Confusing alpine course sets stage for exciting day of races |

Confusing alpine course sets stage for exciting day of races

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen hosted its first-ever high school alpine skiing race Saturday, and it was a memorable debut, to say the least.

Not only did the race break a Colorado high school record for number of competitors ” 271 ” the slalom courses were also the strangest many of the young racers had ever seen.

The boy’s course was tough, while the girl’s was downright confusing. Both ran side by side down Thunderbowl at Aspen Highlands.

Midway through the girl’s course, a steep knoll blindly dropped the racers into an odd and difficult series of gates. In short, most of the girls were confused by the course since they didn’t have the opportunity to run the course prior to the race. Forty-one girls missed the turn and were initially disqualified; race officials later overturned the disqualifications. Seven boys were disqualified.

“Whether it was right or wrong, the kids were not familiar with this type of course set,” said AHS head alpine coach Mike Flynn.

“There wasn’t a real rhythm to the course,” said Aspen’s Korrina Rantz, a Winter Park transplant who moved to Aspen two years ago to train with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.

“It was straight, then super turny ” a lot of girls were just confused,” she added.

But Rantz, a senior, avoided confusion and finished ninth overall with a time of 52.46 seconds, one place behind her teammate, freshman Christina VanMoorsel, who ran the course in 51.83 seconds.

With three of Aspen High’s top senior boy racers ” Packy Westfeldt, Lange Adams and Gillian Hearn ” absent, the door was open for the younger skiers. A trio of sophomores stole the show.

Paul Britvar led the way, finishing second overall with a time of 39.95 seconds. Sophomore Brandon Briscoe, 42.47 seconds, came in seventh, with Jackson Davis rounding out the top 10 with a time of 44.36 seconds.

Westfeldt, Lange, and Hearn were all competing in a race in Park City, Utah, over the weekend.

Summit High School set the standard in both fields, with Taggert Spenst winning the boy’s round in 38.69 seconds, and Katie Hartman taking the girl’s in 47.47 seconds.

Vail Mountain School’s Courtney Robinson, who was the first to run the course, held her lead of 49.87 seconds for most of the race, before Hartman, who ran 60th, shattered her time by over two seconds.

The top five girls were Hartman; Robinson; Lauren Arnold, from Battle Mountain; Sydney Ulmer, from Clear Creek High School; and Priska Sorrenson, from Steamboat Springs High School.

Spenst led the way in the boys field, followed by Britvar; Josh Stuhr, also from Summit; and Ryan Mowrey and Woolwine Spencer, from Middle Park High School.

Racers from 14 schools around the state made the trip to Aspen, and most were happy they did. After running the course, several racers spent the afternoon spinning laps in Highland Bowl, with one young visiting competitor remarking, “This place is amazing.”

And while the difficulty of the courses frustrated the racers, most did not dwell on the issue.

Jeff Green, a senior from Battle Mountain in Vail, blamed himself, not the course, after missing a gate and not finishing.

“I was carrying too much speed,” Green said. “[The course] might not be wrong, it’s just different.”

Ray Huff, who races for Evergreen High School, said he’ll always come back to Aspen to race, but he’ll be ready for a wild card.

“I’ll definitely remember this and be prepared for something different,” Huff said.

Several coaches protested the disqualifications ” before they were overturned ” but Steamboat High’s head coach, Chris Arnis, said it was nothing personal or out of the ordinary.

“It’s just ski racing, it’s all part of it,” he said. “You’ve got to have a law degree to figure it all out.

“Aspen’s a great venue.”

The high school alpine state championship will be held in Aspen next year, and Evergreen’s coach, Melissa Archey, expects the event to run a little smoother.

“This was a great trial run,” said Archey, who slept in the AHS gym with her team Thursday night to cut down on expenses.

“That’s a really nice place they’ve got,” she laughed.

Due to the record-breaking number of competitors, all racers took only one run, instead of the usual two. Official team standings in the race will not be available until later this week, Flynn said.

Aspen’s alpine team will travel to Winter Park Friday for their next race.


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