AJ Ginnis takes down Birds of Prey winner Stefan Luitz to win NorAm slalom opener | VailDaily.com

AJ Ginnis takes down Birds of Prey winner Stefan Luitz to win NorAm slalom opener

U.S. Ski Team member AJ Ginnis, center, tops the podium at Copper Mountain on Thursday, Nov. 21. It was Ginnis' first race following a pair of knee surgeries in 2018 and 2019.
Pete Dodge | Special to the Daily

In September 2018, AJ Ginnis was at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, getting his fourth knee surgery.

In November 2019, Ginnis was on top of the podium at Copper Mountain in the first slalom of the season for the North America Cup.

The North America Cup, or Nor-Am as it’s known in ski racing, is a step below the World Cup, but at Copper Mountain last week, a bevy of World Cup athletes were among the competitors. Among them was Stefan Luitz, who won the giant slalom at last year’s Birds of Prey World Cup in Beaver Creek.

“There’s a lot of national teams from around the world, a lot of the best guys in the world, so it was definitely cool to see some of them show up and race,” said U.S. team member Kyle Negomir. “It was definitely a tough field, which makes it all the more impressive that AJ won.”

Ginnis was in New Zealand last year when he crashed, tearing his ACL, MCL and ripping the meniscus off the bone in his knee.

Following his surgery in September, Ginnis had another procedure performed in April to clean up the knee a bit. He returned to snow for a few days in June, but mostly stayed indoors at Duke University’s athletic department, where he performed physical rehab with the trainers.

It would be October before Ginnis returned to snow in earnest, attending a training camp in Europe with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Ian Lochhead. He returned to the U.S. later that month, training alongside such up-and-coming U.S. Ski Team athletes as Negomir, River Radamus and Luke Winters.

“Training with them was kind of eye-opening to me, getting back into it and being around those guys,” Ginnis said. “They were all pushing each other.”

Being a few years older than the group, Ginnis said he was even more motivated to perform at the first Nor-Am of the season at Copper. He said he had watched the group progress quite a bit in the training block leading up to the Nor-Am opener.

“Coming into that race, odds are someone from the group was going to pop one off,” Ginnis said.

As the season progresses, Ginnis said he’s excited to see what the group has in store, but his experiences have also taught him the process will require patience, as well.

“I think this new group of athletes is amazing, and everyone is going to develop at their own pace, but it’s kind of important to give them the time to do that,” he said.

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