CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Max Richard didn’t see anybody in his way going down Sugarloaf’s Narrow Gauge trail Tuesday. Though like most of the competitors in the men’s giant slalom, he couldn’t see much anyway, thanks to pea-soup-level fog.
But Richard, who attended Mt. Blue High School before moving onto Carrabassett Valley Academy, then Colby College, said his experience at Sugarloaf helps “tremendously.”
“I think I’ve skied this hill the most or second-most out of anybody here,” Richard said.
Not that his course knowledge could have helped him Sunday when he found another racer in his path during the slalom. Thankfully, that competitor was able to get out of the way, and Richard said it was nice to look ahead Tuesday and not see another racer.
But Tuesday’s first run in the giant slalom wasn’t without incident for the local product.
“I had a mistake coming onto kangaroo. I think I had a really good run going there, and I sort of got late, went down on my hip for a little bit and had to sort of hop around the next gate,” Richard said. “So it was really slow through there, which was a bummer. But I think I skied really well up top.”
Richard sat in 36th place after the first run, but fared better in his second to finish in 27th.
Not bad for his first time competing at nationals.
“It’s cool, it’s really cool, especially my home hill,” Richard said. “I have a lot of confidence here, and see what I can do against some of the best guys in the country.”
Bobcat bows out
Bates College skier Michael Cooper didn’t fare as well as Richard.
Cooper was the 43rd skier out on the first run of the giant slalom, and had a good run going before going down and settling for a DNF.
“I just had a little bit of trouble getting the outside ski,” Cooper said. “Fell a little bit inside, and then ended up just going down on my hip and couldn’t make the next gate.”
Like Richard, Cooper said his knowledge of Sugarloaf — while not as vast as Richard’s — is an advantage for him. But it also might have allowed him to bite off more than he could chew on his first run, with the conditions, notably the visibility, less than ideal.
“In conditions like this I always like to try to take advantage of it,” Cooper said. “I mean, someone’s got to win. The person who can come out here and make the best out of a bad day is going to win. I might as well be that person.”
Tuesday’s single run finished off what Cooper termed a “pretty interesting” weekend. He tried out the super-G on Saturday, even though he doesn’t do many speed events. Sunday saw Cooper get disqualified in the slalom after making what he hoped was going to be a legal backwards hairpin after hipping out. Then on Monday, Cooper made his way back to Lewiston for classes.
All in a weekend’s work for the student-athlete.
Brothers on skis
One of the best competitions Tuesday took place well down the standings, but the bragging rights were just as big.
Brothers Kenny, Cody and Calvin Wilson all participated in the giant slalom, and they were all trying to fight for first in the family.
“It’s always pretty fun,” Cody said. “It’s (Kenny’s) final year in school, he’s a senior. And (Calvin) is just getting into school. It’s always fun having them around, and always being able to build off of something.”
Cody is finishing up his freshman year at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire, where his brother is finishing up his career.
“I love it. I couldn’t ask for anything better, getting to ski my last season with my brother,” Kenny said. “You can ski with anyone, but it’s not quite like you’re brother. It’s always good fun.”
The trio from Northern California had varied feelings about Tuesday’s foggy conditions. Kenny said he’s raced at Sugarloaf every year of his college career, while Cody has also taken some runs down the hill.
Not so much for Calvin, who skis at Diamond Peak in Nevada and hasn’t seen much of the Eastern slopes.
“I’m not really used to that,” Calvin said.
Kenny gets to bring home bragging rights back to the West Coast, after finishing 22nd. Calvin was the second-fastest brother, slotting in at 31st, while Cody was a few spots back in 36th.
Chop on top
When Hig Roberts and all the other podium finishers during the U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf stepped onto the stage to get their awards, there were no medals placed around their neck.
That would have been too easy for Sugarloaf, and not nearly Maine enough of a prize
Instead, the top-three finishers in each event were handed a hatchet, which like some of the skiers came from Colorado, but ones that have a distinctly Maine feel.
The award hatchets are made by New England native Lisa Issenberg, from her Colorado-based metal art studio Kiitella — a Finnish word meaning “to thank, applaud, praise.”
The idea of the hatchets as awards came from a previous generation of major skiing events at Sugarloaf. The top skiers in the 1971 World Cup event at Sugarloaf were given hatchets made by Maine axe manufacturer Snow & Nealley. That company is still around today and provided Issenberg with the wooden handles on this year’s award hatchets.
Max Richard skis down the Giant Slalom course at the Us Alpine Championships on Tuesday at Sugarloaf.