University of Utah's Ana Kobal celebrates with a teammate Thursday after learning she'd won the first of three slalom events in Steamboat Springs for the Holiday Classic. Kobal finished with about a two-second cushion on the field.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

University of Utah's Ana Kobal celebrates with a teammate Thursday after learning she'd won the first of three slalom events in Steamboat Springs for the Holiday Classic. Kobal finished with about a two-second cushion on the field.

Women's Holiday Classic slalom racing heats up cold night at Howelsen

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University of Colorado and former Steamboat Springs skier Shane McLean flies toward the finish line at Howelsen Hill on Friday during the Holiday Classic. She had the fastest second-run time to finish third.

— There was something special about the night. It was bone-chillingly cold at Howelsen Hill for the first women’s slalom race of the three-day Holiday Classic on Thursday. Breath froze in midair, but ski racers and their friends, families and fans gathered at the bottom of the icy hill, warming the night and cheering the racers.

“It’s fun with all the people that are here watching. It’s really a great community,” said Mary Rachel Hostetter, a Steamboat Springs skier now competing for University of New Mexico.

“Everyone’s watching and cheering, and it’s just a great vibe,” she said.

It was a special kind of night, and it took a special kind of performance to win. That’s exactly what Ana Kobal found; the University of Utah skier scorched down the treacherous trail to slide away with a nearly two-second cushion in the first event.

Kobal was the evening’s first skier, and she immediately proved to be the best of the night. She set the standard with a 39.23 second charge down Howelsen. That left her with a comfortable lead of 1.20 seconds ahead of Jessica Honkonen, a Finnish athlete skiing for the University of Colorado, and Kate Williams, of University of New Mexico.

Kobal backed it up with a second run in 42.55, slower than her first run by more than three seconds but still tied for the fastest run of the round.

“The snow was perfect,” Kobal said. “There weren’t any problems. It was just really fun.”

She finished with a combined time of 1:21.78. Honkonen turned in the third-best run of the second course, locking her into second place at 1:23.44 while Steamboat Springs product and fellow Buff Shane McLean matched Kobal to tie for the best second-round time at 42.55, lifting her to a third-place showing on her home hill.

Hostetter, a champ at this same event a year ago, finished seventh overall, and Steamboat’s Anna Marno was right on her heels for eighth place.

“The first run, I was holding back a little bit,” Hostetter said. “I need to attack a little more. On this hill, you need to attack on the top.”

Plenty of other current or former Steamboat Springs skiers packed into the top portion of the field Thursday. Cassady Roberts was 15th. Serina Kidd was 19th, Annie Ochs was 21st, Maria Hillenbrand was 26th, Chandler Sedberry was 27th, and Vreni Lupear was 30th.

The action resumes Friday for the women with 9 and 11 a.m. slalom runs at Steamboat Ski Area.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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