Once again, Aspen will play host to the top athletes in the country as they look to take advantage of a perfectly prepared speed track this week at the men’s and women’s U.S. Alpine Championships downhill on Wednesday, Feb. 16.
“It’s an honor to have the championships back in Aspen,” said Jeff Hanle, Director of Public Relations for Aspen/Snowmass. “The tradition of ski racing is firmly rooted in this community and it’s especially exciting to have a downhill back on Aspen Mountain. We have a great history of downhill racing here, and it is a thrill to watch America’s best take on the fabled speed track once again.”
Aspen’s storied racing tradition dates back to the 1950′s World Championships and would go on to become an Audi FIS Alpine World Cup staple beginning in the 1980′s. Legendary names like Phil Mahre, Ingemar Stenmark and Janica Kostelic have all won at Aspen. The women’s World Cup tour has raced in Aspen for the last seven winters.
With the NorAm Cup on Aspen’s Ruthies Run all week, the title race falls directly in the middle of the competition week. Last seasons’ downhill champions Travis Ganong and Leanne Smith went on to compete on the World Cup level and both are at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships currently being held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
In addition to two training runs, Aspen will host a pair of NorAm downhill races Feb. 14-15 prior to the U.S. Championship event on Wednesday.
On the women’s side, both Kiley Staples (Park City, UT) and Julia Ford (Plymouth, NH) have World Cup experience, but they’re also rolling into the U.S. Championship event sitting 1-2 in the NorAm overall standings. In the NorAm downhill points, the pair flips with Ford currently edging Staples.
A top-tier men’s field is expected to be on hand including World Cup top 10 finisher Erik Fisher (Middleton, ID) and World Cup young guns Colby Granstrom (Lake Stevens, WA), Will Gregorak (Longmont, CO), Tommy Biesemeyer (Keene, NY) and local favorite Wiley Maple (Aspen, CO).
The remaining U.S. Alpine Championship events will be held in Winter Park, CO March 31- April 3, the weekend following the Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships, a culmination of the largest recreational ski and snowboard race program in the world.