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Athletes who’ll be making the headlines heading into PyeongChang 2018

Ten athletes and two teenage talents have been named on the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Ones to Watch list for the upcoming Para Nordic skiing season, which will include the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games next March.

Selected by World Para Nordic Skiing, the Ones to Watch athletes are individuals who have the potential to make headlines, especially at PyeongChang 2018.

The list includes a mix of Nordic skiers who won Paralympic and World Championships medals, were prolific on the World Cup circuit, and are also strong spokespersons for the sport.

Ones to Watch for other winter sports, including Para ice hockey and wheelchair curling, will be announced in the coming weeks.

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His misguided immigration and climate-change policies are worse than January rain

This is not the beginning of a partisan smear campaign like the seminal “CHENEY SKIS IN JEANS” bumper stickers popular in Jackson Hole in the early aughts. Once upon a time, years before President Donald Trump subscribed to the human-body-as-depletable-battery school of exercise avoidance, he was a skier. His children fondly remember racing dear old dad to the bottom.* Years later, they told an interviewer that Father Trump would shove them over if they attempted to pass.

No, what follows are just the facts: Trump is a clear and present danger to skiing as an industry. His bombastic speeches and immigration policies are worse than January rain when it comes to the dollars and cents and powder days that support the sport.

In a Wall Street Journal essay last month, Aspen Ski Co. President and CEO Mike Kaplan blamed the “xenophobia radiating from the Oval Office” for the dip in Mexican tourism the resort saw last year. Visits by this demographic—a core market for all the major Colorado ski resorts—fell by 30 percent. Think about it: If Mexico’s president called you a rapist and a drug dealer and said he was going to build a wall and make you pay for it, would you book a trip to Cancun?

In response to that tourism falloff and the Trump-propagated national intolerance, Aspen—which has hosted Gay Ski Week and the National Brotherhood of Skiers for years—has launched an ad campaign for the resort built around the slogan, “Love, Respect, Unity, and Commit.” The idea came from an earlier essay Kaplan penned for the Aspen Daily Timestitled “We’re Still Here,” where he spoke for the reasonable folks in the ski town who care about things like, you know, the international community and the environment.

It’s not just tourism dollars that have taken a hit: resorts risk losing employees, too. A few weeks before Kaplan’s Wall Street Jounal op-ed, sources reported that Trump was considering axing J-1 visas—a program that allows students from all over the world to work U.S. ski area jobs in the name of cultural exchange.

You might cry, “But wait, Americans should take those jobs!” Problem is, far fewer American college students with dreams of ski-bumming now take the time off from school. And with unemployment rates hovering just above 2 percent in destination ski towns, there aren’t enough warm bodies to bump heated chairs, flip grass-finished burgers, park the college kids’ Audis, and scrub the foie gras from the mountaintop toilets.

Losing the J-1 visas would be a raw deal for the ski resorts. According to the Alliance for International Exchange, over 70,000 J-1 visa holders added $509 million to the U.S. economy in 2016. “It would be worse than the drought,” Andy Wirth, the president and COO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, told the Denver Post, equating the loss in workers to the three low snow years that nearly ruined California skiing. “We cannot, as an industry, have Trump sign that two months before we open.”

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If there’s enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide. Such was the case last week, when this avalanche hit in southwest Montana. Photo: Casey Grote

Recently, ski towns and communities across the West were rejoicing at the most beautiful September sight: the first (ROCK!) snowfall of the year. From the Sierra to the Wasatch, and from Aspen to Big Sky, skiers reveled in (ROCK!) the indication that the heat and crowds of summer will soon be replaced by (ROCK!) plundering (ROCK!) powder with their friends.

Mount Bachelor, Oregon, even opened (ROCK!), providing access to a walk-in (ROCK!) jib park. Others hiked for their (ROCK!) (ROCK!) (ROCK!) turns, and dropped the obligatory (ROCK!) social media post.

Utah’s Wasatch received 10 to 20 inches of (ROCK!) snow, with Snowbird even being featured on Good Morning (ROCK!) America. The new snow certainly gets everyone excited, but it’s also a good time to reflect on what it means for those getting their early season turns (ROCK!), as well as the winter snowpack ahead (ROCK!).

