Pros edge out Steamboat Springs skiers for the Moose Barrows Trophy at WPST
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In his inaugural World Pro Ski Tour race, two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety worked his way to the semifinals. He stepped up to the gate next to the previous event winner, Robert Cone.
Ligety won the first dual slalom race, but to ensure the matchup was even, the two raced again but on opposite courses. Making up a small deficit, Cone edged out Ligety to move on to the final where he won his second straight race of the season and the Moose Barrows Trophy at Howelsen Hill Ski Area on Thursday.
“It was great to race against Ted, but he’s just a rookie,” Cone said with a chuckle. “We’ve done this. I’ve been doing this for a couple years now and this is my second start of the year. I’m getting confident up in the start. I definitely had a little bit of a hiccup in the finals, though.”
The hiccup was more of a stutter. Cone leaned against the metal gate a little too early, so when it did open, his weight was shifting back again, rather than forward. That allowed reigning World Pro Ski Tour champion Phil Brown to take the win in the first round of the finals. In the second round, Cone closed the small gap quickly, but won uncontested as Brown crashed and missed gates.
“I was just trying to stay focused and make it to the finish,” Cone said. “I didn’t know how bad he messed up, if he was out or not. I had to be balanced and make it to the bottom.”
To determine who got the third-place check, Ligety raced Garret Driller, another World Pro Ski Tour athlete who won the Murphy Roberts Holiday Classic at Howelsen ahead of the holidays.
Driller, who had been making improbable comebacks in round-two races all night, won over Ligety to take third.
“This is actually my first time skiing here at Howelsen Hill. It was fun,” Ligety said. “It’s not an easy hill, for sure. There’s a lot of twists and turns in terrain and fall away. It was an action-packed hill.”
Ligety, who regularly competes on the World Cup circuit, didn’t come in expecting the World Pro Ski Tour to be easy. He knew it would be a challenge and was impressed with the young talent he faced.
The round of 16 featured six Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club members. Trey Seymour, Hig Roberts, Michael Bansmer, Colton Sankey, Kyle Kagan and Chase Seymour all competed. Roberts had the privilege of racing alongside Ligety, while Chase Seymour found himself in the starting gates next to Brown, a Canadian Olympian.
“I would say it raises everybody up a little bit,” Seymour said. “Normally I wouldn’t be very close to them in any races, then when you’re kind of head-to-head to them, it gives it more of a race feel. When you’re actually going next to them, you can see where they’re carrying speed more than you, where you’re catching up, and you can fix that for the next run.”
Seymour and the other SSWSC athletes all fell in the round of 16, as the more seasoned slalom skiers advanced to the quarterfinals. Seymour said he learned a lot over the course of the evening, though, especially about the start gates, which he doesn’t encounter at his level of competition.
“They’re kind of tough,” Seymour said. “They’re metal gates, they open up on a timer, so if you go too early, you’ll just run into them. If you go too late, you’re gonna be behind. They told me the timing and how to rock back and forth.”
In his World Pro Ski Tour debut, Ligety also had to learn to manage the gates.
“It’s so much different than World Cup where you can kind of take your time when you want to get out of the start gate,” Ligety said. “You got to be on top of your game, not on your program, but on the course’s program. It’s definitely a different mental game in that respect.”
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