Stephani Victor comes around a gate during her first run in the Huntsman Cup’s super G competition on Park City Mountain’s PayDay run on Wednesday. The annual event features athletes from all over the globe competing in various divisions designated by ability. It was Victor’s final competition as a professional skier. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Stephani Victor is calling it quits.
After 20 years of sit-ski alpine racing and earning four Paralympic medals, the Parkite competed in her last professional race – the National Ability Center’s Huntsman Cup, on Jan. 16-18 at Park City Mountain.
Her career started after a car accident.
At 10:04 p.m. on Dec. 19, 1995 Victor was hit by a distracted driver, her legs crushed between the front of the driver’s car and the back of her ex-boyfriend’s car.
At that moment, her life was forever changed – to save her life, surgeons amputated her legs.
But the course of her life was about to change again.
In 1998, she came to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival, during which a friend was hosting a guerilla screening of a low-budget film she was in.
When she got to Park City, she booked a sit-ski lesson at the National Ability Center, and tried sit-skiing for the first time.
From the start she was ambitious, even listing “win a gold medal” as her goal on her evaluation sheet for her first-ever lesson.
Her coach that day, Marcel Kounen, who is able bodied, looked at the sheet in the office, and wondered about who he would meet when he went out to coach her.
He remembers that she was talented yet untrained, and also that she was beautiful – with light blond hair and blue eyes.
“On the other hand, winning a gold medal is not a goal, you have to be specific about what gold medal you want to win,” he recalled saying to Victor. “So here is a goal: Olympics and Paralympics are coming here in 2002. Why don’t you write down winning a Paralympic gold medal?”
On the slopes, Victor fell in love with the sport. She loved how different skiing was from her recent life experiences, how the slopes in Park City were nothing like the walls of her hospital rooms, and how much freedom she had while riding.
Victor crossed out her original goal, and wrote in its place: “Winning a Paralympic gold medal.”
From that day on, Victor was hooked.
She came back to the NAC shortly after Sundance, and hired Kounen full time
Then, Victor made a proposal at the end of the season.
“Why don’t we keep skiing?” Victor asked.
“You’re funny, but we need to follow the snow,” Kounen replied.
He estimated that Victor’s opponents would have at least 10 years skiing 100 days per season, so she would have to travel the globe chasing powder to catch up with her opponents over the next three years.
In short, Victor’s goal was only achievable if she was willing to work extremely hard.
“What he didn’t know is that I love hard work,” Victor said. “I was no stranger to the idea that if you want to be good at something, you have to get up before your competition and train longer. And that’s been my philosophy my whole career.”
The two teamed up and darted around the globe in search of skiing.
“Until the Salt Lake games, we skied between 250 and 270 days (a year),” Kounen said.
Her training quickly started to pay off.
In 2000, she won the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Championship slalom competition.
In 2002, she won the season’s first World Cup competition, and stood on the podium 13 times over the rest of the series.
Then, at the her first shot at the goal she was working toward, the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City, she took bronze in downhill sit-skiing.
She kept pushing for gold.
At the International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing World Championships in 2004 she took first in slalom, second in super-G and third in downhill, and was the World Cup slalom champion.
Then, in 2005, she and Kounen married.
“When I met Marcel, I didn’t really know he was the one I was going to marry, but I knew that any bit of my life I spent with him would have meaning,” Victor said.
Shortly after, Victor achieved the goal that she had jotted down on an evaluation form eight years earlier. On the last day of the Turin Paralympics, she took first in slalom.
“Six months after we got married, I won the gold,” She said. “Had I known that was the reason, I would have married him sooner.”
Victor followed up her 2006 gold with another in super combined and silver medals in slalom and giant slalom in Vancouver, which she said might be the crowning achievement of her career, because it demonstrated her skill in both a speed and technical event.
Since then, she has continued to be competitive at World Cups, and competed in the 2014 Sochi Paralympics and the 2018 Paralympics in South Korea.
But just as important as the results are the way Victor and Kounen compete.
“If you want to be a winner you have to develop those characteristics, those values, prior to anyone putting a gold medal around your neck,” Victor said at the finish area of the Huntsman Cup. “I’ve seen a lot of gold medals go around necks of people who I don’t consider winners because of who they are on and off the field. You can be a winner in life based on the choices you make, and that for me has always been my priority.”
