Not only was the Loritz Cup an energized first event on the Intermountain Masters calendar on Jan. 11-13, but it also served as a reminder of the frailty of life and the strength of the human spirit.
Created by Gary Loritz in his final year before succumbing to ALS, the event also includes the Brett Pendleton Cup, which is awarded to the men's and women's overall slalom winners. Pendleton was killed in a super G training run in the first running of the event in 2006.
Loritz would be proud of way his namesake event has evolved. The three-day event held at Park City Mountain Resort now includes two super Gs, a giant slalom and a slalom, along with three lavish awards parties. The two super G races were also scored for the National Speed Series, which helped draw nearly 100 racers from Colorado to Idaho. To further bolster the field, organizers offered free entry to all first-time Masters racers, and as many as 10 racers took advantage of the offer.
Following the wishes of Gary Loritz, who wanted all age groups to be able to contend for the trophy, the Loritz Cup is presented to the combined four-event winner, using an age handicap system. As men's Loritz Cup winner, Class 7's (ages 55-59) Bobby Skinner joked, "The winning combination is to be old and fast."
Women's winner Amy Lanzel from Class 6 (ages 50-54) chimed in, "I've been waiting a long time to get this old. I'm just thankful that I'm still fast enough."
Skinner and Lanzel started their quest for the cup with the first of two super Gs on Jan. 11.
Class 3 (35-39) local racer Dana Alexandrescu ruled both super Gs, but Lanzel played the age card to perfection, placing third in both races. She finished behind Class 2 (30-34) runner-up Jenny Badger, but Lanzel also had to keep her eye on the ageless Class 10 (70-74) Sun Valley racer Nancy Auseklis, who finished fourth in both races.
The track kept getting faster as the day progressed. Chris Probert took first and third in the two races, but in the second race, a rare tie to the hundredth, allowed Class 6's (50-54) Franz Fuchsberger and Class 5's Thunder Jalili (45-49) to share honors. Skinner did his job, however, and kept himself within three seconds of the leaders in both races. "The key is to be in there in the super G because of the high race points," said Skinner, who knew the strategy from having won the event once previously.
The temperatures continued their downward slide into Saturday's slalom. Alexandrescu remained hot, however, with a resounding win. But Lanzel surpassed her expectations with a second-place finish.
"You couldn't ask for better snow and a better hill," said Lanzel. "Everyone was having fun and that's the way it's supposed to be fun, not fear."
Being familiar with the system, Lanzel know she was among the leaders with two runs to go. "I knew it would be close, but I had no idea where I stood," said Lanzel. Once again she stayed tight to the leaders with a fourth place finish, behind runner-up Dasha Kadulova (Class 4, ages 40-44), and the third-place finisher, Sarazine.
"I felt that regardless of how this turned out, my GS has been the best ever," said Lanzel. "It's been a journey made up of many baby steps."
With Falk going out in the first run after hooking his arm into a GS panel, Skinner's confidence grew, and he responded with his best race of the series, finishing fifth overall, just three seconds out of first. Local Class 3 racer Craig Norton took the win with Chris Probert and Tim Hill competing the podium.
Gary Loritz's son, Gordy, eventually announced the Loritz Cup contenders in reverse order of finish. When Thompson was acknowledged as the runner-up, Skinner could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"I knew I had a chance, but you never know until the end," said Skinner. "This means a lot to me, because Gary was one of my brother Bill's best friends, and we worked together to start the Park City Masters Program. Gary was the classic masters ski racer, who kept skiing even when he had to use a walker to get from his car to the ski hill and we had to tape his hands to his ski poles."
Counting down to the women's winner, Gordy Loritz identified Auseklis as the third-place finisher, Alexandrescu in second, and then the winner, Amy Lanzel. A first-time winner of the Cup, Lanzel was moved to tears by the honor.
"Gary was such a dear friend of mine," said Lanzel. "Watching some of the old video clips of Gary at the awards party on Saturday brought back so many good memories."
Lanzel, who is also chairperson of the Intermountain Division, reflected on the event.
"Being the season opener, this was a great homecoming for all our racers. There was just so much energy all weekend, and of course, so many memories."