With the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup Finals and the NorAm Cup season in the rear-view mirror, the U.S. Ski Team returns home for the Putnam U.S. Alpine Championships set for March 31-April 3 in Winter Park, CO. Among those expected to compete are three-time World Cup giant slalom champion and Putnam athlete Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) and three-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, CA).
The championships serve as the culmination of a five-month season that crossed continents and countries so America’s best alpine skiers could go head-to-head with the world. Top athletes from the over 400 U.S. Ski Team club programs throughout the U.S. will converge on Winter Park for the four-day event.
“U.S. championships are always a fun way to close the season,” said Mancuso, after finishing third in both the World Cup downhill and super G standings this season. “I’ll definitely be racing everything in Winter Park.”
“It’s always cool to see all the top athletes in the U.S. together,” said Ligety, who also earned the giant slalom World Championship. “It was always fun for me as a young racer to come to nationals and race guys like Bode [Miller] and Daron [Rahlves]. I’m stoked to be there.”
The event also wraps a full-week of alpine racing at Winter Park which opend March 25 with the Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships, a culmination of the largest recreational ski and snowboard race program in the world.
On the elite World Cup level, former U.S. champion Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) added three more discipline titles to bring her career total to 12, while Ligety proved yet again that he is the greatest giant slalom athlete in recent years and Mancuso put on a season-long surge that resulted in victory at the final World Cup downhill.
Another notable U.S. Champs competitor is Nolan Kasper (Warren, VT), who is also a former NorAm champion. This season, Kasper jumped from 64th to 17th in the world slalom rankings and earned the Europa Cup slalom title. It was the first time an American had won a Europa Cup title since Monique Pelletier also took a slalom title in 1989.
“It’s a long season, that’s for sure,” said Kasper. “But U.S. Champs is a pretty special event. There’s no other way to see where you match up against the other top athletes across the country. Plus our families are all there and the coaches from our club programs. It feels like a big reunion.”
Across North America, U.S. young guns posted an onslaught of victories resulting in a U.S. sweep of the NorAm overall points top three by both men and women. On the men’s side Tommy Biesemeyer (Keene, NY) led Colby Granstrom (Lake Stevens, WA) and Ryan Cochran-Siegle (Starksboro, VT), while Kiley Staples (Park City, UT) earned the women’s title ahead of Julia Ford (Plymouth, NH) and 16-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin (Burke Mountain, VT).
In total, Americans take four of 12 World Cup titles and nine of 12 NorAm crowns into Winter Park with many of those athletes looking to add the coveted golden belt buckles that go along with winning a U.S. title to their winter haul.
Ligety’s main event opens the series on Thursday, March 31 with giant slalom, followed by women’s giant slalom Friday, super G on Saturday and slalom on Sunday. Following Thursday’s race, Ligety will be signing free posters in the Putnam tent.
Friday night also features the opening ceremonies with a presentation of the giant slalom winners, an athlete parade and free music by U.S. Ski Team alum and recording artist Bryon Friedman.
“We look forward to hosting these world-class athletes, coaches and their families, along with resort guests, during the Putnam U.S. Alpine Championships,” said Gary DeFrange, president and chief operating officer at Winter Park Resort. “We are all busy preparing for one of the largest alpine races in the United States with the excitement of sharing everything Winter Park has to offer, including events for the entire family and incredible spring snow conditions.”
The U.S. downhill champions where determined earlier in February at Aspen, CO with Julia Ford earning the women’s crown while Canadian Dustin Cook edged Will Gregorak (Longmont, CO) by two-hundredths for the men’s title.
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For complete information, including a media credential application, visit http://www.winterparkresort.com.
2011 Putnam U.S. Alpine Championships
Thursday, March 31
Men’s giant slalom
Ted Ligety autograph session with Putnam Investments
Friday, April 1
Women’s giant slalom
Saturday, April 2
Men’s and women’s super G
Sunday, April 3
Men’s and women’s slalom