But a good philosophy did not make it easier to give up the sport.
She said for years racing has been a way for her and her fellow competitors to reckon with their inequities.
“That’s why I’ve had such a hard time giving it up,” she said. “I’ve still had so much work to do on myself personally. But there’s nothing like ski racing to keep you in the now.”
From the moment Victor pushes out of the starting gate, she said her mind is focused on the moment, on dealing with what is happening in each second.
“I absolutely love that, because I think that’s as close as you get to God,” she said.
Her decision to leave competition was difficult, but she said it was time.
Though she will never stop seeing herself as an athlete (“That’s who I am,” she said), Victor has been putting pressure on herself to perform well, to get up earlier and train harder than her competition, for 20 years.
On the morning before the start of the Huntsman Cup – the race she started with all those years ago – she said she felt that weight lift, and was enveloped in a sense of calm.
She recognizes that the burden was likely of her own making, but that’s what it takes to win.
“People who are strong mentally, I think have the greatest capacity; the greatest facility, to really turn it up when it counts,” she said. “I think I was one of those people, but I worked at it, and it’s possible, anybody can do it.”
Now, she’s letting someone else pick up that mantle.
Her knees ‘broken beyond repair,’ Vonn retiring after worlds
Associated PressFebruary 1, 2019
Giovanni Auletta / AP | AP
Her knees ‘broken beyond repair,’ Vonn retiring after worlds
Lindsey Vonn has only two races remaining on her aching knees.
The women’s all-time leader in World Cup wins announced Friday that she will retire from ski racing after this month’s world championships in Sweden.
The 34-year-old Vonn had been planning to retire in December but changed her plans because of persistent pain in both of her knees, which she fully realized after failing to finish a race in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, last month
“It’s been an emotional 2 weeks making the hardest decision of my life, but I have accepted that I cannot continue ski racing,” Vonn wrote on Instagram . “I will compete at the World Championships in Downhill and SG (super-G) next week in Are, Sweden and they will be the final races of my career.”
The worlds open with the women’s super-G on Tuesday in the Swedish resort of Are. The women’s downhill is scheduled for Feb. 10.
Vonn’s right knee is permanently damaged from previous crashes. The American has also torn ACL’s, suffered fractures near her left knee, broken her ankle, sliced her right thumb, had a concussion and more. She’s limited now to about three runs per day, and her aching body can’t handle the workload of other skiers.
“My body is broken beyond repair and it isn’t letting me have the final season I dreamed of,” Vonn said. “My body is screaming at me to STOP and it’s time for me to listen.”
However, with 82 World Cup wins, Vonn will not be able to match the overall record of 86 held by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark.
“Honestly, retiring isn’t what upsets me. Retiring without reaching my goal is what will stay with me forever,” Vonn said. “However, I can look back at 82 World Cup wins, 20 World Cup titles, 3 Olympic medals, 7 World Championship medals and say that I have accomplished something that no other woman in HISTORY has ever done, and that is something that I will be proud of FOREVER!”
In her announcement, Vonn also made public for the first time that she had surgery following last season.
“A large portion of cartilage that had delaminated from my bone was removed,” Vonn said, without specifying which bone. “My crash in Lake Louise last year was much more painful than I let on, but I continued to race because I wanted to win a medal in the Olympics for my late grandfather.”
Vonn achieved that goal by winning a bronze medal in downhill at last year’s Pyeongchang Games.
But then she crashed again during training in Copper Mountain, Colorado, in November, and tore the lateral collateral ligament and sustained three fractures in her left knee.
“Despite extensive therapy, training and a knee brace, I am not able make the turns necessary to compete the way I know I can,” Vonn said.
Retiring in Sweden brings Vonn full circle.
She won the first two major championship medals of her career — two silvers — at the 2007 worlds in Are. Vonn has also won seven World Cup races at the Swedish resort, including two giant slaloms, and has 12 podiums overall there.
At last season’s World Cup finals in Are, Vonn won the downhill and finished third in the super-G.
So broken knees and all, nobody will be counting Vonn out as a contender in her final races.
