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Radamus leads U.S. to team parallel slalom gold medal at FIS World Alpine Ski Championships

River Radamus brought home his first global championship medal on Tuesday, leading the U.S. to the mixed team parallel slalom gold medal at the 2023 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships in Meribel, France.

The Edwards skier joined Tommy Ford, Nina O’Brien and Paula Moltzan to take down Poland, Italy and Canada in the first round, quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. In the final, the U.S. won a thrilling 3-2 victory over the defending world champions from Norway to claim the country’s first world championship medal in the mixed team parallel event.

“It’s incredible — It’s my first medal,” Radamus said. “I haven’t had the success I’ve wanted to on the World Cup but to have it in my first event as a team, it makes it even more special to me.”

“It’s a pretty nice Valentine’s Day,” said O’Brien, who was featured in the Vail Daily’s “Fracture Friday” series after recovering in Edwards from leg fractures suffered in the 2022 Olympics.

“I think it feels a bit unbelievable, but six times sweeter to share with my teammates for sure. We absolutely didn’t expect it. I mean, I felt really good about the team and knew we were skiing fast, but I think anything can happen in parallel so there’s really no expectations ever.”

River Radamus, left, and Italy’s Alex Vinatzer speed down the course during the mixed team parallel event at the World Championships in Meribel, France on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023.
Marco Trovati/AP photo

Canada defeated Austria, the 2022 Olympic gold medalists, in the small final to win the bronze.

In the big final, Nina O’Brien opened with a battle against Kristin Lysdahl. Despite getting caught in a gate’s panel midway, the American maintained her composure and took a 0.13-second win.

Radamus went second against Alexander Steen Olson. The American was consistent all day and held a slight advantage over the Norwegian throughout, but Olson was able to pull back time in the final gates on the red course — which had been skiing fast in the finish throughout — for a 0.04-second win.

Moltzan and Thea Louise Stjernesund would finish in a perfect tie in the third spot, giving both teams a point. Andrew Dampf of the Associated Press reported that Moltzan, who raced most of last season with a broken hand, broke her left hand again in the final run.

“Paula gave absolutely everything on that run. It was pretty inspiring,” Radamus said. It was part and parcel for a team whose narrative was somewhat defined by injuries.

“We’ve all gone through the ringer a bit,” said Ford, who suffered a concussion, damaged ligaments and the meniscus in his right knee, broke his tibial plateau and hurt his wrist during a devastating crash on the giant slalom course in Adelboden, Switzerland, two years ago.

“We heal up and we can still ski and really I’m grateful to be here, and I think everyone else is, too.”

All eyes were on Ford, who faced Timon Haugan to break the tie. Haugan, however, would make things relatively easy for the American. The Norwegian tried to push out of the gate early and tripped over his skis, giving the American a clear path to the 1.5-second victory.

“I didn’t see him out of the corner of my eye,” Ford later told the Associated Press.

“I knew he was fast, so I was just like, something must have happened. But I wasn’t going to let up at all.”

“We all had strong skiing and I had faith in them and I just put down the best skiing I could,” he continued. “It just shows that we have some depth and we train together, travel together all the time and we’re pushing each other and it’s fun to actually work together and build a time.”

“I love this team; all these people have been pushing so hard for this for a long time, so to finally reach the summit with this team is really special,” Radamus added. “For Tommy to have to clutch up in the end there, I think he’s so steady, always so even keel, doesn’t let the moment get to him. And he was able to execute and perform there, which is really cool.”

When asked if he felt this medal could serve as a career launch pad, Radamus continued, saying, “I’ve been chasing a medal for a long time. I’ve come up short often but I’ve had to accept that if I’m not enough without it, I won’t be enough with it.”

“This is a really special day, but I’m sure in a year I’ll have to watch the videos to remember it, you know,” he continued. “So, I have to make sure I keep alway looking forward, keep striving for more and understand that no one race is going to put me where I want to be.”

Radamus continued his world championship program later Tuesday afternoon, placing eighth on the red course to qualify for Wednesday’s individual parallel final.

Tommy Ford and teammate River Radamus, right, hug after competing the mixed team parallel race at the World Championships, in Meribel, France.
Marco Trovati/AP photo

SSCV skiers mix it up with Olympians, NCAA’s best and World Cup starters at DU Invitational

Friday’s University of Denver Invitational, the penultimate stop on the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association’s calendar before the NCAA championships, may have had a small field, but it felt like a “whose who” of Nordic skiing nonetheless.

“It’s such an awesome privilege to be able to compete with guys that are the best in the world at what they do like right by our homes,” said SSCV skier Mason Cruz-Abrams after his 5-kilometer individual start freestyle race on Friday, the first of two days of action at Maloit Park in Minturn.

“That was super cool to have a chance to go measure myself going against them.” 

Keely Hendricks starts her second lap of Friday’s 5-kilometer individual start. Hendricks finished in 28th place racing against NCAA skiers.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“It’s super exciting. Last night I saw the start list and I was like nice,” said Boulder Nordic athlete Sofie Spalding. “This is the next level.”

On the women’s side, 2022 U.S. Olympians Novie McCabe and Sophia Laukli went 1-2 for the University of Utah and the University of Denver’s Bernhard Flaschberger, a 2016 Nordic Combine Junior World Champion and World Cup starter, topped the men’s field — which included SSCV skiers, domestic pros, World Cup starters, NCAA stars and a couple of Olympians.

“It was good. I think it’s like such an advantage to have raced here before because the pacing is so different than any other racing we do since it’s so high,” said McCabe, whose plan was to work the flat sections of the course and stay under control on the steep climbs.

“Because once you get flooded, it’s over,” she laughed after claiming an impressive 34-second win.

Laukli, who garnered her first career World Cup podium on the final stage of the Tour de Ski, the Alpe Cermis in January — a 425-meter, 3.6-kilometer climb straight up a literal ski — knew the course wouldn’t play to her strengths.

“This was definitely not my forte of a course with the little rollers. I think I tried to ski the flats, but I definitely just went hard on the hills,” she said.

“I’ve been traveling and racing a lot so I was worried. It’s super high here and I wasn’t sure how it would go because I’ve been feeling a bit tired, but it definitely felt pretty good,” Laukli continued. “I heard a lot of scary stories of people blowing up, so I made sure to pace it conservatively.”

Laukli and McCabe were fresh off of fifth and seventh-place respective finishes in the 10-kilometer freetyle at the U23 World Championships in Whistler.

“I wanted to be fighting for podiums and wasn’t really anywhere close to that so I was bit bummed about that,” McCabe said. “But it was a fun experience and such a fun group of people.”

“It wasn’t awesome,” Laukli, who carried an illness from the Tour de Ski into U23s, admitted of her Whistler performances.

2022 Olympian and World Cup podium placer Sophia Laukli, gets ready to start Friday’s individual skate race.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“I definitely had some big goals that I didn’t really live up to so it was definitely like changing expectations and in that sense, it went pretty well. Now I’m ready to get back to training and getting back on my game.”

The pair intends to defend their individual NCAA championships this March in what both said will be their final collegiate seasons, and even though both were named to the U.S. squad for the FIS World cross-country ski championships Feb. 22-March 5, McCabe has elected to stay stateside. Laukli, who placed 15th in the Olympic 30-kilometer freestyle, will head to Planica, Slovenia, however, and compete in the distance races at worlds. Then, she’ll fly to Mt. Van Hoevenberg for the NCAA championships.

“It’s my last year, so I have to,” Laukli said.

The DU Invitational consisted of a 5-kilometer individual skate start on Friday and a 10-kilometer mass start classic race on Saturday. The field included NCAA athletes across the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association, World Cup starters and Olympians.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

As far as duking it out with her teammate on every stage — from the World Cup to U23s to a collegiate race in humble Minturn?

“We both have the same goals, but I think the fact that we acknowledge that makes it better,” Laukli said. “To be happy for the other one when they do well and also understand the other one can be a little disappointed. … I think we’ve managed to come up with a good system.”

Colorado connections

Graham Houtsma, who started his ski journey in early elementary school at SSCV before moving to Aspen, competes for the Bridger Ski Foundation elite team at the DU Invitational on Friday.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Graham Houtsma, a pro skier for Bridger Ski Foundation’s pro team, was in second grade when his interest in the sport was sparked at SSCV.

“Dan first got me into nordic skiing eons ago,” he said, referring to SSCV program director Dan Weiland. Houtsma placed 10th but was just 14 seconds off the podium.

He would move and grow up in Aspen before later competing briefly at Bates College. Now, his goals are earning World Cup starts via the Super Tour. Based out of Bozeman, he trains alongside some of the country’s top post-collegians and is coached by four-time Olympian Andy Newell.

