Top 5 Friday September 25, 2020 Lead Image

Ski Industry News - Top Five Fridays

Top Five Fridays: September 25, 2020

#1: Mikaela Shiffrin Announces the Jeff Shiffrin Resiliency Fund to Honor Her Late Father:


Top Five Fridays September 25, 2020: Jeff Shiffrin Resiliency Fund Image

Launched this week by Mikaela Shiffrin to honor her father, the Jeff Shiffrin Resiliency Fund will help fund U.S. Ski and Snowboard athletes during these exceptionally uncertain times. Image: Jeff Shiffrin Resiliency Fund Official Webpage

Kicking things off this week are a couple of great highlights from the Mikaela Shiffrin camp. Seeing as this highlight is actually a bit of a 2 for 1, let’s start broadly before zeroing in on the details. This week, the New York Times published an excellent article covering Mikaela Shiffrin’s story from the past year, ultimately sharing insights into where she’s currently at mentally as an athlete. It would be weird if you were a regular reader of Top 5 Fridays and were somehow unaware of the hardships Mikaela’s faced over the course of the last 10 months. Regardless, if you’re in that group we’ll go ahead and humor you with a lightning fast recap. In that span of time, Shiffrin’s grandmother died, her father passed away as the result of a tragic in-home accident, she took a considerable amount of time away from ski racing (leaving multiple thrones indefensible despite leading the standings upon her departure), all before ultimately returning to the circuit for the last leg of races, only to have them cancelled due to the global pandemic that is Covid-19. In other words, Shiffrin faced a combined level of adversity that most of us will never experience in our lives. As you might imagine, that sequence of events has drastically altered Shiffrin’s views on life, causing her to focus more on the things that matter on a deeper level, such as the social causes she’s become a vocal proponent of in recent months. It’s also meant that her mentality as a competitor has changed in the sense that, while she remains driven to win out of personal desire, the amount of pressure to win has been reduced as Shiffrin’s perspective has expanded in a way that’s repositioned the importance of winning. It’s the exploration of this new mentality that makes this week’s New York Times piece well worth reading.

In addition to the piece in the New York Times, Shiffrin has also announced the launch of the Jeff Shiffrin Resiliency Fund. Empowered by her father’s lessons and spurred on by the events of the past 6 months, the Jeff Shiffrin Resiliency Fund has been established to create financial stability for all U.S. Ski Team Athletes who are facing drastically higher costs this season due to the pandemic. The establishment of the fund came about when the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team partnered with six families with a history of financial support for the organization to pledge to match donations of up to $1.5 million for the fund, ultimately with the hope of raising $3 million. Seeing as “resiliency” is the one word that could best describe the story of Shiffrin’s year, the formation of a fund to support athletes during these difficult times seems like the absolute best way to carry on her father’s legacy. If you’d like to contribute to the fund yourself or learn more about its cause, you can do so over at the official campaign page on onecause.com.

#2: Ski Racing Magazine Announces “American Downhiller,” the First Feature Length Documentary About American Ski Racing:


Top Five Fridays September 25, 2020: American Downhill Movie Poster Image

Touted as the first feature full length film to tell the stories of historic American downhill skiers, American Downhill is set to premier to the public on October 2nd. Image: Ski Racing Magazine Official Website

Next up: more ski racing news! Albeit of a much lighter variety. This week, Ski Racing Magazine announced the upcoming release of “American Downhiller,” the first ever feature length documentary highlighting the history and lineage of U.S. downhill ski racers. While this story has been told in bits and pieces before, even through Ski Racing’s own “American Downhiller” series, this new film is the first time the story will be told in one place, from the earliest days when Americans, “weren’t welcome in this European game,” to current times when U.S. men’s team ski racers have claimed 110 World Cup podiums, 38 World Cups, 9 World Championship medals, and 8 Olympic medals. The one challenge left is claiming the Downhill Title. As it turns out, that’s one of the goals of this film. In the words of World Cup Downhill winner AJ Kitt, “I’m hoping that what it results in is that somebody goes and wins the men’s downhill title. This is the icing on the cake, this is the one piece of the puzzle that we’re missing.” While it may sound like a lofty goal, the reality is that if you were to interview any champion in any sport, it’s all but guaranteed that they’ll be able to cite certain athletes within their sport that they idolized as a kid growing up. As such, this type of film could be exactly what’s needed to spur on the next generation of U.S. ski racers. The film itself recently premiered to a sold-out advance showing this past Sunday in Park City, and will be available for the rest of us via the SkiRacing.com website next Friday. If it’s posted by the time we publish our next Top 5 Friday, we’ll be sure to include it in our edits of the week. For now, we’ll divert your attention to the official announcement on SkiRacing.com for more details.

#3: Ski Pass Updates: Vail CEO Says Reservation System Could be Lifted if Unnecessary, Aspen Using Pricing Tactics in Effort to Control Crowds:


Top Five Fridays September 25, 2020: Aspen Snowmass Skier Image

An Aspen skier makes a nice, isolated turn. If all goes to plan this season, Aspen resorts will remain uncrowded as the result of strategic pricing incentives. Image: Aspen Snowmass on Facebook

Well, it’s the end of September, 2020, arguably the most chaotic year that anyone young enough to be able to still ski can remember. As such, it’s all but impossible to avoid highlighting at least one piece of news that deals with the impact of Covid-19 in regards to the upcoming season. With that in mind, we’re going to utilize this week’s #3 spot to share a couple of quick updates regarding the ongoing experiment of optimizing the ski experience for pass holders in the year ahead.

