Start was key for skiercross champ
The Swedish speedster took the lead straight from the start and fended off a pair of surging Europeans to keep his streak alive, and picked up a check for $4,000.
“It’s really hard to pass someone on the course,” said Lewen, a 5-foot-7-inch and 195-pound ex-alpine racer. “You can stay in the slipstream as long as possible, in hopes of finding a spot to pass at the end. You have to be tactical but, of course, it’s nice to have that lead.”
The skiercross event was in stark contrast to the first two days of slopestyle action, where style was the key to success.
In skiercross, speed is the only thing that matters. There are no judges and no big air jumps; instead, there’s just a narrow track full of small obstacles and mini-airs and a twisty section appropriately named “The Flusher.”
Xavier Kuhn, who finished fourth, used to race in the Europa Cup circuit, but now just spends his time battling it out in skiercross events.
“It’s more fun doing this,” said Kuhn, who’s specialty used to be the super-G. “It’s more about fighting. It’s like my spirit, which is like fighting. We all were fighting. Third is good for me, but I prefer first.”
While Lewen won by a good five lengths, women’s champion Karin Huttary crossed the finish line by the tip of her ski. In fact, it was so close both racers initially thought they had won. Runner-up Asleigh McIvar wasn’t too disappointed by the finish, though. She came from British Columbia, where she goes to school, just for the chance to pick up some extra cash and race against some of the best skiercross ladies in the country.
“I did a couple races in Whistler, (British Columbia) the last year, and that’s where I got into it,” said McIvar, who alpine races for her the University fo British Columbia in Vancouver. “I did a race, oh, about a month ago, which I won and qualified for the X Games.
“I’m better than most of these girls in the turns,” she added. “But you’d be crazy to pass in most of the parts. I hoped to try and catch her at the end, but it didn’t work. You have to be a solid skier to win when you’re in the lead, but you have to be a great skier to get that lead.”
Defending champion Reggie Crist, who picked up a silver medal at this year’s X Games, finished third in the finals after going undefeated in the preliminary rounds.
The course, which was constructed literally overnight, began with the four racers in each heat poling their way onto the course, similar to a normal alpine race. Then, the competitors hit a series of jumps to clear obstacles, before filing into a narrow section mean to slow the competitors down before they hit “The Flusher.”
In the early rounds, many of the competitors went sliding off the course at that point, providing the crowd with some highlight-film spills.
Today, the U.S. Freeskiing Open will finish off with a halfpipe competition beginning at 10 a.m. The finals are scheduled for 2 p.m., with the winner earning $6,500. Swedish competitor Jon Olsson is the defending champion.
All events are located on Golden Peak.
1. Lars Lewen
2. Eriak Garaggio
3. Reggie Crist
4. Xavier Kuhn
1. Karin Huttary
2. Asleigh McIvar
3. Larsen Hagen
4. Aleisha Cline
Ryan Slabaugh is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at email@example.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.