Support Mountain Communities:
Alright, that feels like enough ski racing news for one week. Let’s switch gears here and talk about our next highlight: the newly introduced Alterra Mountain Company Community Foundation. At the end of last week, Alterra shared a press release announcing a new foundation that would enable the company to financially support members of the mountain communities in which they operate. To launch the foundation, members of Alterra’s ownership group contributed a combined $2.6 million to fund incoming grant requests. What’s cool about this new effort, and probably most impressive as well, is that the criteria for grant applications is incredibly broad. Any individual, business, or organization in a mountain town that has suffered a range of setbacks, including but not limited to, “the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, crime, illness or death,” can apply for a grant from the foundation. Ultimately the goal of the program is to support the individuals and communities that help make the mountain communities what they are. Undoubtedly influenced by the impact of the pandemic, this latest effort feels like Alterra’s way of recognizing and strengthening the bond between ski resort and community in a way that very much embodies the adage, “a high tide raises all ships.” For as much push back as there’s been amongst skiers who’ve reluctantly accepted the rise of multi-passes and ski resort consolidation, it’s impossible to argue that there haven’t been significant benefits for both resort guests, as well as mountain communities. While this is Alterra’s highlight, and we want to keep the focus on this week’s news, it’s also worth mentioning that Vail has also supported its mountain communities in a number of ways, including donations to local land trusts and supporting mental health initiatives. Regardless of how you feel about the multipass effect on the ski experience, it’s undeniable that the trend has also resulted in significant benefits to mountain towns as well. For more on Alterra’s latest philanthropic endeavor, check out the press release here. If you’re a member of a mountain community and would like to apply for a grant, you can do so here.
#4: Colorado Snowboarders Involved in Avalanche Related Lawsuit Expected to Accept Plea Deal:
Finally, we end this week’s news with an update to a story we first shared back on October 23, 2020. On that day, we told you about a story in which two snowboarders in Colorado had become the first to ever receive criminal charges as the result of an avalanche. In short the story goes like this: in March of 2020, snowboarders Tyler DeWitt and Evan Hannibal triggered an avalanche that buried a service road connected to I-70. After triggering the avalanche, the two self-reported the incident and shared the video with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center so that the group could create a case report, a move that the two thought was the best thing to do. Unfortunately for them, as a result of their honesty, they were given a pair of reckless endangerment charges and potential fines of up to $168,000.
Fast forward several months to this week, where we’re finally learning more about how the legal journey thus far, as well as the likely outcome of this story. Since October, the two snowboarders have been a part of a lengthy legal process which has seen attempts to throw away evidence, expert witnesses, and even a mistrial. For a case that’s seemingly open-and-shut, somehow legal teams were able to pack this one full of courtroom procedures and drama. After the trial scheduled for late March was cancelled due to a lack of a sufficient jury, it’s now expected that DeWitt and Hannibal will accept the plea deal at their upcoming trial, scheduled to start on June 7th. If they do, the two would plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and in return be burdened with between 20-60 hours of useful community service. In exchange, all of the potential $168,000 in restitution would be dropped. Should this outcome come to pass, it will likely be considered a win by both sides. For the defendants, an unreasonable fee would be dropped, and their punishment would more accurately reflect their crimes. For the prosecutors, they will have successfully levied charges against the defendants, sending a message to the winter sports community that avalanche awareness includes not just consideration for those recreating, but also for the environment around them, including structures that could be damaged in the event of a slide. While 20-60 hours of community service certainly isn’t ideal, it does seem like the best, most fair outcome of this case, and sets a reasonable precedent for prosecutors in similar cases that may pop up in the future. To learn more about this week’s updates, check out the report from Summit Daily.