From Steamboat Springs to Madonna di Campiglio, Jett Seymour loves racing under the lights
Special to the Daily
If it was up to Jett Seymour, all slalom ski races would take place at night, under the lights.
Whether it be the Murphy Roberts Holiday Classic at home in Steamboat Springs or the historic 3Tre World Cup slalom in the Italian Dolomites resort of Madonna di Campiglio, the U.S. Ski Team’s Seymour absolutely loves everything about night-time ski racing.
Seymour charged down Italy’s famed Canalone Miramonti piste in Madonna di Campiglio on Thursday night, the rock-hard snow flooded by bright white lights that seemed like just as much a festive Christmas decoration as a necessity for a night slalom.
The 22-year-old Steamboat Springs native and former NCAA slalom champion took his turn on the illuminated Italian piste, performing in front of a high-energy, festive and stylish crowd of approximately 12,000. Fans lined both sides of the icy slope and packed the finish area.
“It’s definitely more than just a ski race – you’re sitting up there in the start house and it’s like a disco club with all the lights going,” Seymour said, in the finish area after his run. “You can hear the screaming announcers and loud cheers from the crowd all the way down.”
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Kicking out of the gate 62nd in the 5:45 p.m. first run, Seymour skied well through sections, but costly mistakes down the 60-gate, 470-meter-piste prevented him from qualifying for the second run. It was a tough night for many of the world’s premier slalom skiers on a twice-injected race hill in which 23 of 76 competitors failed to complete the course in the first run.
“Slalom is a cruel game, it’s not for the faint of heart — you gotta push it all the way to the bottom,” Seymour said. “It’s a great venue here — I’m bummed I won’t be here for a second run, where it will be even louder and more exciting.”
Seymour’s U.S. teammates Luke Winters and Benjamin Ritchie also succumbed to the Canalone Miramonti slope, both skiing off course in the first run, resulting in DNF’s.
Seymour raced at the classic Italian World Cup for the third time, well-accustomed to the bright lights, thanks to his hometown ski area in Steamboat Springs.
“I grew up skiing under the lights after school — my favorite race of all-time is also happening now, the Holiday Classic in Steamboat Springs,” Seymour says. “I’m missing it to race here in Madonna, but it prepared me well for night slaloms.
“We have the most iconic night slalom hill in the whole world…Howelsen Hill,” he proudly notes. “I love it under the lights — it’s my favorite, the racing vibe is all-time.”
The famed Italian Dolomites race has been contested under the lights ever since 1998. It is a stylish Italian event, a place to be seen in fashionable Madonna di Campiglio. There is an indescribable feeling in the chilly evening hours; the race brings a full-fledged, party-like atmosphere complete with Ferrari bubbly, thin-sliced prosciutto, mortadella and chunky Grand Padano cheese, all served up in the finish area. The event quickly becomes a fun-filled party playing out across a few streets, both before, between runs, and after the race, stirring well into the morning hours.
After just one night reveling the European style pulsating atmosphere and cool ambiance that the 3Tre slalom in Madonna di Campiglio offers, it’s hard to argue with Seymour’s ski racing preference. Seymour notes yet another benefit of European night races, thinking of friends and family back home in Colorado.
“Night slaloms are also great for the U.S., with the time difference. No one has to wake up at 2 a.m. to watch ski racing,” Seymour says, with a smile.
Proven World Cup winners Daniel Yule and Henrik Kristoffersen are in agreement with the young U.S. racer, among other racers and fans. Both have thrived under the bright lights of Madonna di Campiglio. Yule won his third Italian ‘Night Race’ edging Norwegian star Henrik Kristoffersen by 0.08 seconds on Thursday night. Kristoffersen, a three-time World Cup slalom champion, has also attained three victories on the revered Italian race hill.
“I think almost all the slalom races should be night races,” Kristoffersen opined, in the finish area. “The atmosphere with the spectators is something else.”
“I don’t know exactly what it is about night races, maybe it’s that the visibility is very good, but I really love them,” Yule said after his victory.
Madonna di Campiglio is not the only European World Cup night race that Seymour relishes. His best career World Cup success, as he is now in his third season on tour, came at another night slalom, in Schladming, Austria. Seymour scored his first World Cup points, finishing 25th at the Austrian race, in January 2021.
Seymour believes skiing under the lights offers numerous intangible benefits and hopes to see more U.S. ski areas offering night-time skiing, training and races, following the lead of Howelsen Hill in Steamboat.
“From a biased standpoint growing up in Steamboat, I think that the vibe training under the lights is unmatched,” says Seymour, who won both individual and team NCAA titles while racing for DU. “I advise everyone in the U.S. to go skiing at night under the lights. It just grows your true love of skiing.”
Not surprisingly, Seymour cannot wait until that next night slalom in Schladming, on Jan. 24. Unlike when he skied at a subdued race due to the pandemic in 2021, this time around should be raucous. Overserved Austrian fans will raise the sound level at the rock concert like atmosphere, while continuing their tradition of lighting off flares and sending them above the race course.
You can bet Seymour will be at his best, loving every moment of it.
“I love night slaloms, bring ‘em on, the more the merrier.”