#1: The U.S. Ski Team Announces its Official Alpine and Freeski Team Rosters:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the November 12, 2021 edition! This week, for whatever reason, news slowed down in most categories except for within the world of FIS sports, where we have a number of interesting updates to bring you. As such, we’ll share a triple header of competitive ski news before rounding things out with some pro-tips for the ski photographer in all of you. With that plan in place, let’s jump right in!
This week, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team announces their official team rosters for both the Alpine Ski Team and the Freeski Team. Now, the timing does feel a little off as both of these teams already have the first event of the season under their belts, but let’s not focus on that. Instead, let’s talk about who made the cut, starting with the Alpine Team. Looking at the list of both Men’s and Women’s Alpine Team athletes, the thing that jumps out the most is just how little both of these teams have changed since last year. In fact between both teams, the A, B, and C teams remain consistent, with the only changes being made to both development teams. While that may not come off as particularly exciting, it’s actually indicative of two consistently strong teams, full of veteran athletes whose experience should set them up for success. This is particularly notable on the Men’s side as athletes like Ryan Cochran-Siegel and River Radamus feel poised to become strong presences on this year’s circuit. Additionally, one other small detail that caught our attention is the fact that Mikaela Shiffrin’s name appears in italics under the Women’s World Cup Technical/Speed Staff category, without any additional designations. It’s hard to know exactly what this means, but our guess is that it suggests Mikaela will be working in some sort of advisory role with athletes from lower-letter teams. To see a full list of U.S. Alpine Ski Team athletes, click here.
In other news, we also caught a similar announcement featuring the athletes who made the U.S. Freeski Team. Compared to the Alpine team, it’s worth noting that the Freeski Team is structured slightly differently. Rather than listing teams as A, B, C, or development, the Freeski Team is siloed into more distinct categories based on events. As such, there is a Men’s and Women’s Halfpipe Team, as well as a Men’s and Women’s Slopestyle & Big Air Team. Within these teams there is also a Pro Team and a Rookie Team. By dividing up the teams in this manner, athletes are able to focus more specifically on their skillset as halfpipe skiing is quite different from slopestyle. What’s most exciting about this news for us, is that the total roster of athletes on the Freeski team is at 41, with a full slate of support staff. Compared to the Alpine Team which includes 44 athletes, this indicates to us that Freeskiing is an area that the USST is taking seriously and making a strong push for in an Olympic season. To learn more about the Freeski Team and to see a full list of athletes, click here.
#2: SkiRacing.com Dives in Deeper to the Debate Over Parallel Slalom:
Next up this week is an incredibly interesting article from SkiRacing.com that takes us a bit deeper behind the scenes regarding the growing idea of discontinuing FIS Parallel Slalom events. Now, before we dive in, we have to issue a quick apology for not alerting our readers to this issue sooner. Talk of this idea was first brought up at the end of September when the FIS met for their annual preseason congress. At that meeting, a number of exciting ideas were discussed, and we brought you up to speed in regards to most of them in our October 1, 2021 Top Five Fridays. News of the potential discontinuation of Parallel Slalom races didn’t quite make the cut for that round of coverage unfortunately. That said, with our mistakes admitted, let’s take the time now to dig deeper into this debate.
Put as succinctly as possible, the problem plaguing the discipline is this: despite being an exhilarating event to watch, it’s nearly impossible to create fair and identical courses for each athlete. Just as a quick reminder, Parallel Slalom races feature two athletes going head to head, side by side down two slalom courses. While the event itself can be incredibly fun to watch as it's the only event featuring two athletes going head to head, utilizing a tournament bracket style approach to advancing, it can also be incredibly frustrating for athletes as it’s nearly impossible to make two identical courses. As such, there’s often one side of the race that’s notably slower, and athletes who race on that side are less likely to advance. In a sport where the difference between winning and losing can be measured by hundredths of a second, it’s easy to see why it’s so challenging to ensure equal odds. Still, the event is a fan favorite, making the decision to pull the plug far from easy. To learn more about this topic, including athlete perspectives, check out the excellent article from SkiRacing.com.
#3: FIS Announces Rainforest Initiative, Setting the Stage to Become First Climate Positive International Sports Federation:
Third up this week is yet another highlight from the FIS, again, by way of SkiRacing.com. As you’re well aware, there’s a global trend of large organizations aiming to become carbon neutral. This is particularly prevalent in the world of skiing where climate change has a direct, immediate impact on our sport. As such, we’ve seen a number of ski companies and organizations aim to become carbon neutral by a certain date. This week’s news is a little bit different however, as the FIS announced its Rainforest Initiative this week, which would ultimately make it the first climate positive sports organization in the world. Now, there’s a lot to break down in that sentence, so let’s take this piece by piece.
Earlier this week, the FIS announced plans to launch a new Rainforest Initiative which would focus efforts on conserving areas of the Peruvian Ashaninka communities in the Amazonas in an effort to prevent deforestation. In doing so, the FIS will be effectively offsetting its carbon footprint by so much that it will take the idea of carbon neutrality so far that it will effectively be decreasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere through their efforts. As such, they’re claiming to be the first climate positive sports organization in the world. This move from the FIS is huge, and builds on the trend of the ski industry being one of the global leaders in making progress towards having a real impact on climate change. Also, before we close out this highlight, we feel compelled to note that this new initiative is perfectly in line with current FIS President Johan Eliasch’s track record. Back in 2005, Eliasch purchased a logging company based in the rainforest, securing over 400,000 acres of land in the process. In an odd scenario where Eliasch has just under a year to prove his value as the president of the FIS, we have to say, he’s done an amazing job thus far. To learn more about this, check out the report from SkiRacing.com, or the press release straight from the FIS.
#4: Want to Elevate Your Ski Photography Skills? Check Out This Quick Guide from the Washington Post:
Finally, we round out this week with an article that’s less “news” and more “informative.” This week, the Washington Post published a highly relevant lifestyle article sharing a number of tips for those interested in ski photography. While there are some details in this article that seem pertinent to serious or professional photographers, such as specific shutter speed settings, what we like about this piece is that it also shares a number of insights that can be adopted by even the most casual “photographers.” In other words, there are tips in this piece that anyone can use, even if they’re just taking a quick shot of their friend on a smartphone. Loaded with insights from professional ski photographers Scott Markewitz and Re Wikstrom, this piece provides tips regarding lighting, framing, communication, and more. While a number of the tips may seem straightforward, there are also a number of detailed tips regarding specific situations, such as including elements from a takeoff or landing during an action shot to provide a full frame of reference. All in all, while this particular piece may not be for everyone, it’s worth a quick read for anyone who’s ever pulled out their phone to take any kind of onhill photo, for the gram or otherwise. To learn how you can take your ski photography to the next level, click here.