Houtsma, whose father lives in Vail, came home to Colorado with fellow Steamboat locals and BSF teammates Finn O’Connell and Simon Zink because, well, it was a sound financial and competitive decision.

“We’re like, alright, there’s this big gap between the Midwest Super Tours and conveniently enough, RMISA was here, racing back-to-back weekends in Colorado,” Houtsma explained. “Yeah, it’s like coming home. I spent my college summers here in Vail, so very familiar with the area.”

“Good to be back in the high-altitude air, beautiful sun, beautiful day,” said O’Connell, who earned Period 3 World Cup starts on the basis of his domestic performances in the U.S Ski and Snowboard Super Tour, the main goal for Newell’s BSF athletes.

Finn O’Connell, who hails from Steamboat Springs, raced in the Tour de Ski in this year’s World Cup. He is currently a Bridger Ski Foundation elite team athlete.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“It was hard,” O’Connell said of his seventh-place performance. “Just flew back from Europe a couple days ago and decided to come over this morning and race. But it was fun.”

Houtsma said this year has been a “mixed bag” results-wise, but he’s been pleased with his sprinting improvements. The 25-year-old had the top qualifying mark at the Cable, Wisconsin Super Tour sprint en route to a fifth-place overall finish.

“It’s come a long ways this year,” he said. On Friday, he also noticed the tangible improvements skiing on Maloit Park’s punishing climbs — at least compared to all those years ago, when he first started in the sport.

“It’s definitely cool to feel the improvement,” he said. “Going up the main wall and just feeling strong and like I’m able to push through transitions. I felt like I could come through the stadium and feel ready to attack and not just dying.”

2022 Olympian Luke Jager finishes his first lap during the DU Invitational on Friday at Maloit Park.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Kickin’ it with Koch

If Friday’s theme was big names in Nordic skiing, then the biggest name, at least historically speaking, might be Will Koch’s. The University of Colorado skier, who placed 13th, is the son of Bill Koch, the first American to win an Olympic medal in the sport. The Vermont native won silver at the 1976 Innsbruck Games and the first ever World Cup overall globe in 1982. He’s also been credited with pioneering the skate skiing technique.

At just 20, his son started his promising World Cup career this year, making his debut in the Livigno, Italy sprints on Jan. 21. When asked how Maloit Park compared to the venues in Livigno, Toblach, Les Rousses and elsewhere, Koch said, “To be quite honest, I always tell people this is one of my favorite courses to race on because there’s just so many turns, transitions, short little punchy climbs.”

“That’s my favorite racing terrain and I also think these courses ski pretty great at altitude because of the punchy nature — without anything too long and sustained.”

Coming straight from the Toblach World Cup on Feb. 3, where he was 45th in the sprint, he said the altitude and slow, Colorado snow was “a bit of a shock to the system.”

“But, I really enjoyed it, I love a good 5k honestly,” he continued. “I had good skis today, but it was still slow. The difference (is) today, the competitive times are 14 or 15 minutes versus 10 or 11 on the World Cup.”

Koch’s current goals are the NCAA championships, but he knows he might get a call up to the World Cup for period 4, or compete in the OPA Cup and/or Super Tour Finals. The plethora of options are a positive.

“I think it’s really fun. One of my favorite parts about it is that I never have any doubt that I’ll have good race to go to at any point,” he said.

“For a lot of skiers, the main goal is just World Cup and it’s pretty stressful not knowing if you’ll make that or not. This whole season, I will have been just as happy doing World Cup as being here, so I think it’s a really good situation.”

Mixing it up with the best

For the group of SSCV athletes taking to Friday’s course, the learning started in the warm-up.

“They do such a good job of transitioning their tempos based off the terrain,” Cruz-Abrams observed of the elite competition he faced.

“For me, I’m going to lock into a gear for the race and that’s kind of how all my skiing is going to be. They just glide so smoothly and as soon as they get to something, they attack it and sprint over the top of the hills.”

Efficient downhill skiing was another obvious skill he hopes to emulate. “They hit all the tangents and they still recover.”

The Harvard-bound Cruz-Abrams was pretty analytical and dialed in himself, even noting the range of outcomes for specific pacing approaches on various hills throughout the course. When asked about his race goals and strategy, he said he wanted to get out hard.

“Then, really force the transitions over the rollers, and focus on the V2, maintain that power because it’s cold out here. We have really good skis today our coaches crushed it,” he said, adding that along the flats, he wanted to settle into a high threshold pace.

“Knowing that strong and smooth is going to be just as good as a hop-skate today with this snow.”

Cruz-Abrams finished in 17:30, just 20 seconds behind his teammates Henry Reynolds (17:10.9) and Alex Current (17:08).

An SSCV skier rounds the turn to start the second lap of Friday’s 5-kilometer individual start at Maloit Park.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“It was good. My goal was to have fun. This is my home course so I know it pretty well. Good transitions, felt pretty good about that,” said Reynolds, who is hoping to end his year at the Junior Nationals in Fairbanks, Alaska, this March.

“I think it was awesome that it was our home course. We kind of know everything; they only come here once every couple of years,” added Current, whose goal coming in was “to beat a couple of college guys” but knew overcoming the older competitor’s increased glide length would be a big ask.

“It’s crazy. They’re so fast. They have a lot bigger pushes.”

Andrew Lombardi finished in 17:40, though he prefers the classic technique. “We had pretty good skis on the slow snow,” he said. His big goal is qualifying for nationals as well. “I’m right on the edge of it, so in Aspen I have to have a good race.” 

On the girls side, Cassidy Wright (19:18) finished in 27th place in 19:18, with her teammate Keely Hendricks (19:48) sliding home in 29th.

“I feel like I skied most of the hills fast. I got super tired. It wasn’t bad, it just hurt,” said Hendricks, who also enjoyed being on the snow with a couple of Olympians.

“It’s kind of nice to ski with them, especially when they’re lapping and you’re starting and you get to ski near them,” she said.

“I feel like they just have everything dialed. Like they know what to do; it’s kind of intimidating. They’re fast.”

The DU Invitational continued on Saturday with a 10-kilometer mass start classic. Full men’s results and women’s results can be found on VailDaily.com.

Shiffrin gets super-G silver, ties record for most Alpine world championship medals

Stakes and storylines are built into any starting gate Mikaela Shiffrin gets behind. So are records.

In Wednesday’s super-G, the narrative revolved around seeking redemption for straddling the third-to-last gate just meters from combined gold in this week’s first World Alpine Ski Championships event. It was also about confirming to herself she isn’t under any global championship curse.

“The last two or four weeks — well really the last year — but especially in the last few weeks — I must have answered a hundred questions about these world championships and basically if I’m worried if it’s going to be the same as the Olympics. If I’m worried about the disappointment —  if I’m afraid of it,” Shiffrin said in a post-race press conference.

“You get asked the same thing again and again and it’s so hard to keep the balance in your mind to answer this question and still be positive and still think, ‘I can do this. I can ski my best, I can make it to the finish.’”

“And then after the combined I was like, ‘you have got to be kidding me,’” she continued, chuckling. 

“My DNF rate right now in my entire career, over 50% is at the Olympics or world championships… It’s almost funny, and it’s only funny because I was able to win a medal today.”

That medal: super-G silver.

Shiffrin ended up 0.11 seconds behind Italian gold medalist Marta Bassino and 0.22 clear of Cornelia Huetter and Kajsa Vikhoff Lie, who tied for third.

The hardware, however, failed to capture the deeper significance of Shiffrin’s rebound performance.

“I mean it’s important just alone. Then, of course, it’s very special after the combined day, but they’re totally different days. I’m even more proud of today now because in the combined, if I finished, and if I got a medal there, it was because of my slalom,” said the Edwards skier, who knew her super-G from Monday was “not good enough to be on the top step or get a medal for this race.” 

“So the last 48 hours I had to completely change my mentality, look at this hill in a different way — the visualization, the analyzing video, everything — to try to bring it back in the right level, the right skiing for this race.”

Mikaela Shiffrin competes in the super-G at the women’s World Championships in Meribel, France on Wednesday.
Gabriele Facciotti/AP photo

Bassino, who wore bib No. 8 and went right before Shiffrin, was unable to leverage the flatter upper course to her advantage but took more risks in the technically demanding middle section of the Roc de Fer course — which was roughly 15-seconds longer than the setup for the super-G portion of Monday’s combined. Her finishing time of 1 minute, 28.06 seconds was good enough to put her in the leader’s chair, but the 26-year-old two-time Olympian wasn’t particularly comfortable watching her generation’s most dominant skier take to the slope moments later.

