CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine -??вЂњ Olympic champions Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) and Julia Mancuso (Olympic Valley, CA), World Championships double medalist Lindsey Kildow (Vail, CO) and emerging star Steven Nyman (Provo, UT) will be looking to hold off challengers when the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships return to the East for the second time in three seasons with title races March 22-26 at Sugarloaf/USA.
The championships, which mark the third eastern setting in six years (starting with Lake Placid, NY, and Whiteface Mountain in 2003), give developing skiers a chance to measure themselves against U.S. Ski Team athletes in the quest for national titles. Sugarloaf hosted them in 2006 and brought thousands of ski racing fans to the slopes for one of the best U.S. Championships.
“Sugarloaf has been a great host for us and has a strong history of outstanding races,” U.S. Alpine Director Jesse Hunt said. “Sugarloaf gives us a great welcome, there’s so much enthusiasm – from the mountain and the community – and the venues are challenging, so it’s a great package. We, meaning the staff as well as the athletes, look forward to going back there for more exciting races and fun times with great crowds, who appreciate the racing.”
John Diller, president of Sugarloaf/USA said, “The entire Sugarloaf community is thrilled to once again welcome America’s best to Sugarloaf as they compete for the national championships. Sugarloaf’s proud racing heritage and unequalled commitment from Sugarloafers of all ages will no doubt make the championships a highlight of the 2008 winter season.”
“One other important element of the championships,” Hunt said, “is that they follow right behind NorAm Finals at Lake Placid. It’s a great fit, moving from New York to Maine for nationals.” NorAm Finals, set for March 12-16 at Whiteface, will be held in the United States for the first time since 1999 when Mt. Bachelor, OR, held them.
Many racers will be familiar with Sugarloaf and its Narrow Gauge speed run because, in addition to nationals, the mountain has staged many Junior Olympics and Eastern Cup (development level) events. Sugarloaf held men’s and women’s World Cup races in 1971 and also hosted the first official FIS Alpine Junior World Championships in 1984; Diann Roffe – who would go on to win Olympic and World Championships gold medals – was silver medalist in giant slalom at those inaugural Junior Worlds.
Sugarloaf held the U.S. Championships in 1996 and ’97, and the 2006 title races and activities schedule, including an autograph party that went more than two hours.
“We had exceptional championships in 2006,” said Calum Clark, vice president of events for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “They showed the true passion and energy for alpine racing and we’re so glad to be returning to Sugarloaf. The crowds were so knowledgeable and appreciative. It’s a great mountain and the enthusiasm of the fans was off the charts.”
Carrabassett Valley Academy, an award-winning USSA club located near Sugarloaf, is one of the nation’s top snowsport academies and has produced outstanding Olympians in freestyle and snowboarding as well as alpine. The roster includes two three-time Olympians: current World Cup super G champion and former world champion Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH) and recently retired World Championships medalist Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME), the only U.S. skier to win four consecutive U.S. downhill titles. At the 2006 championships, Clark and Miller each won their respective downhill championship; Miller also was the giant slalom gold medalist.
Since hosting the ’06 U.S. Championships, Sugarloaf and the Sugarloaf Ski Club have made significant on-mountain improvements to make Sugarloaf the East’s premiere venue for world-class competition. The Jean Luce Competition and Timing Center was built last year to house timing and announcing as well as race headquarters. The fabled Narrow Gauge trail has been modified to create better sight lines for racers, officials and spectators, and to improve safety.
The 2008 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships schedule (dates subject to change):
March 19 – Downhill training
March 20 – Downhill training
March 21 – FIS downhill (not a title race)
March 22 – Men’s and women’s downhill
March 23 – Men’s and women’s super G
March 24 – Men’s and women’s slalom
March 25 – Men’s giant slalom
March 26 – Women’s giant slalom
* – U.S. combined championship determined by DH and slalom results
** – Versus network will televise coverage of the Nature Valley championships; final air date and time has not been determined at this time.