2008 U.S. Alpine Championships Racers Excited to Return to Sugarloaf

By AlpineZone News |
Mar 10 2008 - 12:39 PM

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine — Sugarloaf holds some great memories for many of the U.S. Ski Team members who will be returning to the mountain March 19-26 for the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships.

Kaylin Richardson, 23, of Minnesota, won her first national title in the slalom at Sugarloaf in 2006, the last time the championships were hosted here. “The U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf is always an event I look forward to,” she said. “It’s a fun hill, a demanding hill, very technical. People always ridicule the East Coast because they don’t have real downhills. I would say the Narrow Gauge is actually very demanding.”

Born in Buffalo, NY, and an alumnus of Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, Erik Schlopy, 35, is also familiar with Sugarloaf and the Narrow Gauge trail. “I’ve had a lot of races at Sugarloaf,” he said. “It’s one of the great mountains on the East Coast. The Narrow Gauge is a trail that all eastern racers grew up skiing at one point or another. It brings back good memories.”

A broken neck, fractured pelvis and multiple injuries suffered in a horrendous crash during a downhill event in February 2006 kept Dane Spencer from competing in the 2006 U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf, but he has competed here before.

“It’s been quite a few years since I raced out there, but last time I did, I really enjoyed it and had some good success,” the 30-year-old Idaho native said. “The snow conditions, typically for that time of year, are usually very good ??“ some of the best in the country for ski racing.” About the Narrow Gauge trail, he said it has some “twists and turns to it. It’s pretty even, pretty difficult terrain with a lot of direction changes. You need to really be on top of it, look ahead and keep on moving down the trail.”

Along with the challenging terrain, it’s the fans that stick out in the minds of the U.S. racers. “Last time we had the U.S. Championships at Sugarloaf, it ended up being one of the best events we’ve ever been to because they had huge crowds,” said Stacey Cook, who took the women’s Super G title in 2006 (ahead of Maine’s Kirsten Clark). “It was also the year Daron (Rahlves) retired and Kirsten (Clark) was the hometown girl, so there was a lot of excitement around and I think the athletes could really feel that. I hope we can do that again this year.”

“The fans at Sugarloaf can’t be beat,” Richardson added. “The most memorable opening ceremonies of any Nationals that I’ve ever been at was at Sugarloaf. So many people from the community came out, and it’s not a very big community, so it was really surprising. They just love the sport.”

Lindsey Vonn, of Vail, Colo., 23, is at the top of her game this year, having recently clinched the Audi FIS World Cup downhill title Friday on the Olympic run in Whistler, B.C. But what she looks forward to now is seeing her future competition come along as the championships give developing skiers a chance to measure themselves against U.S. Ski Team athletes. “It’s such a fun way to end the season with so many young skiers going for a chance to prove they can make it at the next level,” she said.

The young people also make it an exciting event for Julia Mancuso, who took the silver in both the giant slalom and downhill in 2006. “There are so many really enthusiastic people that come out and watch, there’s a lot of young kids and just a lot of young athletes with their parents,” she said. “I think that’s what skiing is all about – just having fun with your family and enjoying the sport. I’m psyched to go back (to Sugarloaf), and hopefully we get some sunshine and have some good races.”

The 2008 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships schedule (dates and times subject to change):

March 19 Downhill training
March 20 Downhill training

March 21
9:30 a.m. Men’s FIS Downhill (not a title race)
11 a.m. Women’s FIS Downhill (not a title race)

March 22
9:30 a.m. Men’s National Downhill
11 a.m. Women’t National Downhill
6:30 p.m. Parade of Athletes through Sugarloaf Village
7 p.m. Opening Ceremonies
8 p.m. Autograph session in the Base Lodge

March 23
9:30 a.m. Men’s Super G
12:30 p.m. Women’s Super G

March 24
9 a.m. Men’s Slalom Run 1
11 a.m Women’s Slalom Run 1
12:30 p.m. Men’s Slalom Run 2
2 p.m. Women’s Slalom Run 2

March 25
9 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1
Noon Men’s Giant Slalom Run 2

March 26
9 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1
Noon Women’s Giant Slalom Run 2