Just as the World Cup season came to an abrupt end, so did competition for World Cup spots by way of the North American (NorAm) Cup. Strong performances at the NorAm Cup level can determine national-team criteria and provide a key gateway to the big show in Europe for many American and Canadian racers.

Every North American man and woman who finishes in the top two slots of his or her respective disciplines earn fixed World Cup spots in those disciplines, owned by the individual, not their nation. Overall winners earn a fixed World Cup spot across the board, but overall runner-ups do not.

In March, the men and women of the NorAm circuit had eight more races on the docket – three downhills, two super Gs, one alpine combined, one giant slalom, and one slalom – all to be held in Panorama, Canada at NorAm finals. Points were tight coming into the final set of races. Many of the disciplines’ top spots were still up for grabs.

The GS and slalom schedule came close to hosting a full season. Each gender had the opportunity to compete in nine events contributing to slalom points. Seven GS races were held on the men’s side and six GS races were held for the women.

On the other hand, the speed schedule fell short. Only two downhill, two alpine combined, and four super G races were contested prior to the season cut-off. When the season screeched to a halt, some athletes ended up on the right side of the points, whereas others did not.

Keely Cashman prepping for training during the preseason in Copper Mountain, Colorado. Photo by Mackenzie Moran

As it stood, USA’s Bridger Gile and Keely Cashman ended the season as overall champions, securing World Cup spots across the board for the 2020-21 season. In addition to taking the overall title, Gile was also crowned NorAm champion in the giant slalom and alpine combined. Cashman finished first in the downhill standings and second in the alpine combined on the women’s side.

“[Winning the overall] was definitely one of my goals at the beginning of the year, but I didn’t really think it was going to happen,” said Gile. “Just having it be there at the end was pretty sweet. It taught me that I do have what it takes, and shows me that I’m a good spot in my career.”

Gile never got the chance to celebrate his three NorAm titles with his teammates, but that doesn’t bother the young Aspen native. Part of the up-and-coming crew of tech-oriented U.S. Ski Team racers nicknamed “Slamfest Destiny,” the 20-year-old now looks forward to his first World Cup appearance in 2019-20. Gile is also looking forward to sharing this newfound experience with his teammates that ended up on the right side of the points, which just so happens to be a majority of the crew. Other United States athletes that walked away with World Cup spots on the men’s side are Kyle Negomir (super G), George Steffey (GS), Ben Ritchie (slalom), and Jett Seymour (slalom).

“It shows that we were consistent throughout the season and that every race series we showed up and did good things,” said Gile. “It’s cool that we all get the chance to move on to the next step together. We’re all just good friends so there’s good competitiveness in training, so we can compete with each other, but have fun at the same time. It’s helping us push it to the next level.”

Bridger Gile competing in the Nakiska NorAm slalom event. Photo: Roger Carry.

Overall runner-ups Patricia Mangan and Jeffrey Read were able to secure individual start spots, despite just having missed the overall mark. Read finished first in the downhill and second in the combined, while Mangan finished second in super G and the combined. Although Read ended up second in the points for combined, he only started in one combined event, which disqualifies him from earning the World Cup spot. Instead, the third-place finisher, Canada’s Jamie Casselman, has earned the spot for the 2020/21 season. Other Canadian men who earned World Cup spots include Riley Seger (super G) and Cameron Alexander (downhill).

U.S. athletes that earned starting spots on the women’s side include Bella Wright (super G), Alix Wilkinson (downhill), Lila Lapanja (slalom), Storm Klomhaus (combined), and Resi Stiegler (slalom). Mikaela Tommy was the only Canadian female to finish top two in a NorAm discipline, earning a spot in the giant slalom.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, not all athletes competing on the NorAm circuit had the end-of-season they were hoping for. For those that came just points away from finishing in the top two, an unexpected conclusion meant missing a shot at a fixed World Cup spot. Now they must set their sights on next season.

Jimmy Krupka, who moonlights as Ski Racing Media’s podcast host, was one of the athletes who was served the short end of the stick. Krupka finished the season ranked third in the super G standings, just 23 points away from the second-place finisher, Riley Seger. With two super G races left in March, Krupka had been hoping he could make up the point deficit and walk away from the NorAm season with a World Cup starting spot. But he never got that chance.

“That affected me the most,” said Krupka. “Basically most of my teammates almost lucked out from it. Kyle Negomir, Jett Seymour, Ben Ritchie, Bridger Gile, George Steffey, all were in the top two in the NorAm rankings and the season just ended. So they didn’t have to go to Pano and perform and stay high in the standings. The season ended and they were just handed the spots. So they kind of ended up on the right side of it.”

Jimmy Krupka competing in the Nakiska giant slalom in February. Photo by Roger Carry.

