#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Update: Shiffrin is Back in Top Form:
First things first this week, we’d like to say, “happy belated Thanksgiving,” to all of our American readers! We hope everyone found a way to celebrate the holiday safely, even if that means your plans were decidedly different this year as compared to others.
Great! Now that that’s out of the way, let’s jump right into this week’s ski news! First up on the list, as is tradition this time of year, is a recap of last weekend’s FIS World Cup Ski Racing action. As you’ll recall, we set the stage last Friday by reminding you that last weekend’s races would mark Mikaela Shiffrin’s official return to competition after 300 days away. In the weeks, days, and moments preceding her return, there was an aire of uncertainty regarding whether or not Mikaela would be able to resume racing and remain at the top of her game after such a long break. The other significant question many had, and one that was prompted by Shiffrin herself, is whether or not she had retained the competitive drive that sent her to the top of her sport. In interviews leading up to her return to racing, Shiffrin made it clear that after dealing with an unfathomably tough year, her priorities had adjusted. While she previously had a laser focus on skiing and winning, her scope of what matters had broadened as a series of tragedies shook her foundation. So, with all of that uncertainty, how did Mikaela perform?
All things considered, she did quite well. Last weekend, the women took to the course twice in Levi, Finland, where back to back slalom races were held on Saturday and Sunday. Right from the jump, Mikaela proved to everyone, herself included, that she still belonged, taking home 2nd place in Saturday’s race, finishing just .18 seconds behind Petra Vlhova’s first place finish. Unfortunately though, that race wasn’t particularly kind to the rest of the U.S. Women’s team as no other athlete managed to qualify. A day later, the athletes returned to the slopes for a second slalom race. This time, Mikaela finished in fifth, coming in .93 seconds behind Petra’s first place time. While Mikaela took a small (yet very understandable) step back, teammates Paula Moltzen and Lila Lapanja both took steps forward, finishing in 23rd and 25th places respectively. While some may be underwhelmed by the fact that Shiffrin was unable to take home one, or even two, gold medals, realistically this is still an incredible result when you consider the fact that she took nearly a year off before returning to compete at the highest level. Looking ahead, the women’s circuit actually completed a parallel slalom race yesterday, while the men are on course today. We’ll be back next week with a full recap of results!
#2: COVID Crisis Updates: Taking a Closer Look at Colorado:
Well, after that very normal feeling, celebratory highlight to kick things off, we unfortunately do have to continue to deal with the realities of the Covid crisis. But, we’ll keep it brief this week and restrict it to just one highlight: highlight number 2.
This week, we caught two articles dealing with the Covid crisis in Colorado that provide us with some additional information regarding stories we’ve previously covered. First up is an update regarding the state’s recent recommendation that ski resorts have a system in place to quarantine out of town guests who contract Covid-19 while at a ski resort. To be sure, the recommendation comes from a good place, as it’s without a doubt that policy makers were well aware of the lessons learned last March in Ischgl, Austria. But, good intentions in government doesn’t always result in practical application in real life, and many wondered how ski resorts would manage to pull this request off. This week, we had some of those questions answered as, once again, the Colorado Sun has published a highly insightful article on the subject. As it turns out, the answer, while vague and complex, is also relatively straightforward: satisfying the quarantine requirements ultimately goes hand in hand with an unwritten policy that many ski towns have begun to adapt- we’re all in this together. We’ve written at length over the years about the complex dynamic of ski resorts and the towns that host them, and while at times ski resort operators can cause tension with local residents, it’s times like this when their codependence takes the spotlight. To solve the quarantine issue, while very few official policies have been drafted, local lodging establishments across CO have made it known that they’ll provide additional safe quarantining accommodations, should the resorts need it. Considering all of the uncertainties surrounding the operation of a ski resort at a time like this, as well as the rising case numbers across the U.S., the reassurance that local lodges have the ski resort’s back has to be a significant relief for those managing resorts. To learn more about this, as well as a number of other updates from the current Colorado ski scene, check in with the Colorado Sun.
