Utes kick off ski season in Park City
Fresh off a long holiday break, the University of Utah hosted the Utah Invitational on Monday at Park City Mountain Resort. The three-day event kicked off with men’s and women’s slalom contests in the soft Park City snow.
Both competitions saw several skiers crash or miss a gate thanks to the tough conditions. Junior Joergen Brath led the Utah men in 14th place but said he should have been able to do better.
"Obviously you always want to do better than what I did today, but it’s really nice to get [the season] underway and get that confidence and everything," he said. "The course was good, but it was really tough. The conditions were really hard, but obviously that’s something that’s the case for everyone here. It was really demanding and the top pitch had a lot of ruts and you really had to keep your posture all the way. It was a battle all the way."
Brath was followed by teammates Dominic Demschar (18th place) and Martin Grasic (22nd). In collegiate skiing, points are awarded to each school’s top three finishers. Brath earned 18 points while Demschar earned 16 and Grasic 14.
The Utah men finished with 48 points, good for sixth place out of nine schools. The Utah women, led by freshman Julie Mohagen, amassed 66 points, good for fourth place. As a team, Utah’s 114 total points is fifth, behind leader Denver (186 points), second-place Colorado (149), third-place Westminster College (147) and fourth-place Montana State (119).
Mohagen finished second overall, behind Kristine Haugen of Denver. The Norway native said the softer snow didn’t bother her as much as it might have bothered other racers.
"It was a good day, for sure," she said. "It was a pretty easy hill with pretty good conditions for me. Generally, it’s not good conditions, but I’m used to skiing in rougher snow like this back home. For sure, it was probably an advantage."
Utah’s Chloe Fausa finished 10th and Teagan Palmer finished 32nd to round out the Utes’ top three. Utah’s Roni Remme had a strong first run but did not finish her second run.
Utah Director of Skiing Kevin Sweeney said Monday’s race was full of mixed results for the Utes.
"I think it was a good opener for us, but I think we can ski a lot better than we did today," he said. "We had a couple great results and a couple others where we made a few mistakes. I know we can ski better, but it’s hard in the season opener. There are a lot of nerves and a lot of first-time collegiate skiers skiing for us."
Sweeney agreed with Brath’s assessment of the race course, which was full of soft powder from recent snowstorms.
"We got all that early snow, which was fantastic," he said. "It’s just taking a little bit of time for the race course to set up. We typically like it nice and firm and hard. Some of the upper pitch here was pretty soft, so it developed some pretty big ruts. Everybody had to deal with it, though. Some did better than others."
But, Sweeney added, now that the season is officially underway, he’s excited to see what the Utes can do in 2016.
"One of the challenges of hosting so early in January is we come off the Christmas break and we’re a little bit scattered," he said. "Of course we want people going home and being with their families. The fact is we haven’t had a lot of consistent training and the team hasn’t really been together. Now that we’ve got this first race going, we’ve got the team together and we’ll get some good training in. I think that in itself will help our results."
Utah’s Head Alpine Coach, Jaka Korencan, was also encouraged by what he saw Monday.
"It seems like the team is skiing really well and, when the conditions are a little better, we’re going to show way more results-wise," he said. "I’m really confident we have a good team and I think we’re going to see that really soon."
The Utah Invitational continued Tuesday with the women’s giant slalom (after this issue went to press). The men’s GS is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. The Utah men were looking forward to the GS contest to show what they’re made of.
"Historically, I’ve done better in GS," Brath said. "I’m confident in GS and my skiing is improving a lot. We haven’t really skied that much on the hill this year, so I don’t know what to expect, but I know how my skiing is and if I can do what I’ve been doing in training, I think it will be fun."
The Nordic portion of the Utah Invitational is scheduled to take place Jan. 10 and 11 at Soldier Hollow in Midway. Jan. 10 will feature the women’s five-kilometer and men’s 10K freestyle races and Jan. 11 will feature the women’s 10K and men’s 15K classic races.
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.