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FEBRUARY NEWS IN BRIEF

– Coronavirus leads to cancellation of para alpine races in Italy
– Norway avalanche kills two
– Olympic Law passed for Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Games
– Salt Lake City & Utah look to 2030 Winter Olympics

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NEWS IN BRIEF STORIES FROM JANUARY 2020

THURSDAY 27th FEBRUARY
CORONAVIRUS FORCES CANCELLATION OF PARA ALPINE EVENT

The Europa Cup Speed Finals in Sella Nevea in Italy, which were scheduled to take place next week, have been called off.

The decision comes after Italy suffered the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

Sella Nevea is in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in northeast Italy.

See our detailed article with all the latest news and information for skiers and snowboarders travelling to and returning from northern Italy:

“It is disappointing that the Europa Cup will be cancelled, but Italy is facing a public health issue with spread of coronavirus,” said the Head of World Para Snow Sports, Dimitrije Lazarovski.

“The health of all the athletes is our biggest priority.”

Around 40 athletes from 10 nations were due to attend the event, with races in the speed disciplines held from 2nd to 5th March.

Other competitions are scheduled to continue as normal until the season closes in Winter Park in Colorado on 13th April.

FRIDAY 21st FEBRUARY
AVALANCHE IN NORWAY KILLS TWO

They were German tourists on a snowmobile tour in the north of the country.

The Norwegian broadcaster NRK says it happened about 15 to 20km south of Barentsburg on the Svalbard archipelago of islands inside the Arctic Circle.

The avalanche happened on the Fridjofbreen glacier on Thursday.

A helicopter carrying a rescue team and a search dog were sent to search for the missing pair, who were discovered dead.

The two Germans had been on a tour run by a Russian tour operator.

Two guides and five foreign tourists in the group.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are not known.

THURSDAY 20th FEBRUARY
OLYMPIC LAW PASSED FOR MILAN-CORTINA 2026 GAMES

Italy’s Council of Ministers has approved legislation to provide the framework for those responsible for running the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The Olympic Law establishes a Joint Olympic Council for Milan Cortina 2026 at the Italian National Olympic Committee.

The Council will have responsibility for the general direction and oversight of projects required for the Games.

The Organising Committee will be responsible for the management and organisation of the sporting events and promotion of the Games.

An infrastructure group will lead the construction projects.

The Olympic Law also covers issues related to sustainability and the legacy of the Olympics.

Milano-Cortina 2026 Facebook page

Milan-Cortina 2026

WEDNESDAY 19th FEBRUARY
SALT LAKE CITY & UTAH LOOK TO 2030 OLYMPICS

The city and the state have set up a joint committee as they prepare a bid to host another Winter Olympics.

The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games will provide the city and state in the United States with expertise and leadership in preparation for a campaign to bring the event back to the region for the first time since 2002.

Salt Lake City is one of three cities to have expressed an interest in bidding for the 2030 Winter Olympics, along with Barcelona and Sapporo.

Salt Lake City hosted the Games in 2002.

We were back in 2012 to assess their legacy a decade on.

Salt Lake City Ten Years On

And we were back this winter, in January 2020.

Just for the skiing:

We look back at our trip to Utah

Salt Lake City Olympic bid

Salt Lake City Olympic bid

MONDAY 17th FEBRUARY
SKIER SUFFOCATES TO DEATH IN FREAK ACCIDENT

46-year old Jason Varnish slipped through an open chairlift seat on a lift in Blue Sky Basin in Vail in Colorado.

His jacket became wrapped around his head and neck as he dangled from the lift and cut off his windpipe.

An initial investigation found the chairlift’s folding seat was upright instead of in the down position, leaving a gap.

His jacket became caught in the chair when he slipped through the gap.

“We take all incidents seriously and are conducting a full investigation,” said the owner of the resort, Vail Resorts.

“The lift has been thoroughly inspected and is operating normally.”

“Vail Mountain and the entire Vail Resorts family express our sincere condolences and extend our support to the guest’s family and friends,’ said Beth Howard, chief operating officer.”

Blue Sky Basin

Blue Sky Basin

SUNDAY 16th FEBRUARY
FIS LOOKING TO REDUCE SERIOUS INJURIES IN SKI RACING

The International Ski Federation (FIS) has set up a working group to consider how best to cut the number of bad injuries in alpine skiing.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the FIS council in Zurich.

The working group will be made up of sport and medical experts and is being established through the FIS Injury Surveillance and Prevention Project, whose goal is to reduce serious injury.

“The group will identify the most important injury hot-spots through methodical injury analysis and evaluation, in order to propose effective solutions and projects for implementation,” says FIS.

Just days after the meeting two of the leading women racers, Sofia Goggia of Italy and Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany suffered season-ending injuries  in the World Cup Super-G at Garmisch Partenkirchen.

Goggia broke her arm and Rebensburg, who had won Downhill the previous day,  fractured the head of the tibia in her left leg.

