#1: FIS World Cup Ski Racing Update: Shiffrin Starts Strong in Soelden:
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the October 29, 2021 edition! This week, we’ve got a very special issue of Top Five Fridays as we have three headlines that really drive home the point that ski season is officially here. At the top of that stack is the news that the FIS World Cup race season officially got underway last weekend, with a men’s and women’s GS race in Soelden. In the lead up to those races, all eyes were on Mikaela Shiffrin as her strong finish last season turned into high expectations from Shiffrin and her fans alike for the season ahead. In recent weeks, she’s even gone as far as saying that she hopes to qualify for all five alpine racing events in the upcoming Winter Olympics. So, it’s with those high expectations as the backdrop that we excitedly share the news that Shiffrin finished her first race on top of the podium, edging out Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami by .14 seconds, and beating Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova by 1.3 seconds. In addition to Shiffrin’s golden finish, U.S. Ski Team athlete Nina O’brien finished in 9th, while AJ Hurt took home 20th, and Paula Moltzan secured 23rd. All in all, it was a very successful outing for the U.S. women’s team as four athletes finished in the top 25. To see the full results of this race, check in with the FIS website. To read a full recap, check out this article from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team. Finally, before we close this out, we’ll also share with you this clip from the Today Show, where Mikaela celebrates her victory and shares her story with a mainstream audience. With the Winter Olympics coming up in just a matter of months, we expect to see Shiffrin plastered all over the news, so there’ll be plenty more highlights and clips of this nature to share. We’ll do our best not to overwhelm you, however we can’t make any promises.
On the mens’ side, results were slightly quieter as River Radamus, who elected to roll out a snow leopard inspired hairstyle for the event, was the fastest American, taking home 6th place. For Radamus, this finish marked a career best (a significant improvement over his previous best of 14th), and should give him a boost of confidence heading into the season. Unfortunately, the outcome was significantly different for one of America’s top competitors, Ryan Cochran-Siegle. In his first race back since suffering an injury last season, RCS missed qualifying for his second run by .01 seconds. While it must be heartbreaking to miss qualifiers by such a slim margin, reports are that RCS is keeping his head up and realizing that, all things considered, he put together a solid showing in his comeback appearance. Looking ahead, we’re up against our annual post-opening race break, with a three week break before the next races in Lech / Zuers, Austria, where both the men and women will compete in a Parallel Slalom event. To preview that race, click here. To see the full results from the men’s GS race in Soelden, click here, and to see the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team recap of the men’s race, you can click here.
#2: FIS World Cup Freeskiing Update: Despite Questionable Conditions, Athletes Put on a Show to Remember:
In other ski competition news, we’re also excited to share with you the results from the first freeskiing event of the season! As we mentioned last week, this season’s FIS freeskiing schedule kicked off last weekend with a big air event in Chur, Switzerland. In our preview of that event, we pointed out that the setup was a typical FIS Big Air event, utilizing scaffolding to create a massive jump in the most unlikely of places. A lot of times these setups are met with some skepticism from athletes, which, when paired with enough wind to nearly cancel the event, could easily result in a lackluster competition featuring something of a lame duck winner. As it turns out however, that was absolutely not the case. While the Americans missed the podium in both the men’s and women’s field, the event itself was still highly entertaining and highlighted the relentless progression of freeskiing in both genders. On the men’s side, Canadian athlete Teal Harle was sitting comfortably in first place with a score of 98.50 after landing an insane left side triple 1260 bring-back safety on his final run. With just one competitor remaining, Harle was poised to earn his first big air World Cup victory. Then, 17 year old Austrian athlete Matej Svancer put down a show stopping nose butter double cork 1800 safety, earning him a nearly perfect score of 99.00. Despite any misgivings regarding the set up or the conditions, the competitive nature of the athletes themselves pushed the sport forward yet again, putting on a showcase of world class freeskiing. As for the American team, athlete Alex Hall finished in a commendable 6th place, while Mac Forehand finished 8th, Hunter Henderson finished 13th, and Cody LaPlante took home 15th. While the U.S. Team missed the podium, having four athletes finish in the top 15 in a field of 50 is still cause for celebration, and should give hope for the team moving forward. To see a full list of men’s results, click here.