After the mountains of southwest Montana received 10 inches of snow late last month, with three to five inches of water content (i.e. heavy AF), the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center stressed a familiar, if slightly unseasonal, reminder: “If there’s enough snow to ride, there’s enough snow to slide.”

Doug Chabot, director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center in Bozeman, advises people to take the same precautions now as they would in the middle of the winter. “They need to bring the same gear, and use proper traveling protocol,” he said Wednesday. “It happens every year: It doesn’t feel like winter and the snow is not very deep, so we take short cuts. No beacon, no air bag, no helmet. But all the same rules still apply.”

“Right now, we’re mostly concerned about injuries,” he added. “Run-out zones will have rocks, or be super thin. And if you’re not careful, you’ll ruin your season.”

The new snow also foreshadows danger ahead. This early snow that fell in the high country will soon be buried by more snow, which Chabot said typically becomes a bad layer of instability during the meat of the ski season. “Even though it’s going to get warm again, snow will remain at high elevations and north faces,” he said. “Not always, but typically, that snow will become a problem later in the winter. It’s going to become a weak layer.”

“Every year, we will start to see human triggered avalanches getting people hurt long before any of the ski areas are open. It happens every year,” said Chabot.

Drew Hardesty, avalanche forecaster for the Utah Avalanche Center, echoed those sentiments via email: “If we expect the September snows to remain in the high northerlies, those approaching the BC with last year’s mindset may be in for a surprise,” he wrote. “In many areas (last season), fatalities were well below average, especially in Utah. Trauma, of course, plays a huge role in early season avalanche accidents. Low-angle meadow skipping in the grass seems to be the ticket.”

2017 season avalanche safety
It pays to be high, especially in September. At Silverton, Colorado, the highest ski area in the country, local patrollers found quality turns, on September 24, 2017. The ski area is scheduled to open in early December. Photo: Courtesy Silverton Mountain

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Afiniti ski group getting dropped off in the Karakoram mountains by a PAF Mi-17 helicopter in the Karakoram mountain range, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, on Feb. 15, 2016.

  • AI firm Afiniti employs three-quarter of employees in Pakistan
  • Company may list next year with more than $2 billion valuation

In the northern snow-capped peaks of Pakistan, Zia Chishti disembarked off a helicopter and skied downhill on a mission to convince investors, clients and company executives that the nation once called by The Economist “the world’s most dangerous place” is now safe for business.

Chishti, who grew up in Lahore, gathered a group from more than a dozen countries including Alessandro Benetton, a heir to the billionaire family that owns the iconic namesake Italian clothing company, and Huawei Technologies Co. rotating Chief Executive Officer Guo Ping earlier this year to Pakistan, the back-end base for some of his TRG Holdings businesses. Last month, his artificial intelligence company signed a deal with Huawei, which will help its push into Eastern markets including China, Japan and Australia.

For Chishti, ensuring his clients understand that Pakistan, which has struggled against internal militant groups, has changed since The Economist report a decade ago is critical because many of his employees who provide customer solutions, sales support and marketing to clients including Sprint Corp. and Caesars Entertainment Corp. are based in the South Asian nation. Chishti has added more people in Pakistan, a move that will also help him keep costs under control as his AI unit prepares for an initial public offering in the U.S.

“Pakistan by any reasonable and adaptive measure is an extremely safe place to do business,” said Chishti, whose office oversees the White House, said in an interview by phone. “All in all it’s a very favorable place to do business and the world perception just has to catch up.”

Despite a widespread negative perception over the country’s security record, multiple military operations have curbed domestic insurgents after a Pakistani Taliban massacre at a school three years ago shocked the nation. Last year, civilian deaths from terrorism dropped to the lowest in more than a decade.

The army’s drive has boosted the confidence of companies, including TRG, and foreign investment is up 155 percent to $457 million in the first two months of the business year started July. Chishti’s TRG, with investments in more than a dozen companies related to outsourcing, has moved into a larger building this year that will fit 3,000 staff in the previously tumultuous port city of Karachi, which has been secured by paramilitary forces against gangsters, militants and political militias since 2013.

