Today is the last day of ski racing on Aspen Mountain with the conclusion of North American (NorAm) races.
More than 100 of the best skiers in the world have been attacking the 1A side of Ajax all week, including Austrian Marcel Hirscher, last year’s overall World Cup winner, who trained on Monday in the giant slalom in preparation for World Cup races this weekend in Beaver Creek.
“The quality of racers is pretty high,” said Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle.
On Wednesday, U.S. Ski Team member Mikaela Shiffrin, 17, was ranked No. 1 in the giant slalom with a combined time of 2:02.94, more than three seconds ahead of Austrian Nicole Hosp. In Saturday’s World Cup giant slalom race, Shiffrin finished fastest among the Americans, coming in ninth overall with a combined time of 2:01.73.
NorAm races are a step below World Cup competition, similar to skiing’s minor leagues. The top two finishers in each discipline of Nor-Am competition at the end of each season are given automatic starts on next year’s World Cup circuit.
Today’s giant slalom races for the women begin at 9:30 a.m. for the first run and noon for the second. Many of the women racing today competed in this past weekend’s World Cup giant slalom and slalom races.
“There are no technical races for women right now so most will stay in town” to train, said Doug Haney, chief press officer for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association.
After today’s races, SkiCo crews and race volunteers will begin to break down the course in an effort to open that side of the mountain to the public. Hanle said he expects that to take a few days.
Making the terrain skiable for the public also will take some work, since the course has been prepared for ski racing and is faster than typical. Once that is done, the terrain likely to be open will be Spring Pitch to Strawpile to the base of 1A.
SkiCo is blowing snow on Summer Road to make the connection between Little Nell and terrain served by lift 1A. Hanle said SkiCo will make the call today on when the new terrain will open, which is a priority for mountain operation crews.
“The goal is to get people skiing over on that side of the hill,” he said.