The other news we caught this week pertaining to skiing in CO is unfortunately a bit less positive. This week, in Summit County, CO, officials have raised their alert level for the second time in as many weeks. After raising it to level orange just weeks ago, and issuing a number of new policies, such as severe fines for those overbooking ski lodging, the county has raised the alert again, this time to red. The largest change that comes as a result of this elevated level of restrictions, is that ski resorts will have to lower their guest capacity yet again, although exact figures are not being publicly shared. While this latest update comes across as vague, you can learn all of the same details as us by checking out the report from Summit Daily.
#3: Two University of Utah PhD’s Working on Snowgun Concept That Produces Powder:
And now, for something totally different! Ignoring the glorious scientific miracle that is snowmaking, one thing that skiers can unanimously agree upon is that man made snow just really isn’t quite as good as the real stuff. Yes, it’s invaluable in terms of extending either end of a ski season, but to suggest that the quality of manufactured snow is as good as natural snow is simply objectively wrong. For now anyways.
This week, we caught the amazing story of Peter Veals and Trey Alvey, two University of Utah graduates who earned their PhD’s in atmospheric science, and also happen to love powder skiing. They too, agree that man made snow simply isn’t as good as natural powder. The difference with Veals and Alvey though, is that they’ve acquired a depth of knowledge regarding the physics of snowflakes that’s exceptionally uncommon. Now, blessed with the perfect cocktail of knowledge, ambition, and love for powder, Veals and Alvey are looking to revolutionize the snowmaking industry by creating snow guns that produce snow that’s much more similar to the real stuff. Their angle, as it turns out, is pretty straightforward. When comparing artificial snow to real snow under a microscope, it’s easy to identify the difference. While man made snow appears bulbous and consists of numerous small spheres of ice joined together, natural snow looks significantly more like those shapes you made out of paper as a kid. Where fake snow is round, real snow is pointed and delicate. So, the theory is simple: if Veals and Alvey can create a snowmaking machine that produces snow flakes that look more like the real thing, chances are it’ll also ski more like the real thing.
That, unfortunately, is where the simplicity ends. While the pair has managed to create a table top version of a snowmaker that they believe would produce a more realistic snow, their next challenge is to produce a full scale version that will allow them to produce enough snow for “a skier to be able to get a few turns in.” To do this, the team has launched a Kickstarter campaign that they’re hoping will help them raise $8,000 of the $12,000 - $14,000 needed to build their full scale prototype. For backers of their campaign that spend anywhere from $15-$85, the team will be sending out stickers, voile straps, and t-shirts depending on which reward level you back. Truthfully though, this campaign seems much less about the rewards themselves, and more about the bragging rights you’d have if you help fund the prototype snowmaker that could revolutionize early season skiing. For more on this, check out the Quantum Snow Kickstarter campaign.
#4: The New York Times Has This Week’s Hardest Hitting Story: Ski Patrollers Forced to Send Off Their Facial Hair:
Finally, it’s with great pleasure that we end this week with an article that provides a glimmer of amusement resulting from these trying times. A few weeks ago, it’s likely that a staff writer at the New York Times was flat out of ideas and coming up against a deadline. They needed something to write about, stat. Or at least we assume that’s the premise that led to this week’s article in which the New York times takes a closer look at one niche casualty of the pandemic: ski patrol beards. In the compelling piece from the New York Times, the issue is laid bare: large mountain-man beards inhibit the effectiveness of the N95 respirators that patrol members are required to wear during any kind of rescue scenario. As a result, patrollers across the nation have been asked by their bosses, who are equally as likely to sport massive amounts of facial hair, to either go clean-shaven, or adopt one of the 40 facial hair styles approved by the Center for Disease Control. While innately humorous, the issue is also exceptionally personal. In the piece, many points are made regarding the value of the beard for a ski patroller, with topics ranging from warmth to respect being cited as reasons why patrollers frequently sport beards. Truthfully, there’s not much more to this story, but when the New York Times takes the time to write a full article regarding ski patrollers being forced to shave, you cover it. That’s simply a given. To read the amusing article in full, you can check it out here. If you’re asked to subscribe, simply open the link in a private browser window, such as Google Chrome’s Incognito mode. If this is new knowledge for you, then we hope you enjoy this new life hack almost as much as your upcoming weekend!