Rebensburg posted the photo below on her Facebook page with the words ‘shit happens’.

Viktoria Rebensburg

Viktoria Rebensburg out for the rest of the season – photo Facebook

Last weekend also saw criticism from some male World Cup racers competing in the Chamonix Parallel Giant Slalom who complained that the format was too dangerous.

A high-speed collision was narrowly avoided after one competitor fell and slid across the slope into the path of the skier on the other course.

SATURDAY 15th FEBRUARY
MIKAELA SHIFFRIN MISSES MORE RACES AFTER FATHER’S DEATH

She is not competing at this weekend’s World Cup races in Slovenia.

Shiffrin was not on the start list for Saturday’s giant slalom and is also expected to be out for Sunday’s slalom in Kranjska Gora, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

“Our continued thoughts go out to the Mikaela, [mother] Eileen and [brother] Taylor as they deal with the incredible loss of their father and husband Jeff Shiffrin,” read a statement from Shiffrin’s management team.

“At this point we have no information to share about a return to Europe or a return to competition. We ask that you continue to respect the family’s privacy.”

We reported on the sudden death of her father earlier on PlanetSKI.

Mikaela Shiffrin heartbroken by father’s death

Mikaela with father Jeff Shiffrin

Mikaela and Jeff Shiffrin

FRIDAY 14th FEBRUARY
MAN DIES AFTER CHAIRLIFT FALL

A man who was among four people injured when a chairlift plunged to the ground in Switzerland has died in hospital.

The 40-year-old, from the Zurich area, died on Wednesday, six days after the accident in the  ski resort of Stoos.

We reported on the accident in News In Brief below (8th February)

The lift fell 10 metres to the ground as it was taking people down the mountain after a night-time business event.

The two other men and a woman who were also injured are said to be recovering from their injuries.

The SwissInfo news website reports the police investigation has so far established that accident was ‘in connection with a stretched out winch cable for a piste vehicle. The four-person chairlift collided with the cable during its descent and as a result plunged 10 metres’.

Stoos, Switzerland

Stoos, Switzerland

THURSDAY 13th FEBRUARY
MAN WHO PUSHED SNOWBOARDER OFF LIFT RELEASED FROM PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL

Thomas Proesel, 35, has been released from a Colorado psychiatric hospital in the USA.

A court ruled he had made ‘significant progress’.

In January 2016 he pushed a 28-year-old snowboarder from a lift in Aspen

The snowboarder fell 7m but landed in deep snow and was uninjured.

Proesel was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and another psychiatric disorder.

Thomas Proesel

Thomas Proesel

WEDNESDAY 12TH FEBRUARY
BIDDING PROCESS FOR 2025 FREESTYLE & SNOWBOARD WORLD CHAMPS ON HOLD

The International Ski Federation (FIS) is postponing the bidding process due to Russia’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the sanctions levied against it by the World Anti-Doping Agency. 

The Russian city of Krasnoyarsk is currently the only candidate wishing to stage the event.

But with Russia currently facing a four-year ban from hosting major sporting events, pending its appeal to CAS, FIS has ruled that its candidacy would not be permitted as things stand.

International Ski Federation

SATURDAY 8TH FEBRUARY
FOUR INJURED IN SWISS CHAIRLIFT ACCIDENT

Two are in a critical condition after their chair plunged 10m to the ground.

They were coming down the mountain at night in the resort of Stoos after an event.

The chair hit a winch cable from a piste basher that was grooming a slope.

“A 33-year-old woman and a 40-year-old man suffered life-threatening injuries” and were evacuated by helicopter said local police.

Two men aged 33 and 38 also suffered serious injuries.

An investigation is underway.

BREAKING NEWS: CORONAVIRUS INFECTS 5 IN LES CONTAMINES-MONTJOIE

5 British Citizens holidaying in the Alps have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus.

All five had been staying in a chalet at Les Contamines-Montjoie, a ski resort in Haute-Savoie region of  France.

One of the guests staying at the chalet had recently returned from Singapore and is believed to have infected the others.

Agnès Buzyn, French health minister, confirmed that a man with a UK passport arrived in France on January 24 from a three-day trip to Singapore.

Listen to the minister’s statement in the clip below.

See for this separate and updated story on PlanetSKI with more details:

Five British skiers go down with coronavirus in French Alps.

TUESDAY 4th FEBRUARY
GB SNOWSPORT PARTNERS WITH SNOW + ROCK

The governing body for British skiing and snowboarding is joining forces with the major ski retailer.

The partnership has been announced today to mark the two-year countdown to the start of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in 2022.

GB Snowsport CEO Vicky Gosling visited Snow + Rock’s flagship Covent Garden store on Monday alongside representatives of the retailer, including the Marketing Director Jose Finch, to launch the partnership.

Snow+Rock becomes the official recommended snowsport retailer for GB Snowsport.