Marta Bassino follows the race from the finish area. Bassino would win gold in the super-G, her second after winning the parallel event at her home worlds two years ago. She also became the second Italian skier to win the women’s super-G world title.
Jean-Christophe Bott/AP photo

“Today I just did a great last part because I lost a lot of time in the first part,” Bassino was quoted in SkiRacing.com. “I was really suffering watching all the other girls coming down. I’m really happy and confident in myself, it’s really a great result for me.”

At the fourth interval, Shiffrin was 0.15 seconds ahead of Bassino’s 1:10.76 time. The Italian’s aggressive skiing on the bottom of the course proved decisive; her final sector was the fastest on the day. Still, a tearful Shiffrin was pleased at the finish line. 

“I’m emotional because I don’t really feel like I should be winning a medal in super-G right now,” she said. Her World Cup resume — a win and a seventh — justify the surprise.

“There are so many women who are strong and fast.”

In the press conference that followed, Shiffrin elaborated on her 12th worlds medal, tying her with Kjetil Andre Aamodt for the most individual event medals in the modern era. Her remarks were less centered on any record, though, and more about stepping back onto a global championship podium.

“The pressure’s not off — but there’s for sure a little bit of relief, but it’s also so exciting. I didn’t really believe I could ski this track the way that I did ski it,” she said.

“So that’s a struggle for an athlete. The struggle between what you want to do and your own doubts that you have the ability to do it. And in the start gate, I was fighting this in my own mind, like, ‘can I do it? I don’t know? Probably not…hopefully…we’ll see.’”

Shiffrin required just 15 starts to match Aamodt, 12 less than the Norwegian. The overall record of 13 medals is held by Anja Parson, who won two in team events. Another record to track (because there aren’t enough) as Shiffrin competes in the giant slalom and slalom on Feb. 16 and 17, respectively, is the all-time world championships gold medal count (7), which she is one away from tying. 

Speaking of records, Shiffrin, who has spent most of the season chasing the Lindsey Vonn and now Ingemar Stenmark all-time World Cup wins carrots, woke up to a news alert this morning notifying her of Lebron James passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time NBA points list. A reporter asked Shiffrin if she could draw any comparisons between James’ chase and her own pursuits. 

“It’s another example of incredible accomplishments happening in sport that will continue to drive future generations to try to reset the boundaries, reset the records and keep pushing the level of sports, whether it’s skiing or basketball,” she said. “For me, it symbolizes this concept that we keep working harder and trying to do better.”

In super-G, Shiffrin has a medal of every color and is one of two skiers (Hermann Maier being the other) to make the super-G podium at three consecutive world championships. Though she will not compete in Saturday’s downhill, Bassino’s teammate Sofia Goggia, the Olympic downhill champion, is a favorite to make it three golds from three races for the Italian women’s team.

“Great, now the pressure is on me,” Goggia was quoted saying in SkiRacing.com. “First Fede (Federica Brignone), then Marta and let’s see.”

Italy’s Marta Bassino, winner of an alpine ski, women’s World Championships super G, celebrates on the podium with second-placed United States’ Mikaela Shiffrin, left, and joint third-placed Austria’s Cornelia Huetter, second from right, and Norway’s Kajsa Vickhoff Lie, right, in Meribel, France on Wednesday.
Alessandro Trovati/AP photo

Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Nordic skiers shine at U.S. senior national championships in Houghton, Michigan

Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s Nordic ski team has returned from four days of racing at the U.S. senior national championships in Houghton, Michigan (Jan. 2-7). Head coach Eric Pepper said that overall, it was a good week.

“We had some top performances out of those who have been going really well all season. We had some others gain really good experience racing against very high quality competition at sea level,” he said.

While Wednesday’s double-pole-friendly classic sprint didn’t provide as many opportunities for the altitude-trained SSCV skiers to rev their aerobic engines, Friday’s 10-kilometer classic mass start race did.

“The classic mass start was a very good day for us,” said Pepper, adding that with the course’ flat opening kilometer and fast downhill to follow, getting out quickly in a field of 135 boys and 109 girls was paramount.

“We knew this, we talked about it a lot and we did very well executing that and staying out of trouble.”

SSCV alumna Haley Brewster, skiing for the University of Vermont, finished second overall in 32 minutes, 51.1 seconds. Rose Horning (32:56.8) was third and the top U18, her sister Adele (33:09) was fifth and SSCV teammate Emma Barsness (33:47.3) placed 15th in a field composed of numerous NCAA athletes and several of the country’s top juniors.

“Having those girls up front together seemed to really help all of them and they just really enjoyed the day,” said Pepper.

“These races were certainly a great opportunity to show many college coaches what I am capable of,” said Adele Horning, who said she focused on effort, mindset and technique process-goals during the week, but did accomplish one key outcome goal by pre-qualifying for the U.S. Junior Nationals in Fairbanks this March.

“When talking with my coach previously in the week, he had mentioned that, to pre-qualify, I would likely have to get to-10 in this race. I hoped for this, but thought it might be out of my reach,” the Lake County high school senior continued. After double-poling outside the tracks at the start and avoiding a pile-up on the first major downhill, Horning said she was left out of position.

“Then, on the first hill, I put it all out there and made contact with the front group,” she detailed. Horning was able to pull alongside her sister, Rose, in fourth, and even held a podium place for large portions of the last lap.

“I was a little disappointed because two girls passed me near the end of the race, but I gave everything I had and was thrilled with the result.”

“The most exciting part of this race for me was getting to be racing with Adele,” Rose stated. “We were able to work together and push each other the whole time.”

Capped by her third-place finish, Rose Horning opened a few international doors.

“Rose just booked herself a heck of a calendar coming up,” Pepper commented. She will compete alongside former SSCV skier Brewster again at the World Junior Championships in Whistler, Canada at the end of the month. She also qualified for the U18 Nations Cup races in Jyvaskyla, Laajavuori (Finland) two weeks later. Finally, she earned a spot on the 2024 Youth Olympic Games team in Gangwon, South Korea.

“So from a purely results outcome perspective I don’t think we could have asked for much more for her,” Pepper said. “Having the opportunity to go to those places and partake in those races is going to be great.”

“Even throughout the week, I was not expecting to qualify for Junior Worlds,” the younger Horning stated. “I had not even considered youth olympics, so when I found out I qualified for the trip I was speechless. Overall this week could not have been more exciting.” 

On the boys side, Will Bentley churned out another stellar performance with a 16th overall placing racing as a U16 in the U20 race.

“Will has had a really strong season so far. He was fantastic in early December and again in Houghton he was very good. You don’t see many U16 boys show up at races like that,” Pepper said.

“When you are looking at a U16 going up against U18s and U20s, that is a big task. He just loves that part and seems to really thrive the higher the level of competition. So, while he came up a bit short of some big goals he set for himself, he skied really well and I was very impressed.”

“Andrew (Lombardi) and Reiner (Schmidt) also skied really well as first-year U18s in a race that has some much intensity and is really hectic throughout,” the coach continued. Schmidt and Lombardi placed 87th and 104th, respectively.

The final event of the week, Saturday’s skate sprint, proved more challenging.

“It seemed like the U20 field was very strong this year and you have a lot of college racers in that group,” Pepper said. “So for our group made up of almost all high school aged skiers those races were a pretty big ask.”

Rose Horning and Izzy Glackin qualified top-30 to race in the heats, with Horning going as far as the semifinals. SSCV didn’t have any boys qualify.

“It was a great week of racing in Houghton,” Glackin stated in an email after the races. “All the best Nordic skiers from around the country were there. It gave us all the chance to see where we stack up against the best.”

When asked if he sensed any extra inspiration amongst the athletes as they raced alongside the country’s best senior athletes in several of the races, Pepper said it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

“For some, that can be really exciting and for some it can be intimidating and we probably had a bit of a full spectrum going on,” he said. “Part of racing and gaining experience to me is normalizing that sort of thing and just getting that ‘I belong here’ sort of feeling.”  

“I think the biggest difference with having the senior athletes at these races as well was the level of competition,” added Adele Horning. “Every fraction of a second counted, which was definitely exciting.”

“We had an amazing group of athletes and coaches at these races. My skis were perfect for every race, and the team was very supportive. I loved getting to celebrate my successes with such an amazing group of teammates,” Rose Horning said. 

Up next for Pepper’s squad is the “SuperQ” at Soldier Hollow, a Junior National Qualifier (JNQ) which uniquely features all five western divisions. Pepper said he is looking forward to seeing his athletes who sat out Houghton get a chance to race again after the five-week gap between the opening JNQ in Crested Butte last month and the events at the 2002 Olympic venue.

