Note: This is the latest installment of the Globe’s skiing/snowboarding newsletter. You can sign up to receive it by email each Friday.
Ski racing season begins this weekend in Soelden, Austria, and that’s a really big deal in Europe. You know the hype leading up to that first NFL Sunday each year? That’s Austria this week.
However this year, it should be kind of a big deal in the United States as well. There are a lot of great story lines surrounding US ski racing, and foremost among them is the abundance of World Cup-level racing that will actually happen in the US.
First there’s women’s slalom and giant slalom at Killington Nov. 26-27, which will be the first time a World Cup event is held in New England since the early 1990s. Grandstand and VIP areas are sold out, but you can still go watch for free and enjoy the other events that will be part of it, including a World Cup expo and concert featuring O.A.R.
There will also be men’s downhill, super G, and giant slalom at Beaver Creek in early December, women’s slalom and giant slalom at Squaw Valley in early March, and the World Cup Finals at Aspen March 13-20. Then the US Alpine Championships will be at Sugarloaf in Maine March 25-28.
The American venues aren’t the only attraction. American racers have lofty goals.
Could this be the year an American wins the men’s downhill title? It’s never happened, but the US Ski Team’s Megan Harrod explores the possibility in an article on the team’s website, and identifies Steven Nyman as one of the best chances.
Another interesting story line is Mikaela Shiffrin’s pursuit of the overall women’s World Cup title. Previously a specialist in the “technical” events of slalom and giant slalom, Shiffrin plans to compete in the speed events as well, with her eye on challenging the likes of Lindsey Vonn, Lara Gut, and Anna Veith, among others, for the overall title. The Denver Post’s John Meyer has an excellent look at Shiffrin’s outlook on the season.
And if you want a New England rooting interest, then Ryan Cochran-Siegle’s your guy. He’s from Starksboro, Vt., and is expected to be among the starters this weekend in Soelden.
Here’s how to watch the Soelden racing, courtesy of SkiRacing.com.
LET IT SNOW: While it’s always great to see reports on social media and the ‘net of snow flying in the mountains, nothing beats seeing it right outside your window. With that in mind we present the predictions by the weather team at Boston’s WBZ. The chart above, tweeted by Terry Eliasen and republished here by permission, has the predictions of WBZ’s meteorologists for when Boston will get its first inch of snow.
WHILE SNOW COUNTRY WAITS: You can tell New England ski areas are getting antsy by the videos they’ve been posting lately. It sure looks like the folks at Mount Snow, Jay Peak, and Okemo are pretty much ready for winter.
GOOD ADVICE: As I mentioned last week, nothing beats skier-to-skier advice, so I’m grateful for the information readers sent about the areas on my New England skiing bucket list. No one area really got a significantly higher number of votes than any other, so I’ll just share some of the best responses about New England areas, with more to come in upcoming newsletters.
■ Burke: Very steep for New England, definitely worth a day trip. Lots of variety and no crowds. (Thanks to Daniel)
■ Smuggler’s Notch: I skied “Smuggs” about 10 years ago and was unprepared for just how challenging the terrain was. It was at least as challenging as its neighbor - Stowe. More specifically, I am referring to the Madonna and Sterling peaks as Morse Peak is for young families but is also a good tuneup prior to hitting the more challenging terrain of Madonna and Sterling. (Thanks to Kevin)
■ Gunstock: Nice slopes, well-groomed and not too crowded. Great view of Lake Winnipesauke from the summit. (Thanks to Gregg)
■ Bolton Valley: Variety of terrain, not overdeveloped, and the people are friendly. We stayed at this 70’s throwback lodge with a bear head in the lobby. The lodge is privately owned (not a part of the ski area) and had an easy, walk-from-our room access to the trail and I bought our lift tickets in-house. This was three years ago March, but at that time, the prices for on mountain food (very good quality BTW), lodging, and lifts were great. (Thanks to Doug)
■ Mad River Glen 1: The single chair at Mad River offers up seriously gnarly trails. Trails that you get pretty much to yourself. If it’s snowed recently, you’re guaranteed to find pow stashes. Amazing glades and hidden runs all over. Still family friendly, something is always groomed off both the single and Sunnyside chairs. (Thanks to James)
■ Mad River Glen 2: When the snow is good, the skiing is transcendent. (Thanks to CJ)
■ Black Mountain: Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky, but my two times at Black were a blast! Both were Saturdays (one a powder day) and it was rare that I couldn’t just ski right onto the lift. It’s a family place that you can tell parents feel comfortable letting their 7 (or younger) year olds ski on their own. I felt that their trails had good variety and even their beginner trails are interesting with natural dips, turns, and rollers. There are some fun and interesting glades too (lots on the easier end if you are just learning glades). Riding the double is surprisingly not that slow. Also, their ticket prices are great and the food is not completely over priced! I know they had a tough year last year but in a good natural snow year, its certainly a place to check out when you know the bigger White Mountain resorts are going to be mobbed. (Thanks to Mary)
HELP WANTED: Speaking of Mad River Glen, the area is looking for a general manager. Here’s the listing on the MRG website.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, LOON: Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, which opened Dec. 27, 1966, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, and the milestone will be commemorated in a number of ways. The latest edition of the resort’s magazine is devoted to the anniversary, and it is filled with creative and fascinating features, including a timeline of Loon’s history, a bunch of then-and-nows, and full-length stories. I highly recommend checking it out.
Loon will host a Golden Anniversary Weekend Jan. 28-29. It has also been restoring one of the original gondola cabins (pictured below) that was in use from 1966 to 1988, and that will be on display near the gondola barn this winter.
WANT TO SKI OPENING DAY AT KILLINGTON? All it takes is a haiku on Killington’s Facebook page to enter to win two tickets for Day 1 of the 2016-17 season.
MORE ON CHAIRLIFT SAFETY: The Ski Area Management website posted a response to Outside Magazine’s recent piece about chairlift safety. SAM disputes some aspects of the article and points out what it believes are inaccuracies.
SNOW > FOLIAGE: This was interesting, and I can’t even remember how I stumbled across it. Ryan Solutions, a company that specializes in software for the resort industry, analyzed whether snow or foliage generated more engagement on Facebook. Snow won across the board.
WORTHY AWARD: Vermont’s Cochran family of competitive skiers and ski area instructors and operators will receive the Spirit of Skiing Award at the New England Ski Museum’s annual meeting Oct. 28 at Sugarbush. Tickets ($75) and info are available on the NESM website.
BOSTON SKI & SPORTS CLUB BLIZZARD: The BSSC’s annual Blizzard event is Nov. 9 at Royale Boston. Gift bags and swag, plus deals and prizes highlight the event. The club’s schedule for winter trips is due out soon as well.
Follow Matt Pepin on Twitter at @mattpep15.