U.S. Alpine Championships set in Alaska

Summit Daily StaffAspen, CO Colorado
Erik Johnson skis by a gate on the men's downhill course at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska, during a training run at the U.S. Alpine Championships on Wednesday, March 28, 2007. (AP Photo/Al Grillo)

GIRDWOOD, Alaska – The calendar may say spring, but the race course at Alyeska Resort is in mid-winter condition as the U.S. Alpine Championships get under way at the resort for the second time in four years. New champions will be crowned in at least two events.Bode Miller, with eight, is one national championship behind two skiers (former Aspenite Dick Durrance and Tiger Shaw) for the men’s record, while Olympic champion Ted Ligety has won two gold medals at each of the last two U.S. championships. Among the women, Olympic giant slalom gold medalist Julia Mancuso comes in with a streak of 15 podium appearances in the last 16 U.S. championships races, and has won seven titles.The championships open Friday with the downhill following an FIS downhill on Thursday.Steven Nyman, who had a breakthrough World Cup season – including his first podium and then his first victory (in downhill in Val Gardena, Italy) – is after his third downhill championship.”There’s so much snow. It feels like winter. We can go ski and have fun,” Nyman said. “The downhill course is awesome. It’s a good downhill – big jumps, good terrain, demanding technical sections. It will be a good race.”Recent snows have pumped up the snowpack at Alyeska, and snow depths at mid-mountain and the summit are just under 10 feet, with more than four feet at the base of the mountain.The championships bring together the top skiers in the nation, most of them just back from the World Cup season in Europe, as well as aspiring World Cup and Olympic alpine racers from across the country. Some come into the championships after racing at the Canadian nationals in Whistler, B.C., over the past week.The championships are “a big step, a rite of passage for skiers who want to be on the national team,” said Phil McNichol, head coach for the men. “We don’t get to see these development-level skiers very much, so they can make a strong impression on the national coaches, men and women, by what they do here.”THE RACE SCHEDULEFriday – men’s and women’s downhillSaturday – men’s and women’s super GSunday – men’s and women’s slalomMonday – women’s giant slalomTuesday – men’s giant slalom