“It is going to be really fun to get back out there and see what we have learned these last few weeks,” he said. “Overall we feel good and are ready to go.”

Vlhova wins, Shiffrin takes second in Flachau World Cup slalom

Even though the anointing of Mikaela Shiffrin as the proverbial GOAT seems like a forgone conclusion at this point, the Edwards skier isn’t the official statistical greatest of all-time just yet. 

Shiffrin placed second in the World Cup slalom in Flachau, Austria on Tuesday, coming up short in her quest for an 83rd-career World Cup win after tying Lindsey Vonn (82) for the most victories by a female Alpine skier on Sunday in Kranjska Gora. It was the American’s chief rival, Petra Vlhova, who took the 0.43-second win under the lights with a combined time of 1 minute, 51.95 seconds. Lena Duerr (1:52.80) of Germany rounded out the podium.

Petra Vlhova had the fastest first run and second-fastest second to claim the win in Tuesday’s World Cup slalom in Flachau, Austria.
Marco Trovati/AP photo

“If you beat Mikaela it means you were really strong because you can see this season she’s strong,” said Vlhova, who added she wasn’t thinking about preventing Shiffrin from breaking Vonn’s record.

“I wanted just to ski free and just to do my run and I feel good today,” the Slovak skier continued. “I’m proud I could beat Mikaela because … if you want to beat her you need to ski above her and it (has to be) perfect, not (just) good.”

“It was difficult this evening to perform top-top, but even then, I felt some turns that I love to feel, so it’s …actually when I’m not on my most top form, I still am enjoying when I’m skiing, so that’s nice,” Shiffrin said.

Racing against a field with a combined World Cup win total exactly half as voluminous (41) as her own, Shiffrin skied a tactical first run on the relatively moderate 210-meter Griessenkar slope, a hill she’d won on four times heading into Tuesday. With limited potential traps — but a notable one occurring at the beginning of the fourth sector — in the 70-gate course set up by Vlhova’s coach Mauro Pini, there was an opportunity for risk-takers to gain speed. The question was whether anyone would take the bait.

Even with a conservative approach, Shiffrin’s clean run and 56.07-second time was the class of the field …except for Vlhova. The Slovak streaked to a 55.90-second mark thanks to a scintillating third and untouchable fourth sector, respectively.

“On some rolls, I took risks because they were a little bit tricky,” Vlhova told the AP regarding her first run. “It’s something special, in front of a lot of fans from Slovakia.”

“I actually think it was a quite a good run. I felt like my skiing was very good everywhere but for some small mistakes, but nothing too crazy so I kept the speed going everywhere,” Shiffrin told the AP after the first run.

The most Americans qualified for a second run (4) since 2007, with Paula Moltzan coming into run No. 2 in 10th, followed by Nina O’Brien (20th) and Lila Lapanja (30th). Moltzan finished the day in fifth.
Giovanni Auletta/AP photo

Even though she’s come from behind to win slaloms nine times before, Shiffrin wasn’t sure if her first effort had positioned her well enough for a win, but she did say it was “enough for me to be satisfied.” She also enjoyed watching her Slovak rival work the course. “I think it was the perfect combination of aggressive and also smart,” she said.

Shiffrin Stats

Courtesy of Olympics.com

  • 234 World Cup starts
  • 35.2 percent. Shiffrin’s World Cup winning rate
  • 130 World Cup podiums. That includes 71 in slalom, the most in a single discipline for a woman.
  • 13 seasons. The 27-year-old has now taken part in 13 different seasons on the World Cup circuit, from 2010/11 through 2022/23.
  • 12 Globes. From her 13 seasons, Shiffrin has won four overall Crystal Globes and eight discipline titles (six in slalom, one each in super-G and giant slalom). Her eight discipline globes lead all active skiers; her six slalom titles is tied for the most alongside Vreni Schneider.
  • 51 World Cup slalom wins, the most by any skier in any discipline.
  • 17 World Cup giant slalom wins, more than any other active skier.
  • 17 victories. That’s the FIS World Cup record for the most wins in one season, set by Shiffrin in 2018/19.
  • 1st skier. The American is the only person, man or woman, to have won a race in each of the World Cup’s six disciplines (downhill, super-G, slalom, giant slalom, combined, and parallel).
  • 15-364. Shiffrin’s age when she raced her first World Cup event in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czechia, a day before her 16th birthday in 2011.
  • 18–351. Shiffrin’s age when she became the youngest slalom Olympic champion (man or woman) when she won in Rosa Khutor at Sochi 2014. She had become the third-youngest world champion in the discipline the year prior.
  • 27 years, 252 days. Shiffrin’s age when she won her 76th World Cup race, younger than both Stenmark, by 53 days, and Vonn, by nearly four years.
  • 27 years, 309 days. Shiffrin’s age when she equalled Lindsey Vonn’s women’s record of 82 race wins. Vonn was 33 years and 156 days old when she won the last of her World Cup races.

In-between runs, Shiffrin reportedly experienced stomach issues.

“I don’t feel very well, but that’s not surprising after a long stretch of racing, and no matter what, Petra skied amazing tonight and she deserves the victory,” she told FIS reporters who asked her if her discomfort effected her at all. “Ideally, there’s not a story about how I’m feeling. I earned a second place and she earned the victory tonight and that was quite an amazing show.”

In the more direct second course and with conditions holding up in run No. 2, Shiffrin’s top-half of the course wasn’t anything to write home about, but she found another gear in the bottom third. Still, slow-mo revealed rattling skis in sectors one and two, which left the door open for Vlhova. The Olympic champion was particularly hungry for her first win of the season after reaching seven podiums thus far and she capitalized with the second-fastest second run despite being the final athlete to take to the rutted course.

“We were waiting so long and of course we wanted to win earlier but it’s not so easy to win. That’s maybe the reason I was full of emotions in the finish — I wanted to win.” Vlhova said after the victory, her third in Flachau. “I’m super happy to win here because it’s something special.”

Vlhova ended Shiffrin’s five-win slalom streak back in 2019 when she defeated the American in Flachau. When asked if there is an explanation for why the pair tends to trade turns on the top step of the podium, the Slovak replied, “I think not. I guess like, sometimes it’s really difficult skiing with her in the same era because 82 victories is something huge, but I think for our sport it’s good that we are together.”

“We are pushing each other,” she continued. “Today, she knew I was going to be strong and I knew she was going to be strong, so we were pushing our limits.”

The World Cup travels to St. Anton Jan. 14-15 for a downhill and super-G, but Shiffrin will rest and try again for win No. 83 at the speed events Jan. 20-22 in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

“I’m looking forward to Cortina; get some recovery and right back into it,” she said.

Shiffrin ties for sixth place in Kranjska Gora giant slalom as Grenier takes win

Mikaela Shiffrin is in the home stretch of becoming Alpine skiing’s all-time winningest female athlete. On Saturday, however, a sixth-place finish in the giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia ensured the Edwards skier will have to keep striving for at least another week to reach the finish line. 

Shiffrin’s combined time of 1 minutes, 56.34 seconds on the Podkoren 3 course was 1.33 seconds behind Saturday’s winner, Valerie Grenier of Canada. Marta Bassino and Petra Vlhova rounded out the podium.

“I still can’t believe it — I’m so, so happy,” Grenier said.

After winning five straight World Cup events through last Wednesday’s slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, there has been a palpable expectation that Shiffrin would tie, or perhaps even pass Lindsey Vonn’s mark of 82-career World Cup wins — the most by any female Alpine skier — this weekend. Shiffrin has amassed 81 World Cup victories, winning 51 slaloms — a discipline record — 16 giant slaloms, five super-Gs, three downhills and one Alpine combined in 232 World Cup starts. Vonn, who retired at 34 on Feb. 10, 2019 after winning a world championship bronze medal, accumulated her wins this way: 43 in downhill, 28 in super-G, four in giant slalom, two in slalom and five in Alpine combined in 395 starts.

Even Vonn herself recently predicted the 27-year-old would smash her record.

“[Mikaela] is the best skier that has ever lived in my eyes,” Vonn, now 38, told the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Dec. 22. “She will break my record of World Cup wins very quickly and will become the greatest skier in history.”

Although slalom is her specialty, Shiffrin has won two giant slaloms this year and finished sixth and 13th in two others. She is ranked second in the giant slalom discipline cup standings. On Saturday, however, the day belonged to Canada’s Grenier.

