The first technical races of the NorAm season are underway in Panorama. The men competed in two giant slaloms while the women raced two slaloms. Although the sky was clear, racers were forced to deal with low visibility at the bottom of the courses due to snowmaking.
Canadian Phil Brown, a regular on the World Cup circuit, won both giant slalom races in his first two NorAm finishes this season. On Wednesday, for the second time this season, a NorAm podium was overcrowded. Following Brown, Kieffer Christianson of the United States tied with William St. Germain of Canada, both 0.11 seconds off the pace. Austrian Dominic Demschar had the third fastest time of the day, 0.20 seconds back.
There was a 1.04 second drop off after the top four racers, where U.S. Ski Team member George Steffey found himself at the end of the day. The fifth place finish is the best giant slalom result Steffey has had in a NorAm, beating out a 28th-place finish in Mount St. Anne last season.
There were four other Americans in the top 10 on the first day. U.S. Ski Team members, Nick Krause, Sam Dupratt, Kipling Weisel and Erik Arvidson took sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th, respectively.
On the second day of giant slalom, Christianson was unable to take the top spot from Brown, coming in second place again, 0.28 seconds out. American Hig Roberts came in third.
Christianson said that racing in Panorama changes from year to year depending on where they start the course. This year, they began from the super-G start, which demanded athletes’ strength as they muscled their way to the end of the course, which lasted just under 90 seconds. Christianson embraced the challenge, though.
“I think it was definitely good for me and some of the older guys. It’s kind of nice when you have races that long because it kind of makes going to the gym worth it,” Christianson said. “I had some confidence rolling from the super-G, so I kind of went with it and I didn’t have to think about too much. I was able to put down four good runs,” he said.
The Canadian men’s development team was coming off of a very successful speed series between Lake Louise and Panorama. Brodie Seger and James Crawford combined for three podium finishes earlier in the week, but they could not seem to make the switch fluidly between speed and tech. Seger and Crawford finished 12th and 16th in the first GS. Once adjusted, they showed that they are contenders in the discipline as well. Crawford and Seger finished one after the other on the second day in fifth and sixth, 1.04 and 1.44 seconds behind the winner.
Canadian development team coach, John Kucera, said that the group of eight that they train with is a solid group and all of them are three to four discipline skiers, so although they were unable to find the top spot on Wednesday, any other race they can be the fastest among the competition.
Three Canadian women stood out among all others, sweeping the slalom podium both days. Erin Mielzynski won both races handily, dominating all four runs. This makes three Canadian-filled podiums in the Panorama NorAm series, the other coming in the alpine combined on Dec. 13.
Mielzynski, taking a break from her World Cup schedule, had command of the races from the start. On Wednesday, she outpaced the rest of the field by an incredible 1.29 seconds in the first run and only built on her lead in the second. Ali Nullmeyer and Amelia Smart finished in second and third, over two seconds off the lead when the day ended. On the second day, the podium was repeated. Nullmeyer was 2.15 seconds behind Mielzynski while Smart finished 4.42 seconds behind.
Laurence St. Germain, another Canadian and athlete at the University of Vermont, was in the field, getting her first NorAm result of the season. St. Germain is coming off of the World Cup as well to gain some confidence before heading back to Europe. She came in fifth on the first day, but decided to skip the second race due to some soreness in her knee.
St. Germain partially tore her meniscus while training in Chile, and she said she is just beginning to ski like herself again. Since there is a break in the World Cup slalom schedule, she decided to come back to her native country to continue competing.
“It was nice to have a second run for once,” St. Germain said. “It’s always good when you know you can improve and be in the top ten.”
She said that the race gave her some confidence before returning to Europe. St. Germain will compete in the slalom in Semmering, Austria later this month. The Canadian said that the identical podium shows how strong the women’s development team is right now. Although she noted that Mielzynski was supposed to win the race, Nullmeyer and Smart are very young and very fast.
Each gender has now competed in both speed events and a technical event. At this time, Christianson holds the top spot in the overall standings with 328 points followed by Crawford with 259 points and Krause with 258 points.
On the ladies’ side, Stefanie Fleckenstein holds first place with 381 points, followed still by Alice Merryweather of the U.S. Ski Team with 344 points. Nina O’Brien has now taken the third spot in the standings with two strong finished in the slalom, placing fifth and sixth.
The men and women swap disciplines for the last leg of the series, the men will compete in their first two slaloms while the women their first giant slalom races on Dec. 17-18.
Complete results can be found here.