“Can’t wait to see some of you in the finish in Are,” she said, “where I will give it my all one last time.”
Xanthe Demas was going through ski boot hell. The Aspen, Colo. resident and SKI Magazine ski tester went to a bootfitter that some friends recommended last season and walked out of the store expecting her boots to fit properly. Yes, they hurt at first, but with the expectation they would break in, Demas kept skiing in them. The pain never stopped, but because of the money she invested, she struggled through the rest of the season as best she could.
“I was having a terrible time,” Demas says. The boot she was fitted for had no accommodation for her accessory navicular, and she could feel it in a bad way. “I dreaded putting them on because they were so uncomfortable, and I was in so much pain that the performance was lacking. I couldn’t put any sort of pressure into that boot because my foot just couldn’t handle it.”
Xanthe Demas, not having a terrible time. Photo credit: Matt Power
The Telluride, Colo. native, who relocated to the Roaring Fork Valley for work a number of years ago, gave up on the boots that never stopped hurting and decided to give Surefoot a try. Yes, their prices were a bit more expensive than most online shoppers might be used to, but considering the level of customization and the virtual elimination of the boot break-in phase, she walked out of the Aspen Surefoot shop to the gondola, and went skiing without pain on the very first run.
“Something that I noticed in a huge way was the comfort,” Demas says about her first few days in the Surefoot boot. “I had no pressure points in that boot at all. The first couple days of skiing in a boot, you always expect some sort of pressure point, but even the first two days I was in it I felt awesome. And I owe that to the liner.”
Demas’ Surefoot story matched many of my friends’ experiences in Aspen. Locals and visitors alike swear by the local Surefoot shop. After so many years of hearing good things, I decided to try Surefoot myself. In early December, while everyone else was having après after a day of skiing at Aspen Mountain, I walked from Gondola Square, crossed Durant Avenue, and entered into the boot shop Demas and many others rave about.
The Surefoot Method
A Surefoot custom insole.
Photo courtesy of Surefoot Aspen
As a ski boot tester, I work a lot with bootfitters. A month before I tried Surefoot, I had my foot measured by a major ski boot brand’s lead tech using a Brannock measurement tool. The year before that, my feet were “scanned” at another high-end shop in Vail. After both foot sizings, I came away thinking my feet were equal in terms of width and length.
Surefoot’s insole measurement method, on the other hand, discovered why I consistently have pain in my right foot when skiing no matter how many times I get ski boot work done: My right foot is three millimeters wider than my left.
They also email your foot data to you after the scan. This is the author’s insole scan through the eyes of the Predator.
Surefoot’s proprietary insole scanner measures feet in 538 places using pressure-sensitive rubber pegs and some nifty software. The result is a three-dimensional map of the bottom of your feet, which is then grafted to a medical-grade ethyl vinyl acetate blank via a CAD-CAM milling machine. Unlike some custom footbeds, which use heat-shaping methods and leave a gap between the footbed and the liner, Surefoot’s footbeds sit flat on your boot liner when installed, increasing energy transfer from foot to ski.
(Editor’s note: SKImag.com highly recommends any custom footbed with any new ski boot purchase, whether or not it sits flat on a liner. The cheap, flimsy footbeds that come with most ski boots out of the box aren’t cut out for the job.)
Unfortunately, some ski boot brands are also relying on cheaper, less reliable liners—with notable exceptions—which means stock liners can wear out well before the shell. In some cases, this leads to reduced performance after a couple dozen uses. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some boot companies are starting to use liner features that increase comfort, including built-in Bluetooth controlled heaters, injection-fit liners, and soft, fuzzy cuffs. These comforts are so nice, even the most “hardcore” skier can enjoy them.
Surefoot’s Liner X with heat. Photo courtesy of Surefoot
Surefoot’s new sixth generation Liner X Series with Heat has all of these features and can upgrade your ski boot performance at the same time. I opted to have the latest X Series liners installed in some of my favorite boots that had worn-out stock liners, but plenty of life left in the shell.
