Olympic slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin, 19, of Eagle-Vail, Co. captured her first national championship in giant slalom last Thursday on the first day of the 2014 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Ski Championships at Squaw Valley, Ca.
A nine-time World Cup slalom winner and the first non-European to win five World Cup slaloms in a single season, technical phenom Shiffrin continued her storybook 2013-14 season Thursday with a massive 1.88-second margin of victory under bluebird Squaw Valley skies.
It was the third U.S. title of her young career, adding to the slalom titles she locked in 2011 and 2012. Shiffrin, the two-time defending World Cup slalom queen who is seeking to expand her excellence in giant slalom, led 44 two-run finishers.
Among the finishers were three Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation women along with Sun Valley native Hailey Duke, 28, of Boise, who placed 32nd. The SVSEF finishers were Mackenzie Bachmeier 26th (8-U21), Haley Cutler 36th (9-U18) and Jordan Fitzgerald 42nd (12-U18).
Shiffrin posted a 1.5-second first run lead and then expanded it to a massive 1.88-second margin of victory over Canadian Marie-Michelle Gagnon.
“It was probably the toughest hill we’ve skied all year,” Shiffrin told the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) News Bureau.
She added, “It has a lot of terrain and the whole thing is pretty steep. I made some good turns, but I also felt the turns where I could have improved, so I know what I want to do with my next training session.
“The second run I felt like I attacked a little bit more at the top. I let it go a little bit more. I’m just trying to figure out how to look for speed in GS like I do for slalom. I’m getting closer.
“This event was definitely a confidence booster, but it was my first GS win in a while so that’s always nice. Even before coming here I knew what I had to do with my GS and what to improve on. I wanted to use this as a tester to see if it works.”
U.S. Ski Team star Julia Mancuso, 30, of Squaw Valley, Ca., who had won the giant slalom title for five straight seasons dating back to 2009, posted a blistering second run to jump from ninth after the first run to third place in the standings.
Top junior honors also went to Shiffrin, followed by U.S. Development Team athletes Foreste Peterson, 20, of Berkeley, Ca. and Paula Moltzan, 19, of Lakeville, Minn., who finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Race conditions again proved to be perfect on the challenging Red Dog slope with consistent snow and perfect Squaw Valley skies for the second straight day of racing.
Championship races at Squaw Valley
Olympian Tim Jitloff, 29, of Reno, Nev. brought a crowd of thousands to a roaring crescendo Friday winning his second consecutive U.S. Alpine Championships giant slalom title.
Jitloff, who grew up nearby and raced as a young athlete at the 1960 Olympic resort, captured his second victory in three days at Squaw with a 1.61-second margin of victory over Brennan Rubie, 22, of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Fellow Olympian Jared Goldberg, 22, of Holladay, Utah was third as Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety, 29, of Park City, Utah did not finish the final run.
It was Jitloff’s fourth U.S. title in giant slalom and fifth of his career (2013 GS, 2009 GS and combined, 2008 GS).
Bryce Astle of Sandy, Utah and the Snowbird Sports Education Foundation, and U.S. Development Team members Tanner Farrow, 20, of Ketchum and AJ Ginnis of Waitsfield, Vt. finished 1-2-3 among juniors.
Farrow was 16th overall of 51 finishers, the second U-21 racer. Another Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation racer, Kipling Weisel, placed 22nd (5-U21) while Ben Kanellitsas was 49th in the national giant slalom.
On Saturday, Olympian David Chodounsky, 29, of Crested Butte, Co. produced a blazing final run in sun-soaked Squaw Valley to win the U.S. Alpine Championships slalom title.
Third after the first run, Chodounsky laced the bottom section of the Red Dog race hill to bump first-run leader Tim Kelley of Starksboro, Vt. to second. Will Brandenburg, 27, of Spokane, Wa., fifth after the opening run, ended the day in third.
The victory added to Chodounsky's career-best year. He competed in his first Olympic Winter Games and finished 19th in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup slalom points to lead the way in that department for the U.S. Ski Team.
Chodounsky was also the 2009 U.S. Champion in slalom and earned NCAA overall titles for 2005 and 2007 while he skied for Dartmouth.
For Sun Valley, Kanellitsas placed 29th of 32 two-run slalom finishers. He was the ninth U-21 racer. Not finishing were Tanner Farrow and Kipling Weisel.
Also on Saturday, Jackson Hole’s Resi Stiegler, 28, finished one one-hundredth of a second behind Canadian Marie-Michelle Gagnon Saturday as women’s slalom officially wrapped up the 2014 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships in Squaw Valley.
NorAm slalom champion Lila Lapanja, 19, of Incline Village, Nev., who grew up near the 1960 Olympic Village, finished third to the roar of the local crowd.
For SVSEF, Mackenzie Bachmeier (7-U21) placed 18th of 28 two-run slalom finishers and Haley Cutler (7-U18) was 25th.
The Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships also awarded the Tom Garner Memorial Trophy to the top region for overall performance at the championships.
The 2014 trophy went to the defending champion Western Region, who bested the Eastern and Rocky/Central Regions.
Weisel on junior podium at Squaw
Olympian Tim Jitloff, 29, of Reno, Nev. sliced a wire-to-wire FIS giant slalom victory last Wednesday to open five days of competition in sun-soaked Squaw Valley.
The race, a precursor to Friday's U.S. Championship event, was held on Red Dog with incredible snow conditions and a large crowd of fans, friends and families on hand to enjoy the annual alpine skiing end-of-the season celebration.
2014 NCAA giant slalom champion Mark Engel of Truckee, Ca. of the University of Utah was second, followed by two-time Junior World Champion and current NorAm overall champ Ryan Cochran-Siegle of Starksboro, Vt.
Top juniors of the 47 finishers were Jack Schibli of Charlotte, Vt. and Green Mountain Valley School, AJ Ginnis of Waitsfield, Vt. and Kipling Weisel of San Francisco, Ca and the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. They finished 11-12-13 respectively. Kiesel’s two-run finishing time was 2:29.70, about seven seconds behind Jitloff.
Tanner Farrow of the SVSEF placed 14th overall. Among the 33 starters who didn’t finish was SVSEF’s Ben Kanellitsas.
In Sunday’s women’s FIS giant slalom on Red Dog race hill, two-time Olympian Megan McJames, 26, capped an outstanding week of U.S. Alpine Championships racing with an FIS giant slalom win at Squaw Valley.
Under postcard perfect California skies, McJames won both runs to build up a 1.58 second victory over fellow Olympian Resi Stiegler (Jackson Hole, WY), who narrowly missed the U.S. Championships slalom win just a day before.
Fellow Olympian Resi Stiegler (Jackson Hole, WY), who missed the U.S. Champs slalom win by .01 seconds, finished second with Anna Marno (Steamboat Springs, CO) in third.
Sun Valley’s Mackenzie Bachmeier (5-U21) placed 18th overall of the 37 FIS slalom finishers. Haley Cutler was 27th (9-U18) and Jordan Fitzgerald 36th (16-U18).
After Sunday’s race, various members of the U.S. Ski Team headed to Beaver Creek, Co.—site of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships—for a training camp. Some also traveled to Sun Valley for this week’s Western Region Spring Series races starting Wednesday, March 26.