It was dusk in Kamloops, Canada, when Steamboat Springs snowboarder Joshua Wylie stepped into the starting gate for the NorAm championship finals.
The fading light did not stop Wylie from shining in the parallel slalom event, which was held Saturday at the Sun Peaks Resort.
Wylie and Canadian Philippe Berube, who also trained a bit in Steamboat, raced around the gates in a neck-and-neck dash to the finish line.
"It was tight the whole way down the run," Wylie said. "We were dead even coming over the first two knolls."
But the race took an unexpected turn when Berube hit a rut and blew out of a gate. The Canadian racer flew off course, just missing Wylie. Somehow, the Steamboat racer found a hole he needed to avoid the crash and pick up his biggest win of the season.
Problems with the timing system had delayed the race several hours. By the time the racers lined up for the finals at 5 p.m., organizers and the TV company producing the event elected to go with a one-run final.
"It was a little weird," Wylie said. "But it was starting to get dark, and we didn't have a choice."
He said the change of format changed his strategy. But thanks to his top qualifying time, Wylie got to select which course he raced on in the finals.
"I had raced well on the red course all day, but we decided that the blue course had held up a little better, and it had a little straighter line to the finish," Wylie said. "So that's where I raced."
The victory was Wylie's first of the season and could not have come at a better time for the racer, who is battling for a spot on the U.S. Snowboarding Team. The NorAm finals also doubled as the U.S. Nationals, so Wylie also picked up the U.S. National slalom title.
"I couldn't believe it when I won. ... I'm not sure that it's sunk in yet," Wylie said.
The victory was one of several top finishes for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club at the NorAm finals, which were held last weekend.
Other winners included Johanna Shaw, who topped the women's field in the parallel giant slalom race, and Tyler Jewell, who won the men's parallel giant slalom race. Both events were held Sunday.
"This was a great grand finale for us," Winter Sports Club coach Thedo Remmelink said.
Steamboat riders took seven of the top 10 spots in the men's slalom race on the opening day.
Wylie led the pack, followed by Justin Reiter in third, Quinn Orb in fourth, Jewell in fifth, Darren Ratcliffe in sixth, Zachary Kay in seventh and Vic Wild in 10th.
Lisa Kosglow topped the women's parallel slalom with former Steamboat Springs rider Michelle Gorgone finishing third.
Current Winter Sports Club rider Erica Mueller was fourth, with teammates Shaw in sixth Kimko Zakreski in seventh, Ekaterina Zavialova in 11th, Lindsay Lloyd in 12th, Ashley Nice in 14th and Eden Serina in 16th.
Jewell led a pack of six riders into the top 20 of the giant slalom.
Reiter was seventh, Kay was eighth, Orb placed 10th, Wylie was 13th, David Manthei was 15th, and Ratcliffe placed 16th.
Shaw edged Kosglow to win the women's giant slalom. Gorgone placed third.
Other top Steamboat racers included Zakreski in fifth, Ekaterina Zavialova in 12th and Lloyd in 16th. Mueller fell in her second run of qualifying and placed 19th overall.