Two days of slalom carved out the last portion of the week in Nakiska. It was a superb two days for the North American Cup, where various athletes bested the field with some quick turns. Excitingly, both the men and the women were able to run both days of slalom after the cancellations of the giant slaloms. The Canadian and the U.S. athletes traded off the top of the podium for both the male and female overall standings. Amelia Smart (CAN), Katie Hensien (USA), Jeffery Read (CAN), and Benjamin Ritchie (USA) were the victorious athletes who struck gold for the slaloms. Several other outstanding athletes rounded out the podiums to make for a strong few days of racing. 

During the week-long series in Nakiska, all of the participants had to endure almost every kind of weather condition imaginable. From blue-bird skies, to extreme wind gusts, icy conditions, and 6 inches of snow, the athletes had to continuously adjust throughout each discipline. For the slaloms, the winds calmed down, which was a very positive change in weather condition. However, snow started to fall, which altered the way the slalom ran from the first day of the Alpine Combined.  

Lila Lapanja of the U.S. who finished with a fast 3rd and 5th place finish stated, “the race organizers pulled off a good race, especially on the second day of the slaloms after 6 inches of snow covered the track. Nakiska pretty much got every kind of weather.” 

Regardless of the weather conditions, the athletes persevered with aggression out of the start gate.

Katie Hensein, of the U.S. Ski Team, won the second day of slalom in Nakiska. Photo by Roger Carry

Day One, December 19th

On the first day, the women kicked off the morning with their eyes on the prize. The run where the slaloms were held was very flat, thus the athletes had to let their skis run and stay light on their feet. With the combined times, six USA women, three Canadians, and one Croatian landed themselves in the top-ten positions.

Amelia Smart laid down some very fast times for both runs of the day, with an overall time of 1:40.60. This time awarded her the top of the podium! Smart is ranked thirteenth in the world for FIS point standings in slalom. She shines in the discipline and continues to take home golds in the slaloms of the NorAm circuit.   

Racing into second, Andrea Komsic of Croatia finished 0.40 behind Smart. At the start of the season, Komsic had a third-place finish and a fourth-place finish at Copper Mountain for the NorAm slaloms. During those races, she was able to gain momentum and confidence, which ignited her skiing in Nakiska. 

In third place, Lila Lapanja of the United States crossed the finish line 1.27 behind the winner. This gave Lapanja her tenth top ten-finish for slalom in the NorAm circuit of 2019. During the first NorAm slaloms of this season in Copper Mountain, Lapanja was able to crush both days with two first-place finishes. 

She explained that the races in Copper were different from the races in Nakiska because, “the slope was very different, which required a lot of different tactics and commitments. Both had very different conditions to work with.” She also proceeded by stating, “There was only a short 5 gate pitch in Nakiska, which was kind of fun! But, overall the race was flat.” 

Lapanja looked into the rest of the season and stated, “I am looking forward to the rest of the season. I am going to be racing all of the disciplines. My tech and I call it “all of the slaloms.” Which means that if the race has slalom in the name I will be racing it.” 

For the first day of men’s slalom, the guys turned up the speed with some very quick feet. Leever explained the first day set as being, “extremely fast, probably the fastest slalom course I’ve ever skied.” This was very interesting in regard to the slope actually being predominantly flat. Nonetheless, the men took on this unique challenge to make for an awesome day of racing. 

Jeffery Read of Canada threw down on the first day of slalom with a sreamin’ overall time of 1:34.28, which was 0.20 in front of the field. After Read’s win in the Alpine Combined he explained, “I have not done a ton of slalom this year, so that was a bit of an unknown. I just wanted to ski clean and consistent.” His focus of clean and consistent were excellent tactics to narrow in on for the first day of slalom. 

Read also explained, “that the slalom has a lot of flat sections and the flats are my strong suit.” The flats are where Read knew he had an advantage and could confidentially execute. 

In second place, Sandy Vietze of the U.S. let his skis run and came across the finish line just 0.20 off of Read. Vietze is an eighteen-point slalom skier, which is where he ranks the highest out of the four disciplines. In Copper Mountain he was off to a great start for slalom this season. There he was able to stand on the podium twice with a third and second-place finish. This year he also had his first World Cup start in slalom, thus Vietze will continue to strive for podium finishes for the North American Cup. 

