Park City hosts Masters races
Fortune often shines brightly on Park City, gifting this Utah mountain town with its share of notable alpine ski racers — past and present, male and female. Many have risen to national prominence. A few have given strong performances on the International stage. A rare few became Olympic champions. But only some were lucky enough to know two local racers whose uncompromising commitment and passion to the sport of ski racing launched a major USSA Masters event celebrating its 10th anniversary this past weekend — the Loritz-Pendleton Cup, part of the season-long JANS Cup series which stops next at Nordic Valley Feb. 19th for both giant slalom and slalom events.
Early last Wednesday morning, a run aptly named PayDay quietly transformed into a race venue. As light from the eastern sky began to roll over the gate panels and illuminate the track there was a stillness one can only experience at this transitional time — just for the briefest of moments everything is surreal.
At the top of PayDay, still under the lights, USSA Masters’ racers began lining up to trip the starting wand for their super G training runs — preparation for three days of upcoming races challenging not only their racing skills but also their desire to win.
Traversing the country and representing three continents, these racers range in age from 20-something to 70-plus. While each patiently waited their turn to run the course, some reflected on the two men who a decade earlier stood where they stand now and for whom this race is named and dedicated — Gary Loritz and Brett Pendleton. Tragically, they both left the Masters’ ranks well before their time. But their spirit can still be felt racing down PayDay, setting the line and reminding these Masters of why they do this.
Speed events are notoriously a magnet for Utah powder storms. This past Friday was an exception that not only saw blue skies but also a perfectly prepared track allowing all 18 classes an opportunity to push their collective super G limits. Of note, Jenny Badger (Women’s Class 2) and Rick "Slabby" Slabinski (Men’s Class 7), both from Park City, represented their respective genders as the fastest racers on the SG track. Other top local finishers included: Sarah Lamire (Class 10), Thunder Jalili (Class 5), Amy Lanzel (Class 7) and Ellen Hendrickson (Class 8).
The slalom race, which was held on Saturday, comes with an interesting backstory. In 2008, Brett Pendelton succumbed to injuries suffered in a training accident. Brett was a great slalom skier but was never able to show his skills on Sundays. In his memory it was decided to move the slalom event to Saturday. Brett’s wife Shauna presents the annual Pendleton Cup to the fastest man and woman slalom skiers. This year’s winners were Mitchell Brower (Men’s Class 1) and Dasha Katulova (Women’s Class 4). Though the weather was less cooperative, the courses held up well, making for a fair track and very competitive times across most classes. Among those who also claimed slalom victories in their respective classes were: Dave Evans, Mike Adams, Mark Brower and Kent Johnson.
Sunday saw the return of good weather and perfect course conditions for the longer than typical GS course, a 70+ second leg-burner from the top of PayDay. Colder morning temps made for some last minute wax changes in the first run, while the notable issue in the second run was a reversal of fortunes. Rick Slabinski (Men’s Class 7), who put down a blistering first run, DQ’d in the second run, allowing Craig Norton (Men’s Class 3) to take the win for the Class Superseed (top 10 qualifiers having the fastest first run times).
The Lortiz Cup, presented to the overall winners of the combined SG, SL and GS races, based on an age-adjusted handicap, went to Knut Olberg of Sun Valley and Jan Swift of Park City. Other top locals were Jenny Badger — who took overall ladies top honors — Peter Papineau (Class 8), Lynn Vaughn (Class 7) and Harold Kaufman (Class 6).
The night before the races, Gordy Loritz spoke with his grandfather, Ed Loritz.
"We had a great conversation about my dad and reminisced about what an ionic figure he was, both within the family and in Park City, how he touched so many lives, and how much we miss him," Gordy said. "He was so much more than father or son, he was our best friend and someone we all looked up to. I told my grandfather it was an honor for me to stand in the starting gate and represent the Loritz family and that I would give it everything I had to make everyone proud."
Gordy Loritz did do his family proud climbing up the steps of the podium and claiming victory in the GS for Men’s Class 5 — a fitting end for the event’s 10th anniversary.
Steele DeWald has his life in Park City down to a routine. After some strange encounters in his 20s, he’s OK with the mundane.