Top Five Fridays: May 5, 2023

MAY 5, 2023 | WRITTEN BY Matt McGinnis

Lead Image: After a season which brought record setting snowfall, and an influx of tourism, residents of Placer County have voiced their opinion of Alterra’s development plans in a big way this season, saying, “enough is enough.” More on this in highlight #2 below! Image: Palisades Tahoe on Facebook

#1: It’s Official: the Zermatt - Cervinia Speed Race is Back on the FIS Schedule:

Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the May 5, 2023 edition! Despite being the fifth of May, we find ourselves starting this week’s newsreel in a way that feels mid-winteresque: by checking in with the world of ski racing. This week, it was confirmed that Zermatt - Cervinia is once again scheduled to kick off the FIS World Cup Speed Racing season. Now, don’t be mislead by that sentence: the Zermatt - Cervinia race is scheduled to kick off the speed racing series for the second year in a row, but if you’ll recall, last year’s event had to be canceled due to weather conditions. That would make this year’s race the first ever at the venue, as well as the first FIS race to ever cross international borders, having its start gate in Switzerland and finish line in Italy. This element, the fresh venue, as well as the ability to kick off the speed season earlier than ever before, are all reasons to be excited about this race, if it happens. And some would say, that’s a big if.

Backdropping this announcement are the inevitable memories from the beginning of last season, when a number of FIS races were canceled or postponed in Europe due to poor snow conditions. In regards to this specific race, the issue that event organizers faced is that after a record-settingly warm summer in Europe, conditions on the lower half of the glacier were unsuitable to host the race. This year, in an effort to prevent a repeat of that challenge, event organizers pushed the race two weeks later into the season, moving it from late October to mid-November. In doing so, they hope that even if there’s a limited amount of natural snow, the additional two weeks will provide ample time to fire up the snow guns and fill the course with artificial snow. Additionally, they’re planning ahead by practicing substantial snowfarming this summer in an effort to preserve some of this year’s artificial snow into next season. Between these two factors, as well as historically favorable weather during that time of year, event organizers are optimistic that the second time will be the charm when it comes to hosting this potentially iconic event. As is always the case, only time will tell. Until more news comes our way, check out this report from to learn more.

#2: 99.7% of Tahoe Residents Voice Their Disapproval of Alterra’s Development Plans in Olympic Valley:

Top Five Fridays May 5, 2023: Tahoe Truckee True Image

Representatives from Sierra Watch have been actively promoting their Tahoe Truckee True campaign all winter long, and their efforts have been paying off in a big way. Image: Tahoe Truckee True on Facebook

In other news this week, we caught a heck of a headline coming out of Tahoe’s Olympic Valley, where Alterra continues its push for permission to install a massive development. We last checked in on this story back in the fall, when news broke in November that the Placer County planning board was forced by a higher court to rescind its approval of Alterra’s development plans in the area. As a result, Alterra had to resubmit their master development plans for reapproval, which they promptly did just a month later. In doing so, the process began anew, starting with an open comment period in which members of the community were able to submit letters to have their opinions of the project heard. That’s where this week’s news picks up.

This week, we learned via a press release from Sierra Watch, the foundation created to prevent Alterra’s development plans, that an eye-popping 99.7% of letters submitted during this phase were against the development of the land. Not only that, but a significant number of submissions were received: 2,629 in total. Amongst those, 2,621 voiced their disapproval of the project, while just 8 were in favor of it. That ratio is so ridiculous that, mathematically speaking, if we were to round up, it would mean 100% of those voicing opinions were against the development. Further driving home the power of these numbers is the fact that this round of open commenting saw an over 800% increase in the amount of comments submitted. In other words, not only is the community vehemently opposed to Alterra’s development plans, but they’re more passionate about it than ever.

While this particular issue is one of significant regional importance, we can’t help but think about what it means beyond Place County limits. When we get to the heart of the matter here, we find that opposition to the development is tied to the same issues that we see at a number of other ski resorts: ridiculous traffic congestion, housing shortages, and environmental concerns were all cited throughout the 2,621 letters opposing the development. We’ve talked many times here on Chairlift Chat about the delicate balance that exists between mountain towns and their resorts, particularly as it pertains to the local economy. While massive ski areas are certainly capable of generating significant revenue in these areas, there likely comes a certain point where the headaches of scale stop outweighing the economic benefits. The story unfolding in Olympic Valley appears to be a perfect example of that. To learn more about what’s happening there, check out the press release from Sierra Watch, as well as this official report.