The 2016 World Junior champion posted the top time in run No. 1, with Swiss star Lara Gut-Behrami 0.04 seconds back in second. A pair of Italians, Federica Brignone and Bassino — the giant slalom season leader — sat in third and fourth, while Shiffrin’s relatively slower fourth sector placed her in fifth, 0.31 seconds off the lead.

Mikaela Shiffrin sat in fourth place after the first run of the World Cup giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia on Saturday.
Marco Trovati/AP photo

As the Podkoren 3’s 320-meter course warmed in the 3-degree Celsius weather, the snow turned to a gravely slop in some areas. Petra Vlhova, who said she’s been fighting off the fatigue of chasing Shiffrin, wasn’t bothered by it, though. The Slovak maneuvered the course’s 40 gates to produce her best run of the season and go into first with four athletes remaining.

“I tried to do everything to be faster today,” Vlhova said. “I’m really looking forward to racing again tomorrow.”

Shiffrin followed with a solid run, but compared to Vlhova’s masterclass, it was clear halfway down the hill that the American’s five-win streak was going to come to an end. Shiffrin lost time in each sector, ultimately skiing into a tie with France’s Coralie Frasse Sombet in sixth place.

Somehow Bassino upped the ante even more than Vlhova, sneaking past the Olympic slalom champion by 0.03 seconds, thanks to a brilliant upper section.

“I really like this place and this slope. Today was really fun to ski because the snow was perfect and after Sestriere and Semmering, the feeling wasn’t so good,” Bassino said. “I think I can do better; it’s nice with tomorrow there is another chance.”

But Grenier would not be denied.

“I felt so calm the whole time leading up to the second run. I was very relaxed and thinking about my plan and nothing more,” Grenier said of her vibes before taking to the course.

The 26-years old rocketed down the slope in 57.96 seconds — the fastest second-run time as well — to claim her first World Cup podium and win.

“I’ve been wanting this for so long,” Grenier told reporters afterward. “I’m just going to cry.”

In becoming the first Canadian woman to win a World Cup race since Marie-Michele Gagnon on Feb. 28, 2016, she ended the nation’s longest victory drought in more than 40 years.

Another giant slalom is set for Sunday in Zagreb, with the first run scheduled for 1:30 a.m. MST.

Charlie Janssen completes 7,412-mile calendar-year trail triple crown

In this season of annual reflection and New Year’s resolutions, Charlie Janssen has a job almost as monumental as the task he spent most of 2022 completing. 

At 7:32 a.m. on Feb. 3 — his 34th birthday — the former Eagle Valley High School teacher and coach left Springer Mountain, GA, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail (AT). At 10:28 a.m. on Nov. 15 — 285 days, 20 hours and 56 minutes later — after walking the AT, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), he arrived at the U.S./Mexico border to become the 13th individual to complete the calendar-year trail triple crown.

Janssen’s main takeaway from finishing hiking’s holy grail might surprise you. 

Janssen’s Journey – by the numbers

Total Trail Distance = 7,412.35 miles

Ancillary miles = 134.45 miles

Total Distance = 7,546.8 miles

Time: 285 days, 20 hours, 56 minutes (271 days spent hiking)

Cumulative Pace: 26.4 miles/day (including rest days)

AT (2,194.3 miles) – 88 days, 4 hours, 31 minutes (24.94 miles/day)

PCT (2,653.6 miles) – 98 days, 21 hours, 18 minutes (26.84 miles/day)

*included one 0 day, four days with COVID, and three days traveling to a wedding

CDT (2,564.45 miles) = 91 days, 21 hours, 30 minutes (27.91 miles/day)

*included two 0 days

Longest day: 57.6 miles

Shortest day: 4.5 miles

Calories consumed per week: 35,000-40,000

Total vertical gain/loss = 2,519,228 feet (8,812.34 per day)

Total climb = 1,259,614 feet

*the equivalent of hiking Pikes Peak from sea level 89 times or the Barr Trail summit route 170 times

States covered = 22

Wilderness Areas = 97

National Forests= 53

National Parks = 15

National Monuments = 6

The Why

Allee Janssen wasn’t surprised by her husband’s triple crown quest. It came up on their first date.

“This is something I’ve known was on his agenda for a long time and it seemed like the right time for him to go and pursue it,” she said.

“I knew he would think about it until he either retired and went to do it — and who knows if you would be physically capable at that point — or just figured out a way to do it.”

Janssen started dreaming of the triple crown after a solo completion of the AT in 2012, but a decade later, his wide-ranging motivations had evolved alongside his life.

He wanted to prove to his students and athletes across the three districts he’s influenced that anything is possible. He needed to “metabolize the loss” of his brother, who passed away in 2019 after an eight-year battle with late-stage renal failure. He longed for a general mental reset coming off of the pandemic, which in and of itself had birthed some competitive offspring.

“I was like, oh, (the social isolation during quarantine) wasn’t that bad. I can do that for longer and in a lot more isolation,” he told Backpacker Magazine, one of several outlets to profile Janssen. 

The triple crown concept naturally flowed from the former Pittsburg State runner’s innate drive — one derived from the unspoken but automatic assignment given to every collegiate endurance athlete: the lifelong mandate to search for the limit.

Finally, he wanted to show people thru-hiking wasn’t an adventure for single folks. “I wanted to prove to the world that in cases such as this, marriage makes you stronger and tougher, not softer,” he said. 

“I can personally attest that this time around, I was far psychologically tougher, grounded and centered than my first thru hike.”

Allee was pivotal throughout, as were many friends from Janssen’s other walks of life. 

“This isn’t like a true revelation, but I definitely didn’t get here on my own,” Charlie said. 

“Sure, I was the vessel that did this.” 

Included in the local honor roll of trail magicians, car-shuttlers and hiking buddies were Myriah and Steve Blair, who rescued Janssen from the graupel, hail, rain and snow that greeted him in his early October return to Colorado. 

“I was so excited to come back to the home state, but it really gave me the middle finger, weather-wise,” Charlie said of the seven straight precipitation-filled days. The Blairs rescued him at Berthoud Pass and drove him back to their Eagle County home, where the Eagle Valley boys cross-country runners he’d coached one year prior were hanging out after a meet. The Blairs got him back to the trail the next day, and Myriah joined him on an 18-mile stretch from Copper Mountain to Camp Hale while Steve shuttled the cars. 

Eagle Valley head cross-country coach Melinda Brandt sent a box of goodies to Gorham, New Hampshire, but when Janssen’s AT hike was initially cut short because of snow, the Brandts had the package re-shipped to Kennedy Meadow, California, where notes from athletes and much-appreciated junk food warmed his spirits before climbing into the High Sierras. Eagle Valley High School social studies teacher Nicole Dewell organized a night inside via a friend in Branchville, New Jersey, and also collected funds from former co-workers to help offset the cost of the last of 13 pairs of shoes worn throughout the year.

The Whitewater River in the Mojave Desert. The Mojave Desert portion of the PCT, located in southern California, was Janssen’s favorite section of trail.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo
Forester Pass, Sequoia/Kings Canyon Wilderness; snow in the High Sierras of California proved frustrating for Janssen.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

Former athletes came to the rescue and lifted his spirits across the country, too. John Papadapoulos met Janssen in Amish country in southern Pennsylvania with a massive pizza to share. The coach spent a night in a Castleton College dorm room in Vermont with former athlete Ryan Boeke. In California, current Loyola Marymount runner Avery Doan kept him company around Lake Hughes in the Mojave Desert — which ended up being Janssen’s favorite stretch of the whole journey.

While hiking the PCT, Janssen stopped to nab a photo from Angeles Crest in Los Angeles County.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

Later, Janssen treated Brennecke Gale to dinner to celebrate her Stanford graduation when she visited him on a messy part of the high Sierras. Finally, Aiden Branch drove through the night to rescue a hypothermic Janssen on Buffalo Pass.

“It takes a village of online support and in-person, on-ground support for me or anybody to accomplish this,” Janssen concluded.

The walk

Charlie’s “logistically genius” wife set up a Facebook page, “Where is Charlie Hiking Now,” sending out daily updates and GPS locations to over 500 followers. Friends and family watched as the “Kansas Express” (his trail name) experienced the highs and lows of traversing the unrelenting terrain of the AT. He came down with strep and dealt with cellulitis in the first 25 days, but as he told a media outlet in Wyoming, “What wears others down, wears me down less.” 

He enjoyed seeing wild horses in the Grayson Highlands and the Franconia Ridge at sunset. Then, 71 days in, he ran into impassable snow just 390 miles from Katahdin’s summit. 

He packed up and flew across the country to start the PCT, hiking that trail — which would emerge as his favorite of the three — for 56 days before returning to New Hampshire to complete the AT, reaching the highest peak in Maine on a clear, June 29 day.

