The 2020 U.S. Alpine Championships came to a close this weekend with women’s and men’s slalom on Saturday and Sunday. The the weeklong series, which was rescheduled from the spring, wrapped up with AJ Hurt and Luke Winters skiing away with national titles.
The women’s race was quite the battle with GS national champ Katie Hensien taking the lead after first run, just 0.04 ahead of teammate Hurt and with Keely Cashman not far behind. Second run, it was Hurt who captured the fastest time, moving her into the lead. Cashman closed the gap and moved into second, but ultimately, it was Hurt who took the win with teammates Cashman and Hensien on the podium.
“It felt really good to get back on slalom skis,” said Hurt. “I haven’t felt solid in slalom in a while so that was a great feeling.”
Saturday’s conditions were cold and clear in Colorado. Both course sets required skiers to keep up with their tempo as the terrain changed between flat and steep. Various snow conditions and maxed out distance between the gates meant the ladies had to create speed the entire way down the course. While the hill was less technical, the course sets were open and fast.
“I’m so grateful that we were able to get all the races off this week,” said Hurt. “It’s been nice to get back into racing after such a long break.”
U.S. Alpine National Championship – Women’s Slalom – Nov. 21, 2020
Men’s slalom Sunday
With the slalom course moved to the top of the speed venue, the men also had fast, open course sets with 12 meters between gates. Grippy snow opened the top flats of the course before a short pitch of slick ice. The final flats of the course were typical Colorado snow.
Winters was also grateful to get the final slalom race off, despite lack of course difficulty.
“There is some inconsistency in the snow and lack of difficulty in the hill,” said Winters. “Ultimately it’s just good to be racing again.”
Benjamin Ritchie of the U.S. Ski Team was leading the first run by 0.71 seconds over Alex Leever, of Team America, and Winters. Ritchie went out the second run and gave room for both Winters and his teammate Jett Seymour to move up. While Seymour captured the fastest time on the second run, Winters had a large enough lead to take the win by 0.49 seconds. Seymour and Leever rounded out the podium in second and third.
“I was really happy with today,” said Leever. “It was my first podium at a national championship. Two years ago I finished third in the parallel slalom, but this was my first time podiuming in a traditional event, so I was really happy with that. I was really pleased to be really competitive and right in there with the World Cup team.”
Ritchie, Seymour, and Winters have spent the last few months training together. While this year they haven’t had a lot of training with any other World Cup teams, the men are skiing fast against one another and have been producing close times during training.
“My teammate, Ben, crushed me on the first run but went out the second run, so I ended up with the win,” said Winters. “We are all skiing well against each other right now, but you don’t really know until we ski against those other World Cup guys. I think it will be fun to watch, we definitely have the speed.”
The conclusion of Sunday’s race wrapped up the 2020 U.S. Alpine Championships. The U.S. Ski Team will depart Copper Mountain to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with their families before leaving for Europe the first week of December.
U.S. Alpine National Championship – Men’s Slalom – Nov. 22, 2020