An Afiniti ski group skis in the Karakoram mountain range.

Photographer: James Ahmed/Afiniti

Pakistan’s global competitiveness ranking has improved in the past two years, moving above the bottom 20 countries, according to a World Economic Forum report released this week. Crime and theft had the biggest drop in problematic factors for doing business this year along with poor work ethic of labor force.

Chishti latest focus is artificial intelligence company Afiniti that enhances call flows at contact centers. It uses data and artificial intelligence to predict the behavior of individuals and agents before pairing them, rather than connecting callers to the first available agent.

Clients include Vodafone Group Plc, Sky Plc and T-Mobile US Inc. for the company that employs three quarter of its 1,000 staff in Pakistan. Chishti’s TRG holds about half of the company ownership.

The company is planning to list on the Nasdaq Composite Index with a valuation above $2 billion next year, according to person familiar with matter, giving it potential to have one of the largest enterprise software IPOs in recent years.

Artificial intelligence is finding its way into businesses from hedge funds, law firms to beer makers and companies including Microsoft Corp. and Google’s Alphabet Inc. are investing in artificial intelligence driven by a belief that the technology can remake entire sectors of the economy.

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Doug Palladini, the current Global Brand President of Vans, past editor of SNOWBOARDER Magazine. p: Trevor Graves

A comprehensive retrospective from the former Editors of SNOWBOARDER Magazine, originally published in the 30th Anniversary Issue of SNOWBOARDER Magazine, pick up your copy now!

Words by Doug Palladini- Current Global Brand President of Vans

On my first day of work as Associate Editor for SNOWBOARDER Magazine in 1989 (I was the magazine’s first dedicated employee), I met Powder Magazine editor Casey Sheehan in the Las Vegas Hilton lobby as the SIA Show was about to begin. He was already late for a meeting. “Here’s your badge. I’ll see you at five for beers. Have a good day,” he said. Casey shoved my credential and a battered folder into my hands and quickly disappeared into the huddling trade show masses. This was all well and good, except that I had no idea whatsoever what I was doing.

Fresh from San Diego State’s School of Journalism, having ridden a snowboard once in my life up to that point, I was recklessly unprepared to assume any level of magazine stewardship, let alone the awesome responsibility of running the thing, soup to nuts. But ignorance was my ally on that day, and not knowing just how humorously overmatched I was for the task at hand, I steadied myself and marched into the convention hall. What I recall of those first few days was a humbling mix of derision from the staffs of existing snowboard magazines such as TransWorld Snowboarding and ISM, a powerful education from the likes of Tom Sims, Jake Burton and Chuck Barfoot (all of whom worked their own trade show stands), even more derision from pompous, douchey ski brands such as Lange and Rossignol, and an overwhelming sense of inspiration that I was on the burning fuse end of a business/sport/culture powder keg ready to explode.

Snowboarder's first employee, Doug Palladini. p: Trevor Graves

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A day skiing at the Yellowstone Club.

“Fresh powder is one of the rarest ­commodities in the world,” says Aaron Brill, co-owner of Silverton Mountain. There’s a reason you’ve never heard of the resort. The private ski club in southeastern Colorado limits access to 80 guests a day—unless someone buys out the mountain. First tracks after lunchtime? It’s an advantage that no name-brand resort can provide: not Aspen, not Vail, not St. Moritz.

All 1,819 of Silverton’s skiable acres can be yours for $14,000 per day. For an extra $900 you get a helicopter and 29,000 acres of sugary, backwoods pow. Reservations are available to the public and sell out months in advance, but guaranteed access goes to 25 “luminaries,” loyal patrons who have earned elite status. For that $14,000, they can bump day-pass holders when conditions are prime. (Skiers who’ve already booked on those days get fairly compensated to come back another day.)

Silverton is among a growing list of membership-based skiing clubs in the U.S. For the first time this year, Vermont’s Hermitage Club allows members to rent the ­194-acre mountain for a day; it costs $60,000 for you and your 99 closest friends. And Colorado’s Cimarron Mountain Club, which opened in September near Telluride, has just 15 memberships, which run a cool $3.2 million apiece. For that, you get a 35-acre slice of the property where you can build the ski home of your dreams, plus unlimited guided or snowcat skiing on 2,000 untouched acres.

