AJ Ginnis outduels David Chodounsky for World Pro Ski Tour win in Snowmass
Even if they just put up a few gates on the backyard hill, there will need to be a rubber match between A.J. Ginnis and David Chodounsky.
It all came down to the U.S. Ski Team duo on Saturday in the finals of the Rocky Mountain Pro Ski Classic at Snowmass, the second of three stops on the World Pro Ski Tour this winter. The two also met in the finals at Sunday River last year, Chodounsky sneaking away with the win.
The rematch didn't quite go his way.
"He got me this year. He's such a fast skier. It was a lot of fun just competing against each other," Chodounsky said. "The last round I made a mistake on the blue course. It definitely cost me that match. I held it together the second run there but I couldn't make up what I lost there. But no, I'm happy. Second place is sweet."
Chodounsky, a Minnesota native who moved to Crested Butte when he was 11, is a veteran member of the U.S. Ski Team and a two-time Olympian. The 33-year-old was the top American in last month's Olympic slalom in South Korea, placing 18th.
Ginnis, the 23-year-old native of Greece, said he's long looked up to Chodounsky.
"Dave is one of the guys I idolized growing up and when I made the (U.S. Ski Team) he literally took me under his wing and taught me the ropes," Ginnis said. "Last year he got me and I got him back this year. It's a great rivalry I guess."
The World Pro Ski Tour is built off the roots of World Pro Skiing, which Aspen's own Bob Beattie helped launch in 1969, and the U.S. Pro Ski Tour, which folded in 1998. Last year, Craig Marshall and a team that included organizers of those past tours launched the World Pro Ski Tour with that single event in Sunday River, Maine, won by Chodounsky.
It returned in 2018 with three events, the first of which was the White Mountain Dual Challenge on Feb. 10 in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, won by now three-time Olympian Nolan Kasper. Saturday's stop in Snowmass was its first foray into the American West.
"We were a little worried this morning. It was cloudy and grey and the weather was looking a little ominous, but in the end it was a perfect Colorado day," Marshall said after Saturday's races. "The snow was definitely a little soft and challenging the guys, but in the end it made it a lot more interesting. I think we had some really good matchups — some really close races. It's just another great event and Snowmass was an awesome host."
The dual slalom format of the World Pro Ski Tour had its heyday in the '70s and '80s, but there is hope of bringing it back to its former glory. Instead of racing the clock, skiers go head-to-head on parallel courses, with the winner being the first one to the bottom. The finals at Snowmass featured a 32-skier bracket, with each head-to-head matchup having two runs down the track, located on the Blue Grouse trail near the Spider Sabich race venue. Skiers were seeded based off Friday's qualifying.
"We talk a lot of smack with each other, so it's pretty cool to go head-to-head with each other," Ginnis jested. "When you are racing against the clock you have a game plan. You got to stick to it because you don't know what's going on. But in head-to-head if the guy next to you makes a mistake you kind of adapt and see what's going on."
Ginnis, who now calls Waitsfield, Vermont, home, made the most of his two runs in finals to take home the $10,000 check awarded first place. Minnesota's Michael Ankeny beat Slovakia's Andreas Zampa in the small final for third place. Zampa knocked out Kasper, one of the pre-race favorites, in the round of eight.
Ankeny entered the day as the top seed after recording the fastest time in qualifying, while Kasper was second, Chodounsky was third and Ginnis was fourth.
The final race of the World Pro Ski Tour season will be March 29-31 at Sunday River. Ginnis said he'll for sure compete — he's going to school at nearby Dartmouth — while Chodounsky said he'll have to wait and see how his schedule plays out. Whether the rubber match happens in Maine or elsewhere remains to be seen.
"I'm going to try and make him come, absolutely," Ginnis said with a laugh. "We need a rubber match."
While the organization is based on the East Coast, Marshall said he fully intends to have the World Pro Ski Tour back in Colorado, and possibly Snowmass, in 2019. For the athletes, it's something they hope will continue to grow as it provides them a different avenue to compete in outside of the more mainstream World Cup and Nor-Am races.
"I'd love to see more races over here in the West," Chodounsky said. "I think we can get a good crowd. It's great weather. It would be really cool if it gained some traction and people started getting a little more interested. It's just starting up. It's just going to take a little time before it gets going."