VAIL - After the World Cup, it's the higest level of ski racing competition in North America.-
The-International Ski Federation (FIS)-North America Cup (Nor-Am) visits Golden Peak this weekend, bringing with it national teams from four different continents.-
Racers from the national teams of Canada, Argentina, Great Britain, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, New Zealand and the U.S. kicked off the action Thursday in a men's giant slalom, where they were greeted with dumping snow and low visibility. Despite the race's timing - taking place during the tail end of a storm that would leave roughly 2 feet on Vail Mountain before letting up Thursday afternoon - both runs went off without a hitch and ran perfectly on time.-
"It was soft for sure, but the course workers did a good job of getting it smooth,"-Kieffer Christianson of the U.S. Ski Team said after his first run.-"In terms of race organization, Vail always makes sure things go off smoothly, so it's a great place to race."
Leading the field after his first run, Christianson hung on in the second run to ski away with the win, his first time atop the podium in a major event since 2009, when he won a National Junior Race slalom in Stratton, Vt.
"First time I've won a big-boy race," he said with a laugh. "Or at least a medium-boy race."
He said the conditions didn't bother him.
"I grew up in Alaska so I'm used to skiing bad weather all the time, I actually kind of like it," he said after the win. "I feel like it gives me a leg up before I even start racing, more confidence."
Christianson said the early-season training the U.S. team runs at Golden Peak also gave him an advantage.-
"Over the last few years we've spent quite a bit of time at Vail, so we know the hill pretty well," he said. "They always do a good job preparing the hill so it's fun to race here."
Second-place finisher Nikolai Tornoe Narvestad of Norway said the weather may have helped him, as well.
"It was super bumpy," he said. "But I'm just so happy I could stay focused."
Last year's winner, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail alumni Will Gregorak, couldn't find the same success on the course again this year. He cited his skis as a potential issue - at the Nor-Am level racers are still allowed to use a shorter-radius ski, which performs better in softer snow, as opposed to the World Cup.-
"It was my first time back on these old skis again this year, and on the soft course I just putted my way down," he said. "I was really comfortable on this hill but ... Maybe I'll put something better together tomorrow."
Another Ski and Snowboard Club racer, Seppi Stiegler, put two solid runs together to just miss the podium by a hundredth of a second.-
"I've had a lot of days on the hill here, but unfortunately the snow is nothing like what we've been training," he said after the race. "We've been here training since November, and we have a lot of great people here who support us which really helps."
Upon winning, Christianson was greeted with handshakes and congratulations from Stiegler and the other North American competitors, Canadians included. The high level of sportsmanship is one of the things Christianson likes about competing on the Nor-Am circuit, he said.-
"In North America we compete against each other, but when we go across the pond to Europe where the big-time racing is, we're all friends," he said. -
The FIS Nor-Am Cup continues at Golden Peak all weekend and into next week -- men's GS action takes place once again today, with men's and women's slalom races on Saturday and Sunday, and finally women's GS on Monday and Tuesday.