Tim Jitloff of the U.S. Ski Team crashes a gate during the first run of the giant slalom race on Narrow Gauge at Sugarloaf in 2015. Jitloff won the giant slalom title during the U.S. Alpine Championships.

The man to beat in giant slalom at this year’s U.S. Alpine Championships has been a man beaten down by injuries throughout the season.

But don’t expect that to stop Tim Jitloff from gunning for another national title in his signature event when Sugarloaf plays host to the championships this weekend.

“It’s been a pretty long season for us on the World Cup, and I had a pretty difficult season, a lot of injuries this year, which unfortunately hampered my season,” Jitloff said. “So I’m definitely a bit tired, a little bit beat up, but as always very excited, very happy, to be here.”

Jitloff, a 32-year-old California-born skier who now calls Reno, Nevada, home said he “very much so” wants to win another GS national title, which he did for three straight years before recording a “did not finish” at last year’s Nationals.

“The last few times that they’ve held the race on this hill I’ve won it here. And I certainly would like to follow that up this year,” Jitloff said. “Last year the streak kind of ended, and I’d like to get back into the mode again and get that thing started.”

The GS national champion at Sugarloaf in 2008 and 2015 did win his first U.S. championship in Super G at Sun Valley, Idaho, last year. But any momentum gained from that finished was wiped out between seasons, and things haven’t gotten much better for Jitloff this year.

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“The season has been plagued by various injuries,” Jitloff said. “I broke my hand in the summer during summer training, so I had to go home. I tweaked my knee before the World Cup opener. I crashed on my head before the major World Cup before Christmas, and blew my back out in January. That’s a heavy, heavy list of stuff to be having in terms of trying to have consistency. So when you’re healthy, and you’re able to stay consistent, that’s when better results happen.

“I think in terms of the Nationals here, interestingly enough, I have started to slowly heal a majority of those problems that I’ve had throughout the year. Unfortunately coming into form a little late in season. So that could bode well for my chances here at the Nationals for the giant slalom.”

All those ailments knocked Jitloff out of the top 25 in World Cup points in giant slalom, meaning one of the world’s best GS skiers couldn’t compete in the World Cup finals. Jitloff instead headed to Mont Ste. Marie in Quebec this past weekend for Nor-Am Cup races, where he picked up a win and a runner-up finish in GS.

“It was important that that went well, and I was happy that I was able to show that now that I’m slowly getting healthy again that my ability to perform is still there,” Jitloff said.

Jitloff heads to Carrabassett Valley anything but under the radar, despite how his current season might be going. And that’s fine with him.

“It’s kind of funky. I know for sure that I’ve got a target on my back for the GS, and maybe even the Super G. Anything can happen,” Jitloff said. “But to be fair, and I mean this in a very polite way, I’ve won seven national titles, and it’s not exactly heartbreaking for me if I get an eighth or not. So it keeps my shoulders very, very light, and I’m able to just focus on really enjoying myself out there.”

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It’s likely that Jitloff will enjoy his time in the Western Maine mountains, whether he wins or loses. Either way he’ll be speeding down a slope that he is both familiar and comfortable with.

“The one thing I really like about the Narrow Gauge trail is that it has kind of everything,” Jitloff said. “It’s got flats, it’s got steeps, it’s got rolls, terrain, it ebbs and flows, it’s got a mix, and I’ve always been, as a skier, especially in World Cup, I’ve always performed really well when the hill itself has a large variance of challenges going on. This hill here has a little bit of everything to it, and I agree with that, and that really fits my style.”

Jitloff said he also likes coming to Sugarloaf because of the “super friendly” people, who make it feel “like you’re coming home to a friendly place.”

The defending GS national champ at Sugarloaf has become a friendly face, himself, on the national circuit, even if the smile goes away once the skis scream out of the gate.

“One of the reasons I really like the Nationals, and it was important for me when I was coming up as a young skier, was I got to ski against a lot of the Bode Millers and Erik Schlopys and a lot of very, very — they were for their time the best guys that we had to offer. And they were there, and it was the first time I would get to see them ski with my own eyes, and not through the television,” Jitloff said. “And when I come to these races, I think of it the same way, where I think it’s incredibly important that the young kids get to see some of us older guys who race World Cup, and they get to see it as well for themselves and be pushed. I can remember my first Nationals, I came down on my first run, I was like seven seconds behind Bode Miller. It just kind of gives you the indicator of this is where you got to get to. So I think that that’s important that we’re all here for these, and for me, if anything, that’s a motivator.”

Jitloff said he doesn’t know how many more Nationals he has left in him — he said he’s committed to two more seasons at the very least, as long as he’s “happy, healthy and motivated” — but he doesn’t expect Sugarloaf to be his swan song.

“It’s just saying ‘look, no questions asked, I’m definitely going the next two years,’ and then we’ll reassess, and if I’m doing it, or doing great or having fun, I’ll keep going,” Jitloff. “But at no time have I said that this would be my last U.S. Nationals, or do I think of it that way. And I think that that’s actually the best way to do it.”

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