After two days of bluebird conditions, the Eric Hays Memorial ran its first slalom race under a blanket of snow Thursday at Park City Mountain Resort.
As skiers from the collegiate level down to the under-14 age group cruised the course, footing and visibility was a struggle.
But, as Park City Ski Team director Jesse Hunt noted, that's all part of the sport.
"It's an outdoor sport, so you never know what to expect," he said. "We schedule these races in May and we never know what we're going to get for weather. Typically, at least one of the four-day series is a tough day in regards to the conditions and the weather. We've had two good days and one tough day [Thursday], and we're looking at another good day [Friday] (after this issue went to press). Three out of four isn't bad in terms of good weather, good snow and good conditions."
For the 32nd year in a row, the Eric Hays Memorial has been a sort of unofficial start to the season for skiers from the region.
"It kind of opens up the season it's the first big USSA event we run in the division," Hunt said. "The whole division Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, everybody is kind of waiting to see how their summer and fall training went coming into this event."
And, since the event draws some collegiate skiers who graduated from the Park City program, it's always fun to see some familiar faces.
"Syd Staples from the University of New Mexico, Katy Greene from Middlebury and Christoph Lentz, who won the slalom [Thursday] from Williams they're back in town for Christmas and they're joining in," Hunt said.
At the Eric Hays Memorial, there are no age groups, so the U14 athletes get to test their skills against the older college athletes. That's something Hunt says provides a unique atmosphere.
"There's a wide spread in terms of age and ability and it's just fun to see a lot of our kids out here racing," he said.
And, he added, it's the perfect way to remember Eric Hays, a Park City Ski Team member in the late '70s who died in a car accident.
"We've memorialized this event here for him, and we've been running it ever since," Hunt said. "It's got a lot of history and a lot of tradition."
It's also a great way to build some stamina in the younger athletes, who aren't used to having a week full of races.
"It's a long event for the younger kids, having four straight days of racing," Hunt said. "We've done two giant slaloms and a slalom and I think the kids are looking forward to getting some good conditions with the last slalom so they can really show themselves."
Sydney Staples, Juliette Parke and Katy Greene finished with podium spots at the first female GS, and finished in the same order at the second GS. On the male side, Peter Martens and Andrew Miller of the Park City Ski Team finished first and third, respectively, in the first GS, with James Cleason taking second. In the second men's GS, Hayes Graham, Martens and Miller finished first, second and third to earn a Park City Ski Team podium sweep.
In the first women's slalom on Thursday, Lauren Keller and Claire Thomas finished second and third for the Park City Ski Team, while Liz Baer took first. On the men's side, Christoph Lentz (a PCST alum) took first, current PCST skier Jerry Todd Abate took second and Cole Wright took third.