Skiing into third-place was U.S. athlete, Alex Leever. Leever found his speed and rhythm throughout the first day of the slaloms. He was able to fight through the “challenging conditions of the pitch,” to finish 0.36 behind Read. Slalom will continue to be Leever’s focus for the season. Nevertheless, he will strive to accomplish leader board finishes in giant- slalom as well. 

Leever explained that his goals for the season are to, “ski to my abilities and have fun! I’d love to win a NorAm title to guarantee a World Cup spot next year, but we have a lot of good skiers this year, so I know it will be tough. In addition, I want to finish on the podium in the season standings at the WPST; it is an amazing tour, which I’m stoked to be part of.”

American, Ben Ritchie, won the second day of slalom in Nakiska, while Jeffery Read and Asher Jordan were second and third respectively. Photo by Roger Carry

Day Two, December 20th

Teammates of The University of Denver Women’s Team attacked the second day of slalom and earned themselves all three podium positions. The women kicked out of the start gate with a new, fresh six inches of snow on the ground, which made for a challenging day on the hill. In spite of that, Katie Hensien reeved up two solid runs for a first-place finish. Hensien is a part of the Alpine C U.S. Team, as well as, the University of Denver NCAA team. Slalom is a discipline where she thrives! With nineteen slalom points, seven NorAm top-five finishes, and four World Cup slalom starts; Hensien continues to reveal that she has quick feet and can accomplish a lot in slalom this season. 

Amelia Smart (CAN) had another rivetting day with an excellent second-place finish, just 0.07 off of Hensien’s overall time. Smart will be running the NCAA, NorAm, and World Cup circuits, therefore will get a lot of racing in this season, so stay tuned. 

In third place, Andrea Komsic (CRO), also an athlete of the DU Ski Team made her way onto the podium again, 0.28 behind the leader. Komsic will also be racing on multiple circuits this season and she will continue to focus on both tech disciplines. 

The men’s field on the second day continued to punch the gates with grit and determination. Leever explained that the slaloms in Nakiska were “an overall test of endurance and mental fortitude. It showed how important it is to charge even when it doesn’t feel good.” 

The gold was awarded to Benjamin Ritchie of the U.S. with a time of 1:43.76. Ritchie excels as a slalom skier and showed that in during the Nakiska Slaloms. On the first day he came down and just barely missed the podium, earning himself a 4th place finish. During the second day he buckled down, attacked the challenging conditions of the short pitch, let the skis run, and struck gold. This was one of his six top-five finishes on the NorAm circuit. He has had one World Cup start for slalom and will continue to start World Cups with this slalom victory. 

Just 0.41 behind Ritchie, Jeffery Read came in second-place for another podium finish. Read affirmed that his focus on clean and consistent skiing can help him get back to the basics and punch the slalom hill. 

In third place, Canadian Asher Jordan crossed with a combined time 1.10 behind Ritchie. On the first day of slalom, Asher skied himself into a strong eight-place finish. However, on the second day he was able to take off, find the groove, and move himself up on the leader board. 

Overall, the athletes sent it this week in Nakiska. The different conditions and various sets challenged them all immensely but showed the aggression of attacking each discipline with passion for ski racing. The next NorAm will kick off the year of 2020 in Burke Mountain, with the women’s giant slalom and slalom race, January 2nd through January 4th

Men’s Slalom Day 1 – Full Results

Men’s Slalom Day 2 – Fun Results

Women’s Slalom Day 1 – Full Results

Women’s Slalom Day 2 – Full Results

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Ellie Hartman was born and raised in Breckenridge, Colorado, and was on skis soon after she was able to walk. She raced for Team Summit, out of Copper Mountain, from the age of five until she was 18. Unfortunately, her ski racing career ended when she did not make a NCAA ski team, but to her surprise, it opened up a new door where she was recruited to row NCAA D2 crew for Barry University in Miami, Florida. After becoming captain and winning two NCAA Championships, she received her Masters in Business Administration and has spent her time traveling, working, and writing. Ellie enjoys skiing, yoga, great coffee, travel, SCUBA Diving, anything outdoors, delicious beer, and happy people.