Krupka was not the only athlete that came within inches of a World Cup spot. On the men’s side, AJ Ginnis finished the season ranked third in the slalom, seven points away from a World Cup spot. Both Canada’s Kyle Alexander and USA’s Sam Morse finished 70 points off an official downhill spot. On the women’s side, Canada’s Stefanie Fleckenstein came up just short in the overall, finishing third by 64 points. In the downhill, she was just 20 points short of the discipline’s second-place finisher, Alix Wilkinson.

“We’re ski racers, we want to race, so it was really tough,” explains Krupka. “I was about to fly to Pano [when they canceled] and had spent the previous three weeks training at different places, calling coaches to find super G training. It was probably the best block of training I’ve done in years. I felt so prepped. And for the season just to be cut short, making it year four of almost making it criteria, was definitely tough.”

Krupka, a U.S. Ski Team invitee, had to find his own training in the weeks to prepare for NorAm, as there had been no room for him to join his teammates in Europe. Although he’s disappointed the season ended the way it did, the moments leading up to Panorama taught him a thing or two about his racing style, and what exactly it will take for him to reach his goal of being a World Cup ski racer without constant support from the national team.

“It wasn’t all negative. That’s why it was easy to swallow,” explains Krupka. “I knew that I had done what I could. I learned a lot and improved a lot.”

Bella Wright (USA) competes in the Bankso World Cup downhill. Photo: GEPA pictures/ Mario Kneisl

Bella Wright, who won the women’s super G title, also experienced that nagging feeling that her season had come up just short. While she’s more than excited about earning her first NorAm title, she had also hoped to earn a spot in the downhill as well. The abbreviated season left her 30 points off the mark. In 2019, Wright started in her first-ever World Cup downhill in Lake Louise and had an opportunity to start four more throughout the season.

Coming into 2019-20, Wright represented Team Clif and had one goal for the season — to earn a World Cup spot in her name by winning a NorAm title. As the season progressed, Wright had been traveling in Europe, competing in World Cups on her own terms. And although she reached her goal of earning an official World Cup super G spot through the NorAm circuit, she had hoped to capture the downhill, as well.

“Obviously it’s a bummer not to have championship season and spring skiing and all of the fun races that usually happen right now, but I think it’s for the best,” says Wright. “I think I ended up 30 points out from the downhill, which is definitely a big bummer for me. However, I do feel really lucky to have secured the super G. It doesn’t feel quite real because we aren’t having any type of ceremony and there’s no award yet. I have to pinch myself to remind me that it’s real and remind myself every day.”

For now, the NorAm athletes have some time to take a break before focusing on next season. Whether it be the World Cup or another year of NorAm racing that lies ahead, ski season is on hold until the Center for Disease Control recommendations regarding the coronavirus has lifted. Currently, spring training camps for U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes are up in the air as the organization follows the ever-changing pandemic.

Men’s Final NorAm Results

Top three overall

  1. Bridger Gile (USA) – 994 points
  2. Jeffrey Read (CAN) – 863 points
  3. Kyle Negomir (USA) – 723 points

Top three super G

  1. Kyle Negomir (USA) – 250 points
  2. Riley Seger (CAN) – 225 points
  3. Jimmy Krupka (USA) – 202 points

Top three downhill

  • 1. Jeffrey Read (CAN) – 180 points
  • 1. Cameron Alexander (CAN) – 180 points
  • 3. Kyle Alexander (CAN) – 110 points
  • 3. Sam Morse (USA) – 110 points

Top three giant slalom

  1. Bridger Gile (USA) – 302 points
  2. George Steffey (USA) – 260 points
  3. Riley Seger (CAN) – 254 points

Top three slalom

  1. Benjamin Ritchie (USA) – 480 points
  2. Jett Seymour (USA) – 375 points
  3. AJ Ginnis (USA) – 350 points

Top three alpine combined

  1. Bridger Gile (USA) – 180 points
  2. Jeffrey Read (CAN) – 100 points
  3. Jamie Casselman (CAN) – 90 points

Women’s Final NorAm Results

Top three overall

  1. Keely Cashman (USA) – 1,150 points
  2. Patricia Mangan (USA) – 781 points
  3. Stefanie Fleckenstein (CAN) – 717 points

Top three super G

  1. Isabella Wright (USA) – 310 points
  2. Patricia Mangan (USA) – 280 points
  3. Keely Cashman (USA) – 210 points

Top three downhill

  1. Keely Cashman (USA) – 180 points
  2. Alix Wilkinson (USA) – 150 points
  3. Stefanie Fleckenstein (CAN) – 130 points

Top three giant slalom

  1. Adriana Jelinkova (NED) – 340 points
  2. Mikaela Tommy (CAN) – 307 points
  3. Keely Cashman (USA) – 241 points

Top three slalom

  1. Lila Lapanja (USA) – 441 points
  2. Andrea Komsic (CRO) – 376 points
  3. Resi Stiegler (USA) – 370 points

Top three alpine combined

  • 1. Storm Klomhaus (USA) – 180 points
  • 2. Keely Cashman (USA) – 160 points
  • 2. Patricia Mangan (USA) – 160 points