#3: Skiing’s Met Gala, Kimbo Sessions, is Underway, and the Recap Videos Are Wildly Entertaining:

Next up this week is some early coverage of the 2023 edition of Kimbo Sessions. As you might recall, last week we spent a considerable amount of time talking about some really cool freeskiing events being hosted by Red Bull and Swatch. What we enjoyed about those events was that, while technically they were all competitions, they also all maintained an energy of low pressure and high vibes. More than must-win events, Unrailistic, Cascade, and Swatch Nines were gatherings of like minded athletes, all looking to round out the season with a fun session amongst friends in a setting that was custom built for them. Kimbo Sessions, an annual event hosted by freeskier Kim Boberg, takes that mentality to the extreme.

Taking place at Sweden’s Klappen Snowpark, Kimbo Sessions is hardly a competition at all. While technically the event crowns a best rider when all is said and done, as determined by the other riders, it’s hard to think that that award is on the forefront of anyone’s mind. Instead, the event is entirely based on what the aforementioned events also aim to embrace: a fun, progressive environment amongst some of the best freeskiers in the world. With no competition format, no event day, and no scores, Kimbo Sessions is a six day long event where skiers are able to take a breath and simply ski in a unique park environment amongst friends. While this laid back environment may lead you to believe that athletes take it easy, you’d be wrong. Instead, Kimbo Sessions ends up playing host to some of the most creative tricks of the year, with athletes letting their proverbial hair down and focusing on the fun elements of skiing. Sure, there’s doubles, but there’s also tricks like Colby Stevenson’s Rodeo 540 Knuckle Nosepress 360 out. Or Quinn Wolfermann’s Switch Bio 9 Nosedrag. Straight-airs abound, as do transitions and rotations consisting of a mere 360 degrees. The point is, Kimbo Sessions is unique in that it brings out a certain side of skiing that’s rarely seen in other settings. It’s a lot like high fashion in that sense: while the feats performed there might not be ready for mainstream audiences, everything from the course design, to the elements within the tricks themselves seem to find a way of leaking into what becomes the future of the sport. For proof of this claim, give the first recap edit a watch, which we’ve attached to this highlight, or head on over to YouTube to watch the second recap.

#4: “The Last Ride Project” Looks to Shine a Light on Climate Change’s Impact on Ski Mountaineering:

Finally, rounding out this week’s news cycle is a story that comes to us by way of National Geographic. On their website this week, Nat Geo published an interview with ski mountaineers Ed Salisbury and Jon Moy- two of the athletes behind the upcoming documentary “The Last Ride Project.” In this project, Salisbury and Moy are looking to climb and ski the Seven Summits, a term that refers to the tallest peak on each of the seven continents. While the project was initially centered around completing the feat itself as a standalone achievement in ski mountaineering, original project planner and third skier on the team, Will Tucker, learned about the incredible rate of glacial melt during his research for the project. Specifically, when reviewing historical photos of Indonesia’s Puncak Jaya, and in talking to locals, Tucker learned that many believed this particular peak might not host a glacier by the end of 2023. Upon learning this, the goal of the project quickly transformed from skiing all of the Seven Summits, to skiing all of the Seven Summits before it’s too late. With this added development, the film, which is still in production as the team continues to check peaks off its list, has become equally about the adventure of ski mountaineering, as well as the very real problem of climate change. All told, the interview itself is full of really interesting first hand insights and information, and we’d highly recommend giving it a read.

#5: And Now, Your Edits of the Week: Better Late Than Never, Check Out the Story of Shikaichi Ueki:

Catch the Highlights from the 2023 Swatch Nines in “The Pinnacle of Awesome”:

Ski a “Few Runs in Åre” with Mac Forehand:

Finally, We’re Throwing it Back With the New Canadian Air Force’s Segment from Matchstick’s 1998 Film “Sick Sense”:

Written by Matt McGinnis on 05/05/23