Janssen stands on the summit of Mt. Katahdin in Maine, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, after completing the first leg of his triple crown on June. 29.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

He returned to the PCT two days later, where the warmth was a reprieve from the snow and moisture intermittently experienced on the AT. His 42 days of adventures through California, Oregon and Washington included hiking the first 17 miles of one of his meatier climbing days on just 290 calories. There was a 57.6-mile effort — his longest — through an expired fire closure area around Mt. Jefferson, which he navigated without getting caught.

He also was fortunate to see Allee, who has been working as a traveling nurse in California, on 18 of the days, survive a bout with COVID and fly to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a friend’s traditional Indian wedding. The latter two events comprised seven of the 15 total non-hiking days Janssen afforded himself at his break-neck pace.

Janssen at the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail on Aug. 12.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

On trail, Janssen eventually engaged in podcasts and audiobooks, but most of his hiking was done in silence as his mind strained to support the constant cognitive load. 

“You had to measure how much food you ate, how many ounces of water to bring to the next source — is that going to be reliable — looking at the elevation profile, the weather, the terrain. Everything is very calculated and it can be stressful,” he said of the topics his mind hovered around.

“It’s crazy how for granted you take running hot water, getting food at leisure. Everything is so calculated.”

Hiking just over a marathon per day, his minimum caloric requirement was 5,000, ballooning to 7,500 with zero cumulative weight gain as an ultimate consequence. “If I lose five pounds, I’m in the hurt bag,” said Janssen, who pounded tortillas, honey, peanut butter, candy bars, ramen and tuna. Allee prepared dried meals at home before and during the hike to help provide cost-effective, densely nutritious on-trail meal options.

He carried 45 items packed in a Hyperlite Junction backpack, a total weight of 22.28 pounds. After setting up his tent each night, Janssen said his well-adapted body was often tired, but never sore. 

“I was just hungry and wanted to go to sleep,” he said. “Other than that, I could wake up and just do it day after day after day; that was just the norm.”

The view from Buffalo Pass in Okanogan National Forest in Washington on Janssen’s final night on the PCT.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

His third leg — what many consider to be the most difficult trail — began on Aug. 16.

“Once he got to the CDT, I feel like there was some sense of relief and you could almost see he was on the home stretch,” Allee said.

“He just had to beat the winter storms and obviously not get injured.” 

He’d only met one other south-bounder on the CDT when he showed up to Monarch Pass in mid-October, and only 26 thru-hikers over the 2,600-mile trail. “It was surprisingly vacant,” he commented.

Janssen marches on south of Rogers Pass in Montana.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

Many of the people he did encounter over the course of his entire trip were friendly and fascinating. Some were, well — maybe just ‘fascinating’ is the nicest way to put it. There was the man who bizarrely stopped, walked 30 feet off the AT into the woods and started taking pictures of Janssen without comment. There was another guy Janssen came upon just 27 days into the AT who was walking in tight circles in the woods.

Tracking his daily forward progress via GPS signals, Allee possessed the normal thoughts any wife would have if her husband was out trying to cross the country three times … on foot… alone.

“I’m confident in his ability, so that really kind of tempered some of my worry,” she said. “We did appropriate things like making sure he had the GPS safety beacon, so that kind of gave me a little peace of mind, but there’s always that constant worry and concern.”

Having been spared of any tumultuous, trek-ending disasters, Janssen’s blessings reminded him of his brother, Michael Janssen. Back in 2012, 700 miles into the AT, he had rescued Charlie, who was experiencing heart palpitations just as he coincidentally approached Michael’s Connecticut home. Charlie spent five days at a Danbury hospital and was diagnosed with myopericarditis.

“If he hadn’t picked me up, who knows what would have happened,” Janssen recalled. “I felt like he was watching over me to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid this year.”

After 91 days — passing thru-hikers who had started that trail (and were only doing that trail) three months before he did, he reached the finish line on Nov. 15. At the end, Janssen felt a sense of shock. 

“In 2012, I was psyched to be done, happy to have accomplished what I set out to do,” he said. “This time, I wasn’t really ready for it to be done and it just kind of abruptly ended. You’re going 30-40 miles a day and then zero … my body hurt way worse when I was done than when I was going.”

The couple felt sadness having the adventure be over.

“I mean we’ll have many more adventures throughout our life, but it was so consuming throughout the whole year — where is he now, what does he need next and just, you know really trying to be there as his support system,” Allee stated, adding that she also enjoys backpacking, but doesn’t expect to trade spots next time. 

“I want to share that experience — I don’t want to just do it by myself,” she said.

On Nov. 15, Charlie Janssen reached the southern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail. From left: Denise Gillespie (Charlie Janssen’s mother-in-law), Charlie’s wife Allee Janssen, Charlie, and Charlie’s mom Rebecca Janssen.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

The next trailhead

To be frank, the triple-crown task perfectly suited someone like Janssen, who hopes to take a second crack at the Leadville 100 next summer or pursue smaller trail FKT’s. The statistical savant relished those daily computations — and mountainous spreadsheets he made devising his plan — of vert and distance. His ability to recall checkpoints to the tenth of a mile is the same wiring that allowed for ease of decisions for everything from caloric balance to campsite choice. Most importantly, his time spent as a collegiate runner gave him a unique combination of physical self-awareness, mental fortitude, grit and belief.

“Some days sucked. So cold, so uncomfortable. But it never crossed my mind that it wasn’t going to happen,” he told his alma mater’s alumni news website.

“I was so invested, had so much at stake. My wife went back to travel nursing for this. I quit my job teaching for this. Quitting was never an option. I was not going to throw in the towel. It was either finish or death.”

He considered himself “an average athlete” under coach Russ Jewett. Whether the assessment is accurate probably depends on the assessor, but the salient attribute is hidden from the results list and trophy case anyway. Janssen’s internal awareness betrays a runner who scratched and clawed for gradual improvement, aimed for regional relevancy, and, because he didn’t garner All-American honors, remained motivated to return to the proverbial well and willing to become a lab rat in his own experiments. Ultimately, he said even this challenge failed to uncover his physical ceiling.

Though Janssen’s trek wasn’t centered around soul-searching, geographic exploration, sight-seeing or weight loss, it would also be lazy to pigeonhole him and his quest into the post-collegiate runner box — a prototypically obsessed individual, fixated on masochistic challenges and trapped in perpetual pursuit of one’s mental and physical barriers. Not reaching his max might be shocking, but it’s not a revelatory takeaway holding much universal value. Then again, consumed by “the next decision,” Janssen didn’t have as much time to ‘solve all the world’s problems,’ as you might think. 

“I’ve done this long enough to know that none of those questions you had before are answered and you have way more than when you started,” he said. “90% of the time, your mind is deeply engaged in active critical thinking that in terms of mind wandering, there wasn’t actually a ton of that.”

He did eventually walk away with a relevant realization.

“What’s great about through-hiking is that you find the absolute best in nature and the absolute best in humanity … In such a socially tumultuous time, it’s just really refreshing,” he told NPR Kansas City.

“That part remains resolute; if more people through-hiked, there would be no war,” he stated last week, reflecting on his avoidance of political divisiveness on-trail. 

“Experiencing that for nine and a half months is just something that — I was just inundated with civilization stress as soon as I got back. I was like, man I wish I was still on the trail.’”

The escape from society’s complex warts to a hyper-focused rhythm of eating, hiking and sleeping energized Janssen. 

“It was kind of this perpetual thing that was very multi-faceted but also very simple,” he said. “Me vs. nature — you have an agenda: max out miles and push your body.”

When it was all over, those vibes were replaced by the heavy weight of the post-trail blues. Gone were the 12-15 hours of low-grade endorphin release from his daily schedule. Walking off the trail reintroduced a “mega-stimulus” overload to Janssen, who struggled with basic elements like hearing street noises and seeing lights as he assimilated himself back into society. His own vocal cords had atrophied from months without regular talking. Cars going 30 mph appear hypersonic as he recalibrated his movement perception to objects moving faster than his 3-4 mph world had for nearly a year.

His body had run on autopilot, the comforting consistencies of each morning’s task masking muscle tears, imbalances and misalignments — even to someone as physiologically introspective and in-tune as the methodical, dialed high school distance-running coach. Visits to the chiropractor have helped with migraines, but some things can’t be avoided.

On the first night back in his mom’s Kansas City apartment — which required a car ride from the Mexico border that was more nightmarishly painful, at least on a sheerly physical level, for Janssen than perhaps anything he encountered the previous 285 days — the fire alarm system went off. The shrill, high-pitched noise sent his “anxiety level through the roof.” 