On the women’s side, the story was equally impressive, albeit slightly less dramatic. In that event, last year’s slopestyle and freeski overall winner, Tess Ledeux of France made it clear that she’s still the one to beat in the season ahead. Prior to her second run, Ledeux was trailing Sarah Hoefflin, who was sitting in first place with a score of 93.25 after landing a switch right dub 1080 mute. In her second run however, Ledeux landed a left double cork 1260 mute, good enough to earn her a score of 95.00, ultimately securing the gold medal. All in all, it was an impressive showing from the women’s field, and with the top two finishers putting down massive doubles, it’s nothing short of amazing to see how far the women’s side of freeskiing has come in recent years. To see a full list of results from the women’s competition, check out this link from the FIS. To read a full recap of the event, check out this article, also from the FIS.
#3: A Bomb Cyclone Hit the West Coast This Week, Dropping Feet of Snow and Allowing Several Ski Resorts to Open Early:
Now, with competition news out of the way, let’s talk about what’s been the hottest topic in skiing this week: the West Coast’s massive amount of snow. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you likely heard the news this week that the West Coast was subjected to a bomb cyclone, a weather event that, to put it succinctly, typically brings heavy precipitation. For a region that’s been subjected to a prolonged drought, the wet weather was welcome, although overwhelming in some areas. A quick Google will tell you all you need to know about that, so for our purposes we’ll focus on the bomb cyclone’s impact on the ski industry. As it turns out, this round of precipitation was very, very good for skiers. While a number of regions received snow and adventurous skiers and snowboarders who enjoy touring were able to take advantage of snowy conditions, it was ultimately a handful of ski resorts in California and Colorado that benefited the most. In California, Palisades Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, and Boreal were all able to expedite their openings after receiving roughly 3 feet of snow each. For these resorts, it’s one of their earliest openings ever, and a very rare October opening. In Colorado, the additional snowfall only bolstered conditions at Arapahoe Basin and Wolfcreek, both of which have been open for a couple of weeks now. Elsewhere in Colorado, Loveland and Keystone received enough snow to begin operations for the season. As is always the case this time of year, it’s a bit of a guessing game as to whether the weather will allow these resorts to remain open throughout the rest of the season without any temporary closures. Still, even if they should be forced to briefly close, it’s an exciting way for winter to kick off in those regions. To learn more about this, check out the opening reports for California and Colorado from OnTheSnow.com, as well as this report from OutThereColorado.
#4: Alpine-X: The Indoor Ski Area Looking to Give Fairfax, VA an Economic Boost Faces Environmental Hurdles:
Finally, we round out this week with an article from BizJournals.com that reexamines the status of the proposed indoor ski area that developers are hoping to build on an old landfill in Fairfax, Virginia. We’ve discussed Alpine-X here on Chairlift Chat before, typically in a positive light as this indoor ski area could be the first of many in the U.S., which could have large implications for the future of skiing and the growth of its participation. This week however, we came across an article that highlights the other side of the coin.
Since initial talks began, there’s been widespread support for Alpine-X at all levels as the exciting economic opportunities created by the development immediately won people over. After securing enough support, the team at Alpine-X is preparing to submit its final designs to Fairfax’s entitlement process. As a part of this important step, Alpine-X is fleshing out its high level ideas, bringing their broad concepts into a very specific action plan for Fairfax County’s board to approve. While the economics of the business have been the major talking point so far, this step has created a new conversation: the energy consumption of the proposed ski area. While we could go into a bit of an analysis about how much energy an indoor ski area could require, the bottom line in this story is really this: Fairfax County has been making a concerted effort to further their own environmental goals, highlighted by their commitment to make all county buildings carbon-neutral by 2040. Keeping that in mind, it’s crucial for Alpine-X to prove to the county that they have real plans to hold their development to the same standard or better. Otherwise, there’ll certainly be cries of hypocrisy if the county claims to be forward thinking on the issue of climate change and conscious energy consumption, while simultaneously approving a facility that goes against these same values. The silver lining with this, however, is that if Alpine-X can indeed find a way to become carbon neutral, it’ll only strengthen their future proposals as they pursue their plan to create indoor skiing facilities in a number of American cities. It’s an interesting dilemma, but an important one, and a story we’ll certainly have our eye on moving forward. For now, check out this article from BizJournals.com.