Out of the box, Surefoot’s newest liners have a number of tubes sticking out like some kind of sci-fi movie prop. They went on my feet and into my boot shells. My bootfitter Austin injected two different gels into the liner via the tubes which created just slightly uncomfortable heat and pressure throughout the boot. The process took maybe five minutes, after which the tubes were ripped out and my feet suddenly felt like they were home-sweet-home, ready to ski.
Altogether, the total price for a custom footbed, custom liner, fitting process and slightly modified shell costs around $1,100 depending on the level of work the shell might require for your foot. Considering most of the boots tested in SKI Magazine’sHigh Performance and All-Mountain Utilitycategories range from $750 to $975 MSRP, the belief that a Surefoot custom fitting is overly expensive is simply not true. Boots that fit well and are made to last are certainly worth it in the long run, especially according to Demas.
“I have zero pain, which is a huge upgrade for me,” says the Aspen Snowmass employee. “I’m at day thirty-seven this season [in the Surefoot liner] and they’ve held up awesome. The footbed feels great, the liner feels awesome. It doesn’t feel like anything is compressing or moving around at all. It was a ‘one-and-done.’ I went in, got it all set, and haven’t gone back.”
As for my own testing, I haven’t had as many days in the Surefoot liner as Demas, but I’ve been very pleased with the comfort and increased performance in my ski boots after a half-dozen days using the custom liner and footbeds.
Demas, still not feeling pain. Photo credit: Matt Power
After years in hard custom footbeds from brands like SOLE and Sidas, my only concern is that the softer Surefoot footbed option can feel a bit squishy on hard snow, but it is very comfortable and responsive otherwise. The fitting process is as quick, simple, and effective as any I’ve experienced, and the customer X Liner breathed new life into some of my favorite boots.
After the announcement from the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), SnowSports Industries America (SIA) and National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) to form the Outdoor Business Climate Partnership to provide leadership on climate change, leaders of several state ski area trade associations including Colorado Ski Country USA, Ski Utah, Ski California, Ski Vermont, Ski Areas of New York, Ski New Mexico and the Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association released the following statement.
“Pursuit of climate change solutions is a defining issue for ski areas across the United States. Many meaningful solutions are possible with action at the state and regional level. As economic drivers in our respective states, we urge policymakers to understand that we can’t wait for lasting, bipartisan action to reduce carbon emissions, promote energy innovation and support a rapid, responsible transition to a clean energy economy. We applaud and join with the broader outdoor recreation community and the National Ski Areas Association as they pledge leadership and advocacy for climate solutions across the country. We pledge to do the same with our respective state advocacy efforts.”
Comments from the leaders of each state association are below.
“The ski industry in Colorado employs nearly 50,000 people and our 23-member ski areas take the threat of climate change seriously,” said Melanie Mills, President, and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA. “In Colorado, our policy team advocates for policies at the Capitol and the Public Utilities Commission to expand renewable energy, increase energy efficiency and mitigate the impacts of climate change. We will continue to engage with state and local elected officials and leaders to support forward-thinking climate solutions.”
“Utah’s ski resorts are committed to mitigating their environmental impacts and protecting our communities for future generations to enjoy,” said Ski Utah President & CEO Nathan Rafferty. “We actively engage with and support forward-thinking policies at the state and local level, such as HCR7 which passed in Utah last year, that recognize the impacts of climate change and the need for viable solutions.”
“Our 32 member resorts in California and Nevada are thrilled to join our fellow ski states in supporting action for climate solutions,” said Mike Reitzell, President of Ski California. “As an industry, we can make an impact through advocacy, innovation, and collaboration with the legislature, guests, and other industries. California enjoys the largest outdoor recreation economy in the United States; and as a state, continues to be a leader on climate initiatives. Climate action requires the efforts of many, not the few. Our ski industry will continue to be part of the solution.”
“Ski Vermont’s 20 alpine and 30 cross country member areas collectively bring over $925M in direct spending into the state each winter, two-thirds of which is spent in surrounding communities,” said Ski Vermont President Molly Mahar. “The ski industry is not only an important economic driver, it is an integral part of Vermont’s history, culture, and lifestyle. We recognize that climate change is a threat, so as we work toward expanded energy efficiency and other solutions to mitigate climate change in our small state, it is critical that we join with other ski states and regions across the country to advance the national conversation and to seek creative solutions.”