Then, he and Allee were rear-ended in California, just for good measure. 

“Like, ‘welcome back to civilization,’” he said.

Two things can be true at once

“I would love to go back to coaching and teaching at Eagle Valley,” Charlie said of his next move after stepping away from his Devils post for 2022. “Our No. 1 goal is to move back to Gypsum, but the housing market is really crazy.”

Allee will be in Chico as a traveling nurse until June, after which, they hope to move back to Colorado. He also hopes to write a book, at some point, but, true to form, he knows he needs to process things and get the raw data organized. 

Pondering his final takeaways, Janssen remarked, “We started this conversation by saying it really takes a village and you really don’t arrive here on your own, but I feel like it takes a certain level of confidence and innate understanding of your own abilities and capacities just to believe that you can do it.”

Janssen encounters some snow near the end of his journey along the CDT in Carson National Forest in New Mexico.
Charlie Janssen/Courtesy photo

On trail, he adopted a mantra from Boulder-area running team Tinman Elite — “Bet on yourself.” 

“I feel like some people go out to find themselves, find some revelation or find their limit,” he said. 

“I thought I’d go out there and find my physical limit, and I didn’t.”

While that remains elusive, Janssen’s journey felt like more of an internal confirmation of a creed he’s always known: if you want to accomplish life’s big goals — the ones you dream about for a decade — the ball is ultimately in your court. Two things can be true at once:

“Yeah, you’re going to get help and support and people that love you, great vibes, energy and optimism as you go,” he said before pivoting inward to capture the essence and driver of every New Year’s resolutions list.

“But ultimately it really boils down to your innate knowledge of your abilities and capacities and belief in yourself that you can do it. Because if you don’t, it’s not getting done.”

Daniel Caballero leads Battle Mountain girls basketball into the new year

Battle Mountain girls basketball is under new leadership, but the last name of their new coach is anything but unfamiliar.

Daniel Caballero, the older brother of 2021 graduate and 1,000-point scorer, Gabby, has the Huskies (who start the youngest Caballero, Alessandra, at point guard) out to a 2-4 start in 2022-23, his first season as head coach.

“We’ve had our challenges so far; we’ve come across some very good teams,” stated Caballero, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant under Jim Schuppler.

“I feel as though we’ve competed with the teams. We’ve continued to fight from start to finish and that’s what I’ve been pushing from day one: we will never give in or give up.”

While his five younger siblings all attended Battle Mountain, the 2015 Vail Christian graduate (he did play baseball for the Huskies) was inspired to coach by his mentor, Sheldon Kuhns, who is retiring at the end of this season. The University of San Francisco graduate now working for RMT Architects in Avon hopes to establish a culture similar to the Saints coach — one that “isn’t always necessarily about basketball.”

“Coach Kuhns cares so much for the individual,” he said. “The biggest thing I got from him was to ‘make it about the people, not just the wins and losses.'”

From leaving notes for athletic directors hosting team camps to ringing the Salvation Army bells at Village Market this December, the Huskies have been walking the walk.

“I’ve definitely always felt that basketball should be bigger than just what we put on the court, and that’s the lasting impression I’m trying to leave at Battle Mountain,” Caballero said. Even though his coaching foundation goes deeper than Xs and Os, Caballero did reboot the team’s offensive and defensive systems to better suit his squad’s length and athleticism.

“We’re pretty athletic, we get up and down the floor and have some girls who like to run,” Caballero said regarding one key change from last year’s 5-17 team, which had seven seniors on varsity.

The youthful Huskies — they have one senior and just four returners with any varsity experience — are hoping to use their quickness and defensive aggressiveness to dictate tempo.

“We’re young, but we’re eager. We think we have a lot to prove,” the coach continued.

Kurt leads multi-sport stars into battle for Huskies

“Everyone kind of sees if Cass is going 110%, everybody else better be following suit, because that’s the level it’s going to take to get to where we want to be,” coach Daniel Cabarello said of senior Cassidy Kurt.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

Cassidy Kurt is the Huskies’ senior leader, vocal inspirer and bonafide team gym rat. Caballero said the shooting guard, the second-leading scorer on the team, has been putting up hundreds of shots a week since March.

“This year, she really wanted to step it up,” Caballero said, adding that his three captains — Kurt, Alessandra Caballero and Anna Glass, the team’s leading rebounder — are also the first to show up and the last to leave every practice.

“All three of them provide a level of work ethic the rest of the team mirrors,” he said.

Distinct from her older sister’s score-first mentality, Alessandra is a “more traditional point guard.”

“She’s really looking to dictate the tempo, distribute the ball — she’ll take her chances when she gets them — but she’s really looking to set the tone for us,” Caballero said of his youngest sibling, who leads the team in assists.

Multi-sport stars like the ultra-fast Kiki Hancock, the team’s leading scorer, and Elle Glendining, an athletic, almost 6-foot tall varsity soccer goalie, have allowed the team to use man-to-man full-court defense to instigate pressure and establish their desired speed. The Huskies can add height inside with Hailey Grant, who returns after suffering a leg injury last season.

Hailey Grant is one of two seniors on the Huskies this season. She’s averaging 4.2 rebounds per game this year so far.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

“When we put both of them on the floor, we’re a pretty big team,” he said of Grant and Glendining, both of whom can jump out of the gym.

“They’re long, athletic — both are pretty close to touching the rim.”

Caballero expects schemes to adjust as they head into the league portion of the schedule. Glenwood Springs (7-2) is the big dog in the four-team Western Slope.

“What coach Rhonda Mosier has done over there — she runs a tight ship — and they’ve really set the standard for what it means to be successful on a year-in and year-out basis, so I have a lot of respect for her,” Caballero said of the Demons’ coach, who recently notched career-win No. 100.

Battles between Palisade (3-7), Eagle Valley (3-5) and Battle Mountain could have playoff implications as there is no automatic playoff bid coming from the Western Slope. That means the 32-team playoff field will be filled via RPI ranking. Currently, Glenwood Springs is No. 4, Eagle Valley is 39th, and Battle Mountain is 46th.

“I think Eagle Valley has done a good job over the last few years with Coach Vinny Cisneros, of trying to change the culture,” Caballero stated.

“Between Eagle Valley, us and Palisade, I think we have a strong chance at competing for a playoff spot.”

Thus far, the Huskies have been strictly on the road, falling to the likes of 6A schools Denver East (7-1) and Lakewood. Their two wins have come against Smoky Hill on Dec. 8 and Middle Park on Dec. 13.

“The theme has definitely been, lay the groundwork now,” Caballero said.

“We’ve taken some lumps a little bit, but as long as we do the right things, when January and February roll around and we start to play teams at the same classification, that will definitely put us on the right trajectory.”

The team opens a five-game homestand starting on Jan. 9 against Evergreen. They host Basalt, a team that split against the Devils, on Jan. 11.

“It’s definitely a game we have to be prepared for,” Caballero said. The Huskies end the week against Durango (8-1).

“They’re a strong team. They return a big core,” Caballero said of the Demons, who were 17-8 last year. “We’ll kind of get to push and push and see where we’re at.”

“We have such a strong group of girls; they’re in the gym this week voluntarily just getting shots up, staying in shape, doing the right thing, because they want to make waves in this league,” the coach continued.

“We’re looking to show people that we can be a lot better than maybe what they expect of us.” 

The Huskies returned just four players with varsity experience to the 2022-2023 squad. The young, athletic team is being led by first-year head coach Daniel Caballero, who spent the last two seasons as Jim Schuppler’s assistant on the Battle Mountain bench.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

Mikaela Shiffrin wins giant slalom World Cup in Semmering, Austria to claim her 78th career win

Mikaela Shiffrin is closing out 2022 by closing in on Lindsey Vonn.

The Edwards skier, fresh of World Cup win No. 77 in the St. Moritz (Dec. 18) super-G, claimed her 78th-career victory in the giant slalom Tuesday in Semmering, Austria, inching closer to Vonn’s all-time women’s record of 82. Ingemar Stenmark (86) has the overall Alpine wins record. Petra Vlhova finished 0.13 behind the American in second and Italy’s Marta Bassino rounded out the podium in third.

“Yeah I mean the start of the weekend with three races is always a bit nerve-wracking,” Shiffrin told FIS media at the finish line. “You hope that you’re in the right shape and you can bring the right intensity for the start and I felt really good today so it was just pushing.”

The Edwards skier was nearly flawless in the first run of the day, where she sped down the 45-gate Panorama course in 1 minute, 5.49 seconds. Her smooth navigation of the 315-meter drop course, where she posted the fastest splits in three-of-four sectors, gave her a 0.72-second gap on Vlhova in second.

Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova posted the second-fastest time on the Panorama course during run No. 1 on Tuesday, but she was still 0.72-seconds behind Mikaela Shiffrin going into the final run.
Piermarco Tacca/AP photo

In addition to Vlhova, a familiar cast of characters was stalking Shiffrin. Last year’s giant slalom crystal globe winner Tessa Worley, looking for World Cup giant slalom win No. 17 to break a tie for second all-time with Annemarie Moser-Pröll, was 0.73 seconds behind Shiffrin in third. Bassino (1:06.36), winner of the most recent giant slalom in Sestriere on Dec. 10, was in fourth and Sara Hector (1:06.45), the 2022 Olympic gold medalist in the event, was fifth. Federica Brignone (1:06.47) and Lara Gut-Behrami (1:06.47) remained in contention as well.

France’s Tessa Worley speeds down the course during the World Cup giant slalom, in Semmering, Austria on Tuesday.
Giovanni Auletta/AP photo

Hector, who won three of the four giant slaloms last year en route to a second-place finish in the discipline standings and has been on eight of the last 11 giant slalom podiums, couldn’t find the speed of the earlier competitors at the top of the course, continued to drop time in the middle and fell into eighth place.

Bassino, who came into the event leading the giant slalom standings, kicked her Italian teammate Federica Brignone out of the leader’s chair with a blistering second run (it would hold up as the second-fastest) as the final three athletes waited at the top.

“I’m really happy about my skiing today. It was not so easy because of the snow because it was bumpy,” Bassino said.

At 33, Worley was looking to become the oldest giant slalom winner on the World Cup (Anita Wachter who was 32 years and 319 days old when she claimed her last World Cup giant slalom victory, in Lienz in 1999). A few mistakes in the second sector slipped her behind Brignone; she would ultimately finish in fourth.

Vlhova, the winner of the last World Cup giant slalom held in Semmering back in 2018 recaptured some of the magic and celebrated at the finish as she moved into first, pleasing a healthy contingent of Petra fans at the bottom.

“Yes of course I feel it all the time,” she told a reporter who asked Vlhova if she could sense the fan support.

Up at the top, the tension and nerves were building as Shiffrin heard the announcer — speaking in English — relay athletes’ times. “So, it’s not just going in the background in my head, it’s really getting into my head,” she laughed. “I was thinking, just ignore it.”

Out of the gate, Shiffrin gained 0.15 seconds in the first sector, time which would prove critical. She appeared to ski conservatively through the middle sections, coming up out of her low position between gates as she ceded time.

Watching from the base, Vlhova started to think the win might be hers.

“When you see the timing is slower and slower, you hope that you’ll be first position,” she told FIS reporters about what was going through her mind as she watched the American lose time at each turn.

Around one gate in the middle of the course, which was set up by American coach Magnus Andersson, her left hand rose high above her helmet as she fought to maintain her balance. Despite giving up another 0.24 seconds in the final sector, Shiffrin held on for win No. 78.

“The second one was a little bit wild sometimes but I felt like skis were running, and yeah I really enjoy racing here,” Shiffrin, who moved into fifth place in the giant slalom standings, said immediately after the run.

Dec. 27 giant slalom (Semmering, Austria) – results
  1. Mikaela Shiffrin, USA – 2:07.18
  2. Petra Vlhova, SVK – 2:07:31
  3. Marta Bassino, ITA – 2:07.49
  4. Tessa Worley, FRA – 2:07.66
  5. Federica Brignone, ITA – 2:08.43
  6. Ragnhild Mowinckel, NOR – 2:08.56
  7. Lara Gut-Behrami, SUI – 2:08.61
  8. Sara Hector, SWE – 2:08.70
  9. Alice Robinson, NZL – 2:08.91
  10. Paula Moltzan, USA – 2:08.99

In 2021-2022, Shiffrin only found the podium once in seven giant slalom participations. Prior to Tuesday, her most recent victory in the event came on Dec. 21, 2021 in Courchevel, France. She’s had some success in Semmering, however, winning back-to-back giant slalom’s on Dec. 27 and 28 in 2016 as well as two slalom events at the venue (in 2016 and 2018).

“GS is one of the hardest events for me, but also when I’m skiing well, then it feels just amazing. I felt like my skiing was really good to me,” she said.

“It’s not easy to win these races. With a big lead after the first run, the other women, they pushed so hard, they were able to come back almost right away. I never thought for sure I was going to win today, so I had to fight for it.”

Vlhova said she was “satisfied” with her second run, “because I wanted to do exactly what I did.”

“Tomorrow I have to be faster,” she concluded. When asked what it takes to bring down Shiffrin, Bassino added, “Tomorrow is another chance. Every race is different, so we start at zero and we try to attack tomorrow and we will see.”

Tomorrow is another chance. Every race is different, so we start at zero and we try to attack tomorrow and we will see.”

Tuesday’s victory pushed the 27-year-old into a 205-point lead in the overall standings. Sofia Goggia (470) trails in second and Vlhova (420) is in third.

As far as the rest of the Americans go, Stella Johansson failed to qualify for a second run, finishing in 43rd, while Nina O’Brien, Katie Hensien and Ava Sunshine posted DNFs in the first run. Paula Moltzan finished in 10th, moving up three places with a strong second run.

World Cup overall standings as of Dec. 27
  1. Mikaela Shiffrin, USA – 675
  2. Sofia Goggia, ITA – 470
  3. Petra Vlhova, SVK – 420
  4. Wendy Holdener, SUI – 384
  5. Corinne Suter, SUI – 334
  6. Elena Curtoni, ITA – 306
  7. Lara Gut-Behrami, SUI – 291
  8. Ragnhild Mowinckel, NOR – 289
  9. Sara Hector, SWE – 279
  10. Marta Bassino, ITA – 275

Events continue in Semmering with another giant slalom on Wednesday and a slalom Thursday.

Elizabeth Lemley claims first career World Cup dual moguls win in Idre Fjall, Sweden

When then 15-year-old Elizabeth Lemley burst onto the scene last January with a fourth-place finish in her World Cup debut in Tremblant, U.S. mogul insiders knew to keep an eye out for the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail star. On Sunday, she took the step those fans all knew was coming, claiming her first career World Cup win in the Idre Fjall, Sweden, dual moguls competition.

“She kept throwing good punches and ended up on top of the podium!” U.S. Ski and Snowboard head moguls coach Bryon Wilson told Courtney Harkins. “Liz’s consistency was impressive and it was a great day.”

Lemley took down Anri Kawamura 25-10 in the super final after defeating Olympic champion Jakara Anthony 20-15 in the semifinal. Perrine Laffont of France rounded out the podium by beating Anthony in the small finals.

“It feels awesome,” Lemley said about her win, which came in just her 10th-career World Cup start. “Early morning, but it was great to get out here and get the legs moving. I was just so stoked.”

The 2022 FIS rookie of the year, Lemley concluded last season with a World Junior championship. She kicked off this year with a seventh in Ruka, Finland, and was fifth in Saturday’s individual moguls in Idre Fjall. The 16-year-old has been on the brink of the podium for roughly a year, having four career top-five finishes going into Sunday.

The rest of the Americans performed well, too, with Jaelin Kauf placing sixth, Olivia Giaccio in ninth, Tess Johnson in 11th, Hannah Soar in 12th, Alli Macuga in 13th and Kasey Hogg finishing 18th. On the boys’ side, Nick Page won Saturday’s individual World Cup — becoming the first U.S. male to win a World Cup in six years — and finished third on Sunday. SSCV alumna Dylan Walczyk finished seventh in the dual moguls event a day after placing ninth; he was seventh in Ruka to open the season.

“Today was really fun — it felt great to back up yesterday’s win with another strong result on the podium,” Page told Harkins. “There’s something really special about competing in Sweden. From my first World Cup podium back in 2020, to my first win yesterday, and now my first dual moguls podium — I love it here. The energy, the kindness of the people here, and the great event they put on makes it high up on my list to come to every year.”

Dual moguls winners Elizabeth Lemley (USA) and Mikael Kingsbury (Canada) stand on the podium after the dual moguls final during the World Cup event in Idre Fjall, Sweden, on Sunday Dec. 11, 2022. It was Lemley’s first career World Cup win.
Nisse Schmidt/AP photo

“It’s awesome that the U.S. is coming up, especially the boys and thanks to all our coaches out there. Really appreciate it,” Lemley added. Lemley is now ranked fourth in the overall moguls/dual moguls cup standings and leads the dual moguls standings. The World Cup travels to Alpe d’Huez for dual moguls and moguls Dec. 15-17.