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Eric Hays Memorial returns to Park City Resort

PCST honors late member with annual event

U16 competitor Jake Blell comes around the gate during the Eric Hays Memorial giant slalom race on PayDay run at Park City Mountain Monday. The race, begun in 1981 to honor the memory of Eric Hays, a Park City Ski Team member killed in a car accident, was open to teen, collegiate and World Cup skiers for participation.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

After a two-year hiatus due to warm weather, the Park City Ski Team hosted its annual season-opening event, the Eric Hays Memorial Open Series, at Park City Mountain over the weekend.

The four-day open event started with Men’s and Women’s Slalom races on both Saturday and Sunday and finished up with Giant Slalom, both Men’s and Women’s, races on Monday and Tuesday.

“This is a real special event,” PCST Executive Director Jesse Hunt said. “It’s a legacy event. It’s been going on for over 30 years. To bring it back home is awesome; it’s great. A lot of people came out for it. That just shows how much people appreciate racing here and what we put on for the event.”

The special event is in memory of the late Eric Hays, who passed away in a car accident when he was just 18 years old. The Eric Hays Memorial was started by Bob Marsh, the former head coach at Park City Ski Team, 35 years ago as a way to honor Hays’ legacy.

Karri Hays-Walzer, Eric’s sister and one of the original Park City Ski Team members with Eric, isn’t sure why the event has continued for this long, but appreciates the fact that it has.

“It’s been kind of a phenomenon why it’s been going for so long,” Hays-Walzer said. “Most kids that are racing, if not all the kids, don’t know anything about [Eric] or who he was.

“It’s been an honor. I’m very appreciative of the legacy of not only keeping the race going for all these years, but also to keep the memory of not just Eric, but the original Park City Ski Team, as well,” she added.

Some of the area’s best skiers, such as Olympians Ted Ligety and Steven Nyman, have participated and won in the Eric Hays Memorial. Each year, Eric’s younger brother Mike Hays, a local potter, makes the awards to give out each year to the winners. This year was no different, as he, along with Hays-Walzer and her two sons, were there to present the custom-made awards yet again.

Leading the way for the PCST were Brynne Hitchcock. Dominik Brazerol and Andrew Miller, who all registered first-place finishes over the weekend. Hitchcock saw her finish atop the podium on Sunday when she produced the fastest Women’s Slalom run of the day in 43.78 seconds. Her combined time of 1:28.41 was good enough for the win.

On Monday morning, Brazerol’s combined time of 2:30.56 was good enough to earn him the top spot of the Men’s Giant Slalom with teammate Nicholas Stenicka not far behind in third place (2:32.59). Stenicka also claimed second place earlier in the weekend in Saturday’s Men’s Slalom contest.

On Tuesday, Miller put together the two fastest runs among the men on the day, including a blistering 1:12.87 second run, for a combined time of 2:27.70. In a sport that counts each fraction of a second, the next-best finisher was over three seconds behind.

“It was fun to see [Hitchcock] win at home,” Hunt said. “It’s a difficult field. A lot of competition here. On the guys’ side, there were quite a few collegiate athletes, collegiate-level athletes. … That was exciting for our kids in our program to compete that well against the collegiates. It’s been fun to see those guys perform.”

Other notable performances for the PCST came from Scott McGrath (fifth in Saturday’s Slalom, third in Sunday’s Slalom), Max Miller (sixth in Monday’s Giant Slalom) Lily Hogan (sixth in Saturday’s Slalom), Hannah Hitchcock (eighth in Sunday’s Slalom) and Helena Croise (eighth in Monday’s Giant Slalom).

While the freezing conditions over the weekend were miserable for some of the spectators and volunteers that help out with the event, they were perfect for the ski athletes at Park City Resort. Thanks to the sub-zero temperatures overnight, the snow settled and froze, which makes for a quicker surface.

Because of this, every competitor in the series had a shot at a top finish, no matter their bib number or previous finishes. The series saw this firsthand when Merumo Ishimaru of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, sporting Bib No. 113, finished in second place of the Ladies’ Slalom on Sunday.

“There’s a big variety of skill levels, but the course has been holding up so well that kids from the back of the field [can compete],” Hunt said. “It helps the racing because the surface is real hard. It gives everyone a chance, no matter where they’re skiing from, to ski right into the top.”

Next up for the PCST is another round of races at Park City Resort for the Junior IMC and U14 qualifiers from Jan. 6-8.


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