“As the trade association representing New York’s ski industry, we have over 50 ski areas, the most in the US,” said Scott Brandi, President of Ski Areas of New York. “We employ 14,000 people and have a one-billion-dollar impact to the economy of upstate New York. We support solutions and a proactive approach to climate change. Working with New York State Energy and Research Development Authority we recently obtained a large grant for energy efficient snowmaking equipment and we will continue to work with state and local governments to develop solutions to the climate change issue.”
“The ski industry in New Mexico is big business during the winter time attracting over 800,000 visitors each year and climate change impacts all of us,” said George Brooks, Executive Director of Ski New Mexico. “We stand with our fellow partners in trying to effect change in a positive way. The ski industry in New Mexico will do our part to effect change.”
“At our annual operations conference we feel it is important to reserve educational space where our membership can gather to share ideas and best practices regarding climate change solutions,” said Jordan Elliott, the President of the Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association. “Our advocacy on this important issue crosses state lines and we are proud to work closely with the recreational community at large.”
Ski season is shrinking. Yet the people who love the sport aren’t doing enough to stop climate change.
By Porter Fox
Feb. 2, 2019
From the snow-dusted ridgelines of the Catskills to the rugged summits of the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada and Cascades, winter is slowly disappearing. And snow is receding with it.
We know humans are altering the climate. Temperatures in south-central Colorado have risen two degrees Fahrenheit on average since 1988. In California’s Lake Tahoe region, home to more than a dozen ski areas, warmer temperatures since 1970 have pushed the snow line uphill 1,200 to 1,500 feet. Winter season lengths are projected to decline at ski areas across the United States, in some locations by more than 50 percent by 2050 and by 80 percent by 2090 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, according to a 2017 study. Only about half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast will be able to maintain an economically viable ski season by midcentury, another study found in 2012.
It also comes in cans if you don’t want shattered glass in your ski coat pocket. Photo courtesy of Roadhouse Brewing
No matter if you have spent your day carving trenches in the corduroy or stomping backcountry booters, there is little else in this world so satisfying as loosening your boots at the end of a ski day. The feeling returning to your feet as each buckle is released is nothing short of sheer bliss. Toes, long clamped under intense pressure breathe anew, and shins tingle from the sudden release of stress. Each hallmark “click” of a buckle snapping open brings new relief.
With both boots cracked and euphoria settling in, well, then it’s time to crack a cold one to celebrate the day, and what beer more fitting than the Loose Boots Après IPA from Roadhouse Brewing Co.
Hailing from the skier-mecca of Jackson Hole, the Loose Boots IPA is brewed in collaboration with Roadhouses’ neighbor, Stio Apparel. The two craft companies worked to produce a beer that was light, flavorful, and paired perfectly with the kicked-back nature of après. A tall order perhaps, but it’s safe to say the Loose Boots Après IPA nailed it.
You know her boots are loose. Photo courtesy of Stio / Peter Lobozzo
Popping open a can is met with a sweet citrus smell, followed pungent pine and rounded out by a crispy malt. For an IPA, it’s remarkably easy to drink, coming across almost as a Red Ale instead of the typical heavily hopped beverage most American craft brewers are known for. Yet IPA lovers shouldn’t fret, the distinctive hop notes are still present in a refined manor, making it an approachable après beverage that doesn’t cop out on taste.
The self-proclaimed session beer comes drinks smooth to the bottom and goes faster than you think. Thankfully, the Loose Boots only weighs in at 5% ABV, so reaching for a second while you finish recounting the day feels about right.
Roadhouse Brewing Co.’s Loose Boots Après IPA
Hops: Simcoe and Citra Color: Light Gold Aroma: Blood Orange, Pine, Malt IBU: 45 ABV: 5.0% Availability: Winter Pairs Well With: Tired legs, loaded nachos, slopeside live music
Stio’s Mountain Moments: The Making of Loose Boots Après IPA
Record cold temperatures slowly fade away in the East this week, while another batch of cold helps Canada and parts of the U.S. stay snowy.
