Steamboat Springs Justin Reiter wasn’t long for Steamboat Springs. The snowboarder said Saturday afternoon that he planned to spend the rest of his day driving to Denver, where he was to catch a flight to Italy to compete in the season’s first Alpine snowboarding World Cup.
He made the most of his time in town, however. The rider, who lives in Crested Butte but trains with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, swept a pair of Race to the Cup snowboarding events at Howelsen Hill this weekend, dominating the treacherous slopes of the famous hill for two crucial wins that make for an important boost as he heads overseas.
“It’s a great setup going into World Cup,” Reiter said. “That’s my primary focus.”
Reiter, who was joined on the top of Saturday’s podium by fellow Colorado rider and women’s champ Hannah Halsted, said the weekend was fraught with danger. That’s the nature of his sport. Friday’s race was a parallel giant slalom, and Saturday's was a parallel slalom. Two courses stretched down the Howelsen face, red and blue. Each racer rode both sides in each head-to-head duel, and the racer with the lowest combined time advanced.
The courses were side by side, but they were not close to equal, and how each rider handled that fact dictated the weekend’s winners.
The blue course was considerably longer as it was on the outside of a long turn at the top of the run. It also developed ruts more quickly, which wrecked the plans of several riders who fell early in the proceedings.
Including qualifying, it meant 10 races per day for the eventual champion, a grueling test.
“Having consistency and conquering the mental battles is a big thing,” Reiter said. “You have to be consistent. You have to have speed. You have to have physical fitness and endurance.”
And he had to bring it all to bear every run, 10 times in a row.
He began the finals duel against Steve Barlow by racing on the blue side. After Reiter ran basically even while on the slower course, he had the title all but locked up.
“I strategically placed myself so every time I’d start on blue and end on red,” Reiter said. “It’s a slower course, so all you have to do on blue is keep that guy in range. Then when you’re on red, where it’s smoother and faster, you can get out there and get in that guy's head.”
On Friday and Saturday, he danced in their minds, and he hopes that can help him dance in Italy.
“I’m heading to the World Cup with back-to-back wins, so that gives me some confidence, but NorAms and World Cups are two different things, so I’ll need to focus when I get there.” he said.
Indrik Trahan, who was second Friday, was third Saturday. Converse Fields was fifth Friday and ninth Saturday riding for Steamboat, and Steamboat's Billy Winters, just 15 years old, made the finals and finished 15th. He had the unfortunate luck of drawing Reiter for his first head-to-head matchup.
Halsted, meanwhile, added a victory Saturday to her fourth-place finish from Friday. On Saturday, she finished ahead of Ji-hye Lee, who was second Saturday and third Friday, and Hae-rim Jeong, who was Friday’s champ and placed third Saturday. Steamboat's Maggie Carrigan was fifth in both races.
Halsted, who hails from New Hampshire, attends University of Denver but spent the week training in Steamboat to prepare for the races.
“I’m really excited. I just went out and gave it everything I had,” she said.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com