The partnership is intended to:

  • raise the profile of competitive snowsport in the UK through the use of athletes
  • work on initiatives to encourage participation in snowsports and to protect the winters for athletes and future generations
Snow + Rock partners with GB Snowpsort

New partners

Vicky Gosling said GB Snowsport was proud to partner with a well-known, respected and market-leading retailer with a strong snowsports heritage.

“Planning for Beijing 2022 is well underway and to have the support of Snow+Rock in the lead up to and during the games is key given our reliance upon our commercial partners in order to create the best environment for our athletes to thrive.

“The importance of quality of equipment is critical to athlete performance and we look forward to combining sport science with the expertise of Snow+Rock to deliver innovative initiatives and fitting expertise for the athletes.”

MONDAY 3rd FEBRUARY
MIKAELA SHIFFRIN’S FATHER DIES UNEXPECTEDLY

The 24-year-old US ski racer is in mourning after her father, Jeff Shiffrin, died unexpectedly at the age of 65 at the weekend.

The overall World Cup leader posted the news on her social media accounts.

“My family is heartbroken beyond comprehension about the unexpected passing of my kindhearted, loving, caring, patient, wonderful father,” she said.

She has asked for privacy for her family “as we grieve during this unimaginable and devastating time”.

See more in our separate article:

SATURDAY 1st FEBRUARY
SAALBACH TO HOST CHINESE WORLD CUP SKI RACES CANCELLED BY CORONAVIRUS

The races were called off as we reported in last month’s News In Brief.

Scheduled for 15th and 16th February, they would have been the first World Cup alpine events ever to be held in China.

“It is with great regret that all of the stakeholders are obliged to take the difficult decision to cancel the World Cup races in Yanqing this season, as the historic first FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in China and the first official Beijing 2022 Test Event,” said FIS President Gian Franco Kasper.

“Although the risk level in Yanqing is low, the health and welfare of the athletes and all participants must take priority.”

The Men’s Downhill Race will now take place in the Austrian resort on February 13th and  the Men’s Super-G on February 14th 2020.

Saalbach has done it before.

December 2018 was the last time they provided a replacement location for the cancelled races from Val d’Isere and Sölden.

The biggest issue will be finding accommodation for the 1,000 people that need to be lodged in the area during peak season.

“Organising a major event during the peak travel season is a massive challenge, the last days’ snowfall led to additional bookings. With a more than 97% occupancy in Saalbach, there aren’t many rooms left available to book in the teams” said Wolfgang Breitfuß, Director of the local Tourist Board.

“We asked for support in the surrounding regions and will now be able to solve the problem with some realistic compromises.”

Slalom ski racer passing a red post with Saalbnach branded on a red banner, with a bright blue sky as a backdrop

Saalbach steps in

OLYMPIC SNOWBOARDER GETS SUSPENDED PRISON SENTENCE FOR CANNABIS SMUGGLING

The Japanese rider, Kazuhiro Kokubo, was found guilty for smuggling cannabis from the United States.

He was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for four years.

Kokubo competed in men’s halfpipe at the 2006 Turin and 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, coming 23rd and eighth respectively.

Kazuhiro Kokubo looks straight at the camera with ski goggles round his neck, set against a cloudy backdrop

Kazuhiro Kokubo

A Tokyo Court found the 31-year-old conspired with a male acquaintance who was  already found guilty, to smuggle around 57 grams of a cannabis product in December 2018.

The pair used an Express Mail Service to Tokyo that arrived at Narita airport.

“It’s regrettable you committed the crime despite boasting such achievements in snowboarding,”  said Judge Chikako Murata.

“I want you to discipline yourself from now.”

Kokubo admitted to the charge during his first trial on 8th January, when he confessed he first used cannabis when aged 14 and felt apologetic for causing trouble to those around him.

He promised not to use drugs again.

ZERMATT TO USE BITCOINS

The Swiss ski resort is now accepting tax receipts in Bitcoin.

The town’s 5,400 residents will be able to settle bills for taxes and other government services such as work permits using the crypto currency.

Payments can be made via a tablet computer from a broker who converts the digital currency into Francs and transfers the amount to the municipality.

The idea for payments in Bitcoin came from the canton of Zug, a hotspot for blockchain firms in Switzerland dubbed “crypto valley.”

That municipality started accepting them in 2016.

The iconic image of the Matterhorn wih a dusting of snow on two faces of the triangular mountain, wispy clouds in a dusty blue sky

Zermatt goes crypto

COYOTE ATTACKS SKIER IN USA

A 43-year-old woman was bitten by a coyote Tuesday while cross-country skiing in the Yosemite National Park.

The unidentified woman was skiing on Grand Loop Road near South Rim Drive when she was attacked.

She was treated for puncture wounds and lacerations to her head and arm.

The coyote was located and killed and will be tested for rabies.

“Encounters like these are rare, but they can happen,” park biologist Doug Smith said. “We suspect this coyote may have been starving due to having porcupine quills in its lower jaw and inside its mouth. Its young age likely led to its poor condition and irregular behavior.”

 

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