Eastern U.S. & Canada
Quebec’s Mont Gleason has been great as the calendar turns. (Mont Gleason/Facebook)
What a month! January was great for most and Fe”Brrr”uary will keep all the fresh snow around. Bitterly-cold air will hang around Thursday and Friday while lake effect snow falls. Expect feels-like temperatures to range from -20 to -30 degrees! It’ll turn warmer by the weekend, but clouds increase with a chance of light snow and mixed precip showers.
That amazing feeling of a snowy village. (Snowbird/Facebook/Chris-Segal)
Most of our new snow will fall during the weekend. A smaller storm will bring moderate snow to California Thursday to Friday. By Friday afternoon and lasting through the weekend, all of the West gets in on at least some fresh snow. Winners will be in British Columbia, California and Utah. Between Friday and Sunday a widespread 6-12” will fall and locally up to 30”.
Snowfall in the Southwest this week. (WeatherBell)
Snowfall in the Northwest this week. (WeatherBell)
Monday-Wednesday a stronger storm moves out of the Rockies and into southern Canada, bringing much colder air through Alberta and the northwestern U.S. for the week. This week we love Northstar, Sunrise Park and Manning Park.
Glen Plake is adored for his skiing but also his personality. Photo: Courtesy of Elan
There is no argument that Glen Plake is an icon. From his rather rowdy early days and early films to his more recent endeavors like making skis with Elan, advocacy for guides and ski instructors, to his own guide and instructing pursuits, he is a very busy man.
Plake, who is a U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame skier, first hit the ski film world with his hallmark mohawk in the Greg Stump classic Maltese Flamingo. Since then, he’s made many films, much of them with the legendary filmmaker Warren Miller. Plake is arguably the most famous non-racing skier to come from the United States, and unlike many of his peers who heavily depended on mechanized vehicles to get access to steep lines, Plake preferred to “earn his turns” as an avid ski mountaineer.
Plake’s passion for skiing is something that has never waned, nor has his personal connection to his fans and skiers alike, at ski areas all over the country.
Glen and Kimberly Plake enjoying the view on the way up. Photo: Courtesy of Elan
Those who have met Plake never forget their encounter. Whether it was the ski-touring tips he gave freely to visitors in Chamonix or just the kind casual conversation on a lift at Mammoth, Plake never fails to connect … and his Down Home Tour is no different.
Since 1991, Plake and his wife Kimberly have been spontaneously visiting small ski areas and riding with the locals. Unannounced, the two show up in their custom diesel Freight-liner (basically, a bad-ass motorhome). Plake has an affinity for off-road vehicles and racing (you might have seen him hosting on Truck Night in America) takes care of the maintenance of the truck. Then the two just hang out. From green runs to ski racing practice to out of bounds jaunts with ski patrol, the Plakes’ presence is a never planned, and always a gift to those who just happen to be at the ski area at the same time.
We recently caught up with Plake to chat about his tour and the importance of small ski areas, how to keep ski costs down and where to find stoke.
You don’t come to ski with the Plakes, they come to ski with you! Photo: Courtesy of Elan
Why are small ski areas so important?
Everyone thinks skiing is so expensive. It is becoming expensive, there is no doubt about it. The smaller ski areas feel like they have to compete with ski resorts, and offer the same product. Unfortunately, everyone thinks, “ski area” and they think golf course, condo sales … What happened to the little rope tow at the end of town that was a community asset that everyone goes under to kill time? Why do you have to pay $80 to go to the local little ski hill – we should all be having fun out here.
The Plakes make themselves at home since they bring their home to the hill. Photo: Courtesy of Elan
What are some tips for keeping ski costs down?
Season passes are usually not that expensive if you compare them to other things. You know you pay $4,000 for your mountain bike but not a $400 lift pass for the season. Nobody doesn’t want to ski on good equipment, but we can go to ski-swaps and get good equipment – you just have to make a commitment.
You have to be committed to skiing before it can be financially affordable. If you do not make the commitment, then it is going to cost you an arm and a leg.
How do you measure stoke?
We highlight and glamorize the most expensive forms of the sport [skiing] and then expect everyone to measure their experience against that. I do not believe it is fair. I don’t think sports should be separated by dollars. It could even be the worst snow ever. For sure, the amount of money spent doesn’t equal the amount of stoke.