Following two exciting days of women’s NorAm slalom at the new tech venue at Copper Mountain, Colorado, it was the men’s turn to take on the steeps and kick off their season-long quest for NorAm titles and World Cup start spots.
With snowy skies and hard snow greeting the fastest up-and-coming racers in north America, the stage was set as racing action kicked off on Thursday with American AJ Ginnis humbling the field in his first race back from injury.
Ginnis relied on a commanding second-run performance to take the win by a massive 1.62 seconds over fellow GMVS graduate Sandy Vietze. Norway’s Bjoern Brudevoll finished in third place, 1.63 seconds back. First run leader, Redneck Racing’s Tucker Marshall, was unable to hang on for a podium spot in the second run and finished sixth overall. The U.S. Ski Team’s Ben Ritchie was the fastest junior racer, finishing in fourth.
“It meant a lot,” Ginnis said of his performance. “I had surgery last September and had basically my entire knee repaired — two ligaments and my entire meniscus was pulled off the bone — so I’m just super happy to be able to compete and to come back in such a fashion is just incredible. I couldn’t have pictured it better.”
Ginnis suffered a devastating knee injury during pre-season training in New Zealand last summer and sat out the entire 2018-19 winter in hopes of returning to competition healthy and fast. Ginnis was dropped from the U.S. Ski Team in the spring of 2018 and now is a full-time student-athlete at Dartmouth College and will compete in his first season of NCAA racing this winter.
Ginnis’ performance was made all the more impressive given the fact that his time on snow has been minimal, with only about a month of skiing under his belt since his injury.
“I skied in June for a week … but still had some lingering injuries and got a second surgery to clean those up so I’ve been on snow for about three weeks now,” he added. “Coming back was kind of a last minute put together thing and I’m just glad it panned out.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Ginnis says that he does not have any concrete goals he looks to accomplish but is keeping his options open incase his fast skiing continues and he get the opportunity to start in World Cup slaloms later this season.
Day two’s racing saw Canadian newcomer Asher Jordan take the surprise win. Jordan came all the way from bib 33 to finish fifth in Thursday’s race and found himself wearing bib one on Friday. The 19-year-old Vancouver native took full advantage of his early start and laid down the fastest time in run one and powered his way to his first NorAm victory by 0.88 seconds over German World Cup winner Stefan Luitz. Vietze landed on his second podium in as many days in third, 0.92 seconds off of Jordan’s pace. Jordan was also the fastest junior on Friday. Ginnis and Ritchie did not finish their first runs.
“I was just thinking top 15 to build off of last year,” Jordan said of his goals heading into the series. “These races completely exceeded my expectations.”
Jordan’s victory on Friday illustrates what makes NorAm racing so special to North American athletes. Every year, it seems, a young athlete comes out of the woodwork to shake things up at the top of the field. Jordan was a member of the Canadian Development Team last season but now skis for BC Alpine after budget struggles within Alpine Canada forced them to slim their rosters this winter.
“It feels good,” he continued. “I wasn’t really sure coming into these couple races, I had some really good pre-season training but I didn’t really change much. I just kind of went with it and came out pretty successful so I’m happy. I think it’s a great start to the season and great lead going into Nakiska. Definitely a career weekend, I’m pretty stoked.”
Asher also now leads the NorAm slalom standings with 145 points and will wear the red leader’s bib at the next slalom races in Nakiska, Canada, next month.
With his back-to-back podiums to kick off the NorAm season, Vietze is also looking to be a tough challenger to Ginnis and Jordan at the top of the slalom field. Vietze sits only five points behind Jordan in the slalom standings and has years of experience at the NorAm level working in his favor. A University of Vermont graduate and current member of Redneck Racing and an athlete mentor at his high school alma mater, GMVS, Vietze has his sights set on World Cup starts in the future, a real possibility given his form in Copper.
“I was consistent but the speed’s not quite there yet so I just have to go home to Vermont and figure some stuff out and hopefully I can come back with a little more speed for the next ones,” Vietze said. “I just want to keep skiing solid and fast and hopefully come away with a World Cup spot for next year through the NorAms and maybe even get some World Cup starts, we’ll see though.”
At the conclusion of the racing on Friday there was one thing that the entire field could agree on: Copper’s tech venue is the real deal. A sustained pitch rarely seen anywhere else in the world forced racers to ski tactfully and aggressive if they were to walk away with a strong result. Some racers did, many others, however, went back to the drawing board.
“I think the hill is great,” added Vietze. “Definitely one of the better, if not the best NorAm hill that I’ve skied on. It’s great that now we have a speed center and a tech center here at Copper, we don’t really need to go anywhere else in the month of November.”
The men’s NorAm season now heads to Lake Louise, Canada, for downhill and super-G races December 9-13, followed by slalom, GS, super-G, and combined racing in Nakiska December 16-20.
November 21st Men’s Slalom
- AJ Ginnis (USA) – 1:43.79
- Sandy Vietze (USA) – +1.62
- Bjoern Brudevoll (NOR) – +1.63
- Benjamin Ritchie (USA) – +1.84
- Asher Jordan (CAN) – +1.91
For complete results, click here.
November 22nd Men’s Slalom
- Asher Jordan (CAN) – 1:42.59
- Stefan Luitz (GER) – +0.88
- Sandy Vietze (USA) – +0.92
- Bjoern Brudevoll (NOR) – +0.93
- Alexander Schmid (GER) – +1.14
For complete results, click here.