Waterville Valley regains its ski championship mantle

Nina O'Brien dominated the US Nationals bringing home four National Championships ©Mark D Phillips

Waterville Valley regains its ski championship mantle

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are some of the most beautiful outdoor scenery across the country. There was a time when the world came to Waterville Valley for some of the best skiiers and skiing in the United States.

The first ski World Cup race held in the United States was at Waterville Valley in 1969, with four of the six podium positions taken by American women in slalom and GS. That history is what brings the the 2019 U.S. Alpine Championship technical races back to the East Coast and Waterville Valley for this season and 2021.

The competition opened today with parallel slalom, the newest craze on the World Cup circuit. With two courses set side-by-side on Tommy's World Cup Run, the best skiers in the United States came together to compete head-to-head in a repetitive day of racing. With morning qualifying runs, 64 women and 87 men began the road to being crowned National Champions in the most grueling of the technical disciplines.

In the afternoon, the competitors went against each other through a March madness type of bracket, pitting each in two runs down the course, with one moving on and one becoming a spectator. With a field of 32, the winners would ski 10 times down the course, throwing every effort into being the first across the line. The fans definitely love it as the cheers, groans, and gasps could be heard the length of the course. This was the first time the parallel slalom discipline has been included in the national championship. As the first day of a three-day competition, it is an exhausting start to the technical championships.

Nina O'Brien edged out her fellow Dartmouth student, Canadian star Stephanie Currie, to take first place. O'Brien is showing a dominance in the field, with yesterday's victory giving her three national championships this week, winning the Alpine combined and super-G at Sugarloaf last weekend. Though Currie is Canadian, FIS rules allow her to compete in the race, but if she had won, the top American finisher would have been crowned National Champion. Rounding out the podium was Alice Merryweather, who reigns as the downhill national champion from last week at Sugarloaf, defeating Lila Lapanja in the consolation bracket.

Nina O'Brien skis to a first place finish in parallel slalom at the US Nationals in Alpine Skiing on March 23, 2019. ©Mark D Phillips

On the men's side, Garret Driller took home the national championship, edging out local Vermont resident and favorite, Tucker Marshall. Alex Leever rounded out the podium in third, edging out Luke Winters in the consolation. Mikaela Shiffrin stood in the crowd at the finish line cheering on the competitors, fresh off her record-breaking World Cup season, making her the holy grail for each of the competitors at the US Nationals.

Garret Driller skis to a First Place finish in parallel slalom at the US Nationals on March 23, 2019. ©Mark D Phillips

For those of us in the east, the return of the World Cup to Killington and now the US Nationals to Waterville Valley is a dream come true. I wish it had returned 15 years ago when my daughter was 5. Waterville Valley is full of skiing history and we are taking full advantage, enjoying the pinnacle of skiing as fans.

Located on the eastern face of 4,003 foot Mt. Tecumseh, the first trail was created at Waterville Valley by the CCC in 1934. The National Park Service refused to allow the building of a lift and as newer ski areas with lifts were developed, Waterville Valley almost ceased to exist in the mid-60s when the population fell to 22. Olympic skier Tom Corcoran, alledgedly with some help from Robert Kennedy to gain the $2.5 million financing, opened the new Waterville Valley for the 1966-67 season as one of the largest ski areas in New England. In the winter of 1968 after Robert Kennedy was assasinated, the mountain dedicated "Bobby's Run" to his memory and hosted the final World Cup races of that season, with Ethel Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr. in attendance.

In the 1990s, the area fell into financial problems and went through multiple ownership changes. In 2010, the current owners, including John Sununu, brought development back to the mountain with a gondola connecting downtown to the area, new terrain on Green peak, and now, the construction of a new lodge.

The old lady is getting a facelift. It's definitely worth the journey.

 

TO SEE ALL OUR IMAGES FROM THE 2019 U.S. ALPINE CHAMPIONSHIP TECHNICAL RACES by Mark D Phillips, visit our SMUGMUG Galleries

 

On Day Two of the 2019 U.S. Alpine Championship technical races, the men and women raced the National Championship slalom on Sunday, March 24, 2019

Nina O'Brien won her second National Championship in as many days, this ime in slalom, with Paula Moltzan in second, and Trisha Mangan in third.

Luke Winters took the National Championship in the mens competition, adding this victory to his alpine combined win Thursday at Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain. Yesterday's champion, Garrett Driller, finishing second, and Sandy Vietze rounding out the podium in third.

Paula Moltzan skis at the US Nationals in Alpine Skiing at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, on March 23, 2019. ©Mark D Phillips

 

Trisha Mangan races in the parallel slalom at the US Nationals in Alpine Skiing at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, on March 23, 2019. She finished third is Sunday's slalom championship. ©Mark D Phillips

Luke Winters races in parallel slalom at the US Nationals in Alpine Skiing at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, on March 23, 2019. Luke won the slalom National Championship on Sunday. ©Mark D Phillips

 

TO SEE ALL OUR IMAGES FROM THE 2019 U.S. ALPINE CHAMPIONSHIP TECHNICAL RACES by Mark D Phillips, visit our SMUGMUG Galleries

 

On Day Three of the 2019 U.S. Alpine Championship technical races, Keely Cashman wins the National Championship Giant Slalom on Monday, March 25, 2019

Keely Cashman snagged the National Championship, denying Nina O'Brien a sweep in the technical disciplines for the women. O'Brien finished in second just .28 behind for the silver medal.

Cashman gained her third podium of the championships, building on her third place finishes in Alpine Combined and Super-G at the U.S. Alpine Speed Championships at Sugaloaf one week ago.

O'Brien took home four National Championships in the US Nationals. In addition to her Parallel Slalom and Slalom championships at Waterville Valley, she also took the Alpine Combined and Super-G crowns at Sugarloaf.

Trisha Mangan finished in third, her second time on the podium after her third place finish in slalom.

 

Keely Cashman races parallel slalom at the US Nationals in Alpine Skiing on March 23, 2019. Keely snagged the National Championship in GS on March 25, 2019. ©Mark D Phillips

 

TO SEE ALL OUR IMAGES FROM THE 2019 U.S. ALPINE CHAMPIONSHIP TECHNICAL RACES by Mark D Phillips, visit our SMUGMUG Galleries

 

 

Canadian Stephanie Currie  skis to a second place finish in the parallel slalom at the US Nationals in Alpine Skiing at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, on March 23, 2019.  ©Mark D Phillips
Canadian Stephanie Currie skis to a second place finish in the parallel slalom at the US Nationals in Alpine Skiing at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, on March 23, 2019. ©Mark D Phillips