Two national championships in the same season? Perhaps it’s a fitting way to close out an unconventional season.
After the 2020 U.S. nationals were canceled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the series was rescheduled at Copper Mountain in the fall as the opening races of the 2020-21 season. But many who claimed national titles at those races will sit out the 2021 series, opening the door for many athletes to chase their national title dreams. After a busy and complicated season in the World Cup and domestic FIS racing circuit, U.S. nationals will return to Aspen Highlands April 5 for 12 days of racing across five disciplines for the 2021 U.S. Alpine Championships.
The 2020 nationals at Copper was packed full of U.S. Ski Team athletes from A Team to D Team, across tech and speed events. As the first races of the season, many up-and-coming U.S. Ski Team members and independents rose to the occasion. Breezy Johnson and Alice McKennis Duran took the speed titles in downhill and super G, respectively, opening up Johnson’s career-best season with multiple downhill World Cup podiums. McKennis Duran joins teammate Ryan Cochran Siegle, the 2020 super G national champion, on the list of recovering U.S. Ski Team members not in attendance at the Aspen races. The men’s German national team also made an appearance at Copper, taking the win in the downhill. Jared Goldberg was the top American.
The tech titles were swept by the young guns from the U.S. team, including AJ Hurt taking the slalom title before heading into her career-best season, scoring World Cup points across four disciplines and taking third place at the world juniors slalom in Bankso, Bulgaria. Luke Winters took the men’s slalom title ahead of teammate Jett Seymour and independent Alex Leever, who ended up gaining his first World Cup starts this year. Katie Hensien and River Radamus took the GS titles.
This go-around, three national champions will sit out and surrender their titles, including Johnson, who like many other A team members will forgo nationals to recover, train, test gear, and work with sponsors after a long season. Others will choose to sit out the race after a history of injuries at nationals, such as Laurenne Ross’s brutal crash in the 2017 that ended her season with a knee injury. Mikaela Shiffrin, Paula Moltzan, and Travis Ganong are others who will not be on the start list in Aspen.
However, taking part will be Nina O’Brien, who was already in Europe when 2020 nationals went down. O’Brien had a stellar World Cup season in GS, although struggled to put two runs together in the biggest moments.
Middlebury’s Erik Arvidsson, a likely addition to next season U.S. Ski Team roster, is planning to race in Aspen. The college senior was an invitee with the men’s speed team this season and scored his first top-10 World Cup result.
Winters, Radamus, Seymour, Alex Leever, and Ben Ritchie will all return to the start list for the much-anticipated men’s slalom on Monday morning. Ritchie did not finish the slalom at 2020 nationals but did go on to win the world juniors slalom in Bansko. Leever, who kicked off the season with a podium finish at 2020 nationals, used the result as a springboard into a breakthrough season, including his first World Cup points.
Aspen was originally set to host the 2021 NorAm Cup finals from April 5-16, though COVID-19 and travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada forced the removal of the event from the schedule. Aspen was quick to step up, expressing interest in hosting the U.S. Alpine Championships.
“Despite no shortage of challenges this season, our teams are meeting them head-on, and nationals caps off our biggest event year ever, thanks to amazing venues, comprehensive safety protocols, and a deep appreciation for athletic achievement,” says John Rigney, senior vice president, Aspen Snowmass. “Aspen and its alpine racing community are thrilled to give Team USA athletes the opportunity to compete for a National Championship this year at Aspen Highlands.”
The 2021 U.S. Alpine Championships will take place on Monday after Highlands has closed for public skiing this season. The event will include men’s and women’s downhill, super-G, giant slalom, and alpine combined.
2021 U.S. Alpine Championships at Aspen – Event Schedule
- Monday, April 5, Slalom National Championships, Men
- Tuesday, April 6, Giant Slalom National Championships, Men
- Wednesday, April 7, Super-G/Alpine Combined National Championships, Men
- Friday, April 9, Downhill Training, Men/Women
- Saturday, April 10, Downhill Training, Men/Women
- Sunday, April 11, Downhill National Championships, Men/Women
- Tuesday, April 13, Super-G/Alpine Combined National Championships, Women
- Thursday, April 15, Giant Slalom National Championships, Women
- Friday, April 16, Slalom National Championships, Women