High speeds rewarded with podium finishes
Two AVSC racers, Galena Wardle and Katy Harris, commandeered the podium Tuesday as the final downhill races in the FIS Surefoot Spring Series closed at Aspen Highlands.
Wardle, a Basalt native and AVSC alum who is a member of the elite National Training Group, won the two-run race with a combined time of 2:23.20.
Vail’s Lucia Bailey finished second ,and Harris was third in 2:25.00.
Teammate Dairinn Bowers was fifth and Pascale Augspurger 10th.
The course, which dropped 1,400 vertical feet in a little over a mile, started on the T-Lazy-7 Road above the Thunderbowl chair.
Rachael Desrochers, winner of the first women’s downhill, did not finish the two runs on Tuesday. Wardle was second in that race and Bailey third. AVSC finishers included Harris in fifth, Bowers in seventh and Augspurger in 11th place.
Independent skier Jeffrey Frisch was the men’s winner of both Highlands downhills, the final events of the six-day spring series that featured giant slalom, super-G and downhill races.
In Monday’s downhill, Frisch was fourth after the first run but laid down a smoking second run to post a combined time of 2:13.93 for the victory over U.S. Ski Team members Drew Duffy and Bryce Bennett.
The situation was flip-flopped in Tuesday’s downhill, when Frisch hung on for the win by virtue of a first run that provided him with more than one second of breathing room. Joining him on the podium were USST teammates Sam Dupratt and Bennett.
“I was really happy and positively surprised how the conditions held up on the second run,” said Frisch, who praised organizers for hosting a speed series so late in the season.
Prodigious snowmaking efforts last November and December on the Stapleton Alpine Training Center — 2 million gallons of water were pumped to create the deep base that has withstood weeks worth of balmy temperatures.
As the overall NorAm winner of the super G title, Frisch, the 30-year-old former member of the Canadian team (but a native of Italy who for years competed in those provincial races), is guaranteed World Cup starts next season.
AVSC alum Sky Kelsey, also an NTG member, was the fastest men’s U18 skier in both downhills. The rest of AVSC’s men’s team fought hard Tuesday on the home hill; Nick Mitchell, 14th and four seconds off the torrid pace, placed just ahead of teammates Brooks Layman and Bobby Moyer. Hayden Fake was 23rd.
In the first downhill the AVSC men finished in similar order: Mitchell 14th, Layman 16th, Moyer in 17th and Fake 21st.
The speed portion of the series kicked off Saturday with a pair of super-G races for men and women. The 18 -degree overnight temperatures provided a rock solid glaze for race number one.
USST member Breezy Johnson won both super-Gs, with AVSC’s Erin Spence just off the podium in fourth. Katy Harris was sixth, Wardle seventh and Hanna Mass finished 9th in the first race.
In the second super-G, Wardle tied for third, Spence took fifth, Harris sixth, Bowers eighth and Mass was 14th.
On the men’s side, Nick Cohee, in 10th, led a strong AVSC men’s team effort.
Bobby Moyer skied to 11th, Nick Mitchell 12th, Sky Kelsey 17th and Hayden Fake was 20th.
The series started on a positive note with Cohee’s impressive half-second victory in Thursday’s giant slalom against national team, foreign and competitive college racers. Notable in Friday’s GS race was a wicked fast second run by Bobby Moyer that moved him to 22nd overall.
Top downhill speeds for the international field, which also included skiers from Japan, Canada and Sweden, reached 78 mph between the Golden Horn and Thunderbowl sections, according to chief of race Pat Callahan.
This is the second year that Highlands and AVSC have hosted two-run downhills during April. The additional course length not only helps level the playing field with regard to wax and equipment but also provides a better chance for racers to lower the points that determine their seeding.
“A two-run downhill is unique,” said Sky Kelsey. “It’s a bit against the nature of the event. Historically, it’s one run, and you give it your best shot. Two runs take a bit of the edginess away. It adds more opportunity for precision.”
AVSC alum and USST member Wiley Maple did not compete in the speed events because of a nagging injury. But he was there during the series, cheering on teammates and fresh faces alike.
In the spirit of “all good things must come to an end,” the Loveland Derby, with more than 50 years of tradition, hosts the final slaloms for many of the competitors on April 11-12.
U16 Nationals at Sugarloaf
Setting their sights on the next rung of the ski racing ladder are a trio of AVSC U16 alpine skiers who have recently returned from their nationals in Sugarloaf, Maine.
Reports CJ Feehan of Ski Racing Magazine: “The top-performing U16 skiers from around the country converged on Narrow Gauge to test their skills on the same trail where their senior idols raced just days before.
“In the men’s super-G on Wednesday, Vail’s Colby Lange kicked off a two-day podium streak with his teammate (and Aspen native) Bridger Gile by taking the win as Gile finished second. Chauncey Morgan of GMVS and Aspen’s Dexter Edelman rounded out the podium in a tie for third.”
Cooper Cornelius of AVSC was fifth.
In the women’s super G, AVSC’s Isabella Johansson was 26th for her best race at nationals.
In the men’s GS, Dexter Edelman was 21st. Edelman and Cornelius finished sixth and seventh in Saturday’s slalom.
The U14 and younger alpine skiers raced April 4-5 in the GS Spectacular at Vail/Beaver Creek, but those results will be published later.
Snowboarders have given way to freeskiers at Copper Mountain as the 2015 USASA National Championships rage on. Before riders gave up the venue to skiers, AVSC athlete Chris Corning posted an event high 88.83 points to win the most competitive open class slopestyle competition.
For the freeskiers, early highlights of their week, which started April 4 with a gala opening including a Parade of Champions, include a third place finish by Cassidy Jarrell in the half pipe. Jarrell also won best trick.
AVSC athletes are competing in skiercross, halfpipe, slopestyle and rail jam just like their snowboarding brethren did the previous week at Copper.
Go to usasa.org for more information.
National champions representing, alpine skiing, freeskiing and Nordic are the featured guests on “Weekly with Walt,” today at 7 p.m. and continuing in rotation on GrassRoots TV are national champions from AVSC, Galena Wardle, Carson Campisi and Hailey Swirbul.
Women’s Nordic combined will not be in the Olympics in 2026, preventing the Winter Games from reaching gender equality. The International Olympic Committee elected to not add the sport to the schedule on Friday.
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