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‘Ski to Survive’, U.S. Ski and Snowboard eyes F1 example to engage fans – Reuters

Oct 21 (Reuters) – Before taking over as president of U.S. Ski and Snowboard Sophie Goldschmidt was CEO of the World Surf League (WSL) and held leadership positions with the NBA, WTA and Rugby Football Union.

She brings lessons learned from those posts to her new job but it is Formula One that has Goldschmidt’s attention as a new Alpine World Cup ski season gets underway at the weekend on the glaciers above Soelden, Austria.

The U.S. will host a record eight World Cup races (alpine, snowboard, freestyle and freeski) this season but like Formula One Goldschmidt says there is room for more and hopes a return to glitzy Aspen for a men’s downhill in March can generate the same buzz F1 did when it put a race in Miami.

“We would like to see more (races),” Goldschmidt told Reuters. “Look at what F1 has done.

“Aspen is one of the most iconic locations in the world for skiing, who doesn’t want to go to Aspen?

“I’ve set our team a little bit of a task to try and have that do for us what the Miami Grand Prix did for F1.

“I could not believe the attention that event got in its first year it’s almost seemed bigger than the Super Bowl.

“I think Aspen can kind of turbo charge our sports and make the profile of our athletes the same way if we get it right.”

Moving from the surf to snow, Goldschmidt took over the duties at U.S. Ski and Snowboard near the height of the COVID-19 pandemic before the Beijing Olympics.

She has used the time since to evaluate U.S. Ski and Snowboard, identifying areas where things were operating well and others that could be improved.

At the top of that list is raising the profile of snow sports and U.S. athletes.

As part of that effort Goldschmidt said U.S. Ski and Snowboard will be taking another page from the Formula One playbook, looking into developing a project similar to Netflix’s hugely popular series “Drive to Survive” that has spiked interest in F1.

RITZY RESORTS

While with the WSL Goldschmidt worked on producing “Make or Break”, a behind-the-scenes look at the world’s top surfers that was released on Apple TV+, and believes the ritzy resorts, fearless athletes and colourful characters on the various World Cups have all the elements for a compelling series.

“Like it or not the danger side of sports draws fans to it, casual as well as hardcore, and the locations are as glamorous as you can get,” said Goldschmidt, adding that she is in discussion with a number of production companies.

“You look at the bravery comparing downhill racing to Formula One, I mean these athletes are going over 100mph down icy slopes with nothing around them.”

With over 25 million Americans hitting the slopes each year Goldschmidt believes there is an under-served market to tap into and believes new broadcast and streaming deals will engage that audience.

Last week U.S. Ski and Snowboard extended its partnership with NBC Sports which will deliver coverage of all domestic World Cup events.

Earlier in October, Goldschmidt announced a multi-year partnership with Outside Interactive to develop content and live stream all home competitions.

“It is more (Americans) ski and snowboarding than in the whole of Europe,” said Goldschmidt. “So building a relationship, becoming more relevant to them is a really important area.

“We are in an incredibly competitive sector and industry and if you are standing still you are going backwards in my view.”

If the sport is to see any significant growth in the U.S it will have to address a glaring lack of diversity within snow sports both at recreational and competitive level.

“There’s no silver bullet,” Goldschmidt said. “We’ve made some progress and still have a long way to go and we’re realistic about that.

“For business as well as performance reasons, as well as quite frankly it is the right thing to do.”

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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