Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Telemark coach Ty Upson said before the U.S. Telemark National Championships started that he expected the weekend event to be a reunion, of sorts, with lovers of the free heel coming together in Ski Town USA, for four days of laughs, races and more laughs.
The long weekend was all of that, he said Sunday, surrounded by friends and longtime veterans of the sport at the base of Steamboat Ski Area following the final event, a giant slalom race on Mount Werner.
But the four days turned out to be more than a reunion.
This year’s National Championships signaled in a new era of Telemark skiing in the United States. Youth prevailed often, and never more so than Sunday.
“This year was about the next generation,” Upson said. “It means the sport’s getting deeper, more serious. Kids are deciding to do this instead of Alpine racing. It’s great.”
Steamboat skiers Madi McKinstry and Jeffrey Gay won national championships in the giant slalom.
McKinstry’s win capped a sweep in the National Championships. She was a shoo-in to stand atop a podium recognizing the whole week’s achievements.
Gay’s achievement, meanwhile, bumped him from fourth to third in the championship’s standings.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to make up the difference,” Gay said of his position entering the race.
A great day on a course that stretched down the ski area’s Sitz and See Me runs made the leap possible for the skier, still a senior at Steamboat Springs High School.
The course included one jump, plenty of gates and a fresh layer of snow.
Gay won, ahead of Cory Snyder in second and Shane Anderson in third.
“It was amazing,” Gay said. “My goal was to come into this week and try to get on the podium a few times. I didn’t expect to win, but I laid down the fastest run I could and ended up where I ended up.”
Anderson won the overall championship, having won races Friday and Saturday. Snyder was second overall.
McKinstry maintained her spot in first with another strong pair of runs. She finished ahead of second-place Zoe Taylor, who also was second in the week-long standings.
“It’s been really fun,” said Taylor, an Atlanta skier who trained this winter with the Winter Sports Club.
She said she’s headed back to the South in two weeks but already is planning a return to Steamboat Springs for next season.
“I’m very happy with my racing this week,” she said. “I came in with no expectations. I’m really happy.”
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com