First up in this double header is an update from Vail CEO Rob Katz, who put together a roughly 6 minute long YouTube video answering some of the most popular questions regarding the reservation system that’ve come up from both Epic Pass holders, as well as those still weighing their options. Chief amongst the important clarifications provided in this video, is the statement that, while each resort’s specific capacity will be dependent on a number of variables unique to each resort, “in a typical season, or most days, capacity at our resorts is at a level that would not require us to have to impose any limits this season.” Mathematically of course this could simply mean that most weekdays wouldn’t require a capacity induced reservation system, but the statement should at least provide us with some comfort in knowing that by and large, it sounds as though if you want to make a reservation for a particular day, then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to. The days most in question of course, are peak days such as holidays and powder days. The other statement worth noting in this video, is that the use of a reservation system could be removed either temporarily or permanently over the course of the season depending on how Covid & crowd dynamics play out. Reinforcing this policy is the statement that, “it would be a lot easier to remove the reservation system than to put one in mid-season.” For astute readers, that line of thinking happens to be the exact opposite approach that Alterra has taken this year, as their official policy states that, “rapidly evolving circumstances may cause plans to change without notice.” From a purely business perspective, it’s interesting to see the differences in approach as these two titans balance their financial interests with the satisfaction of their customers as well as obligations to safety. To view the video from Rob Katz in its entirety, click here.

The other update we want to share this week in regards to this particular issue, is news from Aspen where the resort’s finally announced updated pricing for local residents. As you might recall, we touched on this specific topic back on August 7th, when we shared the news that Aspen was exploring the use of different price point offerings to incentivize skiers to spread out across their mountains. This week we have details regarding that strategy, and to be quite honest, it’ll be interesting to see how locals react to the news. The most impactful news from that announcement is potentially the steep increase in cost for the Premier Pass. Last season, the pass was available for $1,479. This season, the pass will be $1,799 if purchased before November 13, and $2,099 after. In combination with this price increase, Aspen has also created new, more affordable options such as the Valley 7-Pack Pass which is good for any 7 days at a price of $399 or $499 if purchased after the deadline. Another new option for Roaring Fork Valley residents is the Valley Weekday pass which provides midweek access to the resorts for a sub-$1,000 price. Taken as a collection of products and price points, it’s clear that Aspen’s angle with this effort is to encourage locals who may have opted for the Premier Pass in previous years to consider a more affordable option which would keep them off the hill on weekends. While this is a highly localized issue as it really only pertains to Aspen area residents, it’s also one of the more unique approaches we’ve seen to ski resort crowd management, thereby making it something we feel compelled to share. For more on this, check out the full writeup from the Aspen Times.

#4: Silver Linings: Ski Movie Premieres Hit the Drive-Ins, Creating a Unique New Experience:


Top Five Fridays September 25, 2020: Teton Gravity Drive In Image

Teton Gravity, amongst others, is utilizing the unique circumstances presented by Covid-19 to premier their latest film at drive in movie theaters across America, and honestly, we're here for it. Image: Teton Gravity Research on Facebook

Finally, let’s round this week out with a highlight that’s a bit of a silver lining for ski enthusiasts during these strange times: ski movie premieres are hitting the drive-in movie theater circuit! Chances are if you’re a reader of Top 5 Fridays, you either ritualistically look forward to premier season, or at least know someone who does. For skiers the period from late September into November is a time when preseason excitement hits an annual high, often fueled by the gathering of local ski communities at movie premieres, where they witness all of the highlights collected over the course of the previous season from the top athletes, presented by the top film makers. Oftentimes adding to the spectacle is an element of charity as ticket sales and raffle ticket profits are donated to nonprofits linked to the world of skiing. So, with all of that in mind, it was with a reasonable amount of disappointment that for a time it seemed like this season’s ski movie circuit may be entirely cancelled. Fortunately however, that’s not quite the case. As we’ve known for a few weeks now, and as Powder Magazine covered in an article this week, a few ski film makers have followed the lead of concert organizers and have begun utilizing drive-in movie theaters as venues for movie premiers. Currently on that short list are Teton Gravity Research and Matchstick Productions. While both of these films are in the first legs of their tours, the early results are encouraging as, according to the Powder Magazine writeup and our own preconceived notions, the outdoor movie experience is a perfect match for eager skiers and snowboarders. While we’re still about a week away from the TGR premier here at our (somewhat) local drive in, our expectations are high. If they’re met, we can only hope to see more drive-in premiers in the future from more filmmakers. For more on this, check out the story from Powder Magazine, as well as the official tour dates from Teton Gravity Research, as well as Matchstick Productions.

#4.5: Don't Forget, Our 2021 Ski Test is Now Live!


2021 SkiEssentials.com Ski Test Lead Image

#5: And Now, Your Edits of the Week: Keep the Flame Alive: The Story Behind the Jeff Shiffrin Resiliency Fund:


Maggie Voison Serves Up Her First Solo Project, "Swiftcurrent":


Line Skis Presents Episode 1 From Their 13th Season of Traveling Circus:


No Doubt Inspired by Earlier Seasons of Traveling Circus, Real Skifi Presents Their "Season Ender":


Finally, Salomon Gives Us Something to Look Forward to in the Their 2020/2021 Salomon TV Trailer:


Written by Matt McGinnis on 09/25/20

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