“Private ski resorts are the new private jet,” says Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations, a Virtuoso Ltd. travel agency. “They give luxury travelers a ­hassle-free, line-free experience, so they can focus more attention on their family and travel partners.”

1999. Its 2,200 acres of groomed corduroy—plus private jet access at the Bozeman airport—are limited to owners of the 864 properties on the mountain. (They range from $3.15 million to $25 million—not including the $300,000 sign-up fee, $39,500 annual dues, and sub-association fees.) “It brought a level of exclusivity defined by a person’s ability to invest in real estate,” says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association. Though it’s not the new kid on the block, it’s certainly booming: last year, Yellowstone saw $700 million in annual real estate sales, compared to $500 million in 2015.

The lodge at the Yellowstone Club.
Photographer: Ryan Turner

And it’s not all about powder-­chasing. Hans Williamson, general manager of Yellowstone, says families love not having to worry about their kids on the slopes as they might in Aspen, where crowds make collisions more likely.

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SINGAPORE – I have never seen snow, and the prospect of falling headfirst into snow chills me.
So when I walked into Urban Ski at Millenia Walk, I was pleasantly surprised to realise that it was a comfortably cool environment, and no snow  was in sight.
Instead, the adjustable ski slope is covered with a layer of nylon carpet that is sprayed with water to mimic the smoothness of snow.
The slope at Urban Ski, which opened in July 2015, is essentially a giant treadmill that simulate a downhill motion.  I am told it’s easier and better to learn skiing indoors, as feedback can be given immediately.
For a start, I was given tips on how to stand and hold onto the bar in front of me, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for the sudden jerk when the slope began to move. Thank goodness I held on to the bar, tight.
In time, I recovered my composure, stayed on my feet and got the hang of skiing on the slope.
The tough part came at the snowboarding segment. Having both legs bound to a board made it extremely difficult to manoeuvre.
At the end of the 30-minute session, I felt like I had just done a full body workout, along with all the aches and pains.

 (Editor’s note: This post is part of our Dispatches Detours continuing series of travel stories about unconventional destinations accessible to Europe-based expatsTerry Boyd also contributed to this post, which has been updated with new information.)


For many American expats, and even Brits and Europeans, Eastern Europe is terra incognito.

cherveno_zname_ski_run1446545745But as Dispatches found out earlier this year, Bulgariaand other countries such as Romania have a lot to offer, especially to adventurous expat travelers in Europe broadening their horizons.

One thing is for certain: Southeastern European ski resorts are well worth checking out for 2017.

For example, Bulgaria offers some of the best skiing in Europe at resorts that are sophisticated yet affordable. And, because they’re so far south, Bulgarian mountains get significant moisture that guarantees snowfalls between sunny days.

For example, right Switzerland is pretty much snow-free as of early January. But starting 6 January, a blizzard swept through Bulgaria and Romania dumping up to 60 centimeters (2 feet) of fresh snow. Yet another reason to check out Bulgarian resorts in 2017.

The largest and most developed ski resorts in Bulgaria are Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo. The resorts draw skiers from all over Europe, but Brits seem to make up the largest single visitor category.

Bulgaria has some of Europe’s sunniest slopes, cheapest prices and friendliest locals.


Borovets is the oldest and biggest international mountain resort in Bulgaria. It’s located at 1,350 meters above sea level (with highest pistes at 2,600 meters), on the Northern slopes of Rila Mountain. The location is famous for the surrounding pine woods at the foot of Mt. Mousala (2,925 meters), the highest mountain on the Balkan peninsula.

Borovets is easily accessible to the main airport in Sofia, the capital and largest city, at about 70 kilometers, and 126 kilometers from second-city Plovdiv, which also has an airport.

From the Borovets website:

The total length of the ski pistes is 58 km. The ski runs vary in difficulty. The pistes are grouped in 3 ski centers: pistes of Sitnyakovo – Martinovi Baraki region; 4 pistes of Markudjik region and 3 pistes of Yastrebets region. The best ski slopes are those of Yastrebets ski center where all winter sports competitions take place.

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