Steamboat Springs When freeskier Katie Hitchcock steps into her bindings for Wednesday’s slopestyle competition at the World University Games in Italy, it will be the first time that the University of Colorado junior has ever competed abroad, and it will be the first time in several weeks that she’s been back on snow.
“I have not competed abroad before, so this is exciting,” Hitchcock said by Facebook message. “None of us knew what to expect when coming here, and now that we are here, it is very interesting. If I'm correct, this is the first year that freestyle skiing has been included and by that I mean skier-cross and slopestyle. Half-pipe is still just for snowboarders here.”
The World University Games happens once every three years and includes 12 sports ranging from curling to biathlon. Hitchcock is one of three Steamboat athletes competing in the games.
Hitchcock, who is a junior at the University of Colorado hoping to earn a major in environmental studies with a minor in business and Italian, isn’t sure what the international competition will mean for her personally.
She sprained her upper and lower ankle and suffered from patellar tendinitis on her left leg from trampolines in October, and when she finally made it back on snow, she suffered a concussion. She only recently was cleared to compete. Most of her preparation has been in the gym and riding a stationary bike.
“I’m not going to be doing the run I planned originally,” Hitchcock responded. "I’m sort of dumbing it down to lower the risk of me falling and hitting my head again in this short time span; it’s just not worth the risk.”
Hitchcock started competing her freshman year of college in small events.
“I competed in really tiny rail jams actually, and that's mostly due to not wanting to spend a ton of money to register for slopestyle with USSA or USASA when I didn't know how much I liked it yet,” she said. “I got more into it last year, went to USCSA nationals, and I also found out I really enjoy big mountain competitions. I signed up for a few of the Freeride World Qualifiers in Europe for something to keep me skiing while I’m studying abroad (something Kaite plans to do early next year).”
Hitchcock’s event is scheduled to take center stage on Wednesday morning at Monte Bondone, which is about 30 minutes outside of the town of Trento — the base for this year’s World University Games.
Two other Steamboat athletes have already started competing.
Former Steamboat skier racer Hig Roberts led the American men in Saturday’s super-G with a 21st-place finish in a race won by France’s Blaise Giezendanner. Former Winter Sports Club member Shane McLean also topped the American results, finishing in 15th place in the women’s Super-G race Sunday. That race was won by Italian skier Giulia Borghetti.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966