Alpine Skiing Season Preview: 2019
Part 1: When will it end?
No, I’m not referring to the government shutdown.
What I mean is: How much more time has to go by until we get another Carnival race? It’s been 45 weeks! I am so excited for the St. Lawrence Carnival at Whiteface this weekend that I don’t even mind that Friday’s forecast calls for a high temperature of -3*F. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
Before we head to Lake Placid, though, let’s take a moment to reflect on what the competition is like this season. When we left off, EISA was fresh off its star-studded alpine performance at the 2018 NCAA Championships:
Seven of 12 podium spots. Two national champions.
UVM’s Paula Moltzan and Middlebury’s Caroline Bartlett went 3-4 in the GS. Then Dartmouth’s Brian McLaughlin and Tanguy Nef made Head Coach Peter Dodge’s day by sweeping the first two spots in the men’s GS race.
When it came time for slalom, Nef came back with UVM’s Sandy Vietze to go 1-2, while Moltzan returned with teammate Francesca English to take second and third.
How can you read that and not be excited for the upcoming races? And we haven’t even gotten started.
Ah. Wait. Sadly, we bid adieu to some of these frontrunners.
McLaughlin and Vietze have graduated and moved on to Bigger things: McLaughlin has been notching top-30s on the World Cup as a member of Team America, and Vietze has joined everyone’s favorite ski team, Redneck Racing.
But the others are back, which should mean some fast races.
Part 2: Women’s Field
Moltzan has spent the EISA ‘off-season’ racing to top-15s at World Cups this year. No big deal. English should be well-adjusted to the circuit now that she’s in her sophomore year, and Middlebury’s veteran Caroline Bartlett brings the most experience of the group to her final collegiate season. (Side note: As we head to Whiteface this weekend, does anyone remember the last time we were there, when Bartlett threw down her insane 9-point GS win?)
Looking at the women’s field more broadly, there are a lot of returners with a lot of experience. 13 of 16 NCAA qualifiers are back, as well as some talented skiers who missed the trip to Colorado last year. I would note this as being distinct except that the exact same thing happened last year: Out of the 16 women who qualified for NCAAs two years ago (2017), only three left the circuit. Nine of the remaining 13 qualified again for 2018’s championship races, and seven of them are back this year aiming for a third trip to the Big Dance.
To paraphrase: The 2019 women’s EISA field is very fast and very experienced.
Although Dartmouth graduated GS whiz Foreste Peterson to Team X, the Big Green crew is otherwise stacked with Alexa Dlouhy and Steph Currie returning up front, along with Hannah Melinchuk and Audrey O’Brien. Their main rival, UVM, sees Josefine Selvaag return alongside Moltzan and English, and it is worth noting that the Catamounts have exactly 0 first-years on their women’s team. This may not impact their team score immediately, but I wonder if there will be a delayed effect as the squad matures without an entire graduating class.
Middlebury is in the envied position of returning all three of their NCAA qualifiers (Bartlett, Lexi Calcagni, and Lucia Bailey). On the other side of that coin, one of the more noticeable hits is the graduation of two of UNH’s top-3: Lisa Wedsjoe and Sohvi Virkkula. Luckily, Genevieve Frigon returns. She will be an important anchor for the Wildcats, coming off her 6th place finish in the slalom at last year’s championships.
Others to watch include Colby sophomore Rosie Hust, who only got faster as the season drew to a close last year. Williams College’s Hannah Hunsaker (EISA’s top women’s GS finisher at 2017’s NCAA Championships) returns after missing last season to a torn ACL. (She is joined by sophomore Maddie Dekko, who has had some quick early races.) And, you can never count out the skiers from Saint Mike’s. It’s a small school with outsized talent: Anna Willassen and Megan Grand are back.
Oh jeez, I forgot Freydis Einarsdottir (PSU). You know, the Olympian, back for her senior year.
My first thought is: Sheesh, I’m glad I’m not a first-year racer in the women’s field.
Then again, what better way to get better than to race against the best? Undoubtedly, some first-years will rise to the challenge and shake things up. Same for the racers who were on the bubble last year. The unexpected results are what keep things interesting.
Part 3: Men’s Field
Yes, there is more to talk about.
As noted, we graduated McLaughlin and Vietze, both of whom spent much of last season battling for Wins. But Tanguy Nef is back, which - I would venture - speaks volumes about his satisfaction with EISA: Clearly, the guy could’ve spent the whole season racing Europa and World Cups if he wanted to.
The men’s field is exciting because the top-tier has some breathing room. Seven of the 16 NCAA qualifiers have graduated: Thomas Woolson (DAR), Riley Plant (MID), Carter Robertson (BC), Marc Talbott (WIL), and Danny Duffy (SMC) — along with the aforementioned McLaughlin and Vietze.
So now that things have cleared out a bit, who might step up?
UVM’s senior Max Roeisland is well-positioned at the front. He has a pair of 4th-place finishes under his belt in consecutive NCAA Championship GS races, and more Carnival victories and podiums than I can count.
His teammates David Frisk, Patrick McConville, and Raphael Quenneville all return, resulting in a lineup that could only be faced by, well, Dartmouth: the Big Green surely miss McLaughlin and Woolson, but in addition to Nef they’ve got plenty of talent remaining in Kalle Wagner, David Domonoske, James Ferri, Peter Fucigna…et cetera, ad infinitum.
Guillaume Grand of St. Mike’s enters his final collegiate season with three NCAA appearances to his name, and he’s joined by EISA’s only remaining Grimsrud, Torjus, who qualified for NCAAs in 2016. (Other 2016 NCAA qualifiers who didn’t make the trip last year include Middlebury’s Devon Cardamone and Williams College’s Bryan Bailey. There’s no reason to count them out.)
Many of the names above are EISA veterans. There are, however, a few young studs to keep an eye on. Sophomores Erik Arvidsson (MID), Patrick Kenney (UNH), and Spencer Smith (UVM) all had standout freshman seasons, and Arvidsson especially came on strong at the NCAA Championships, finishing 4th and 11th in the SL and GS, respectively.
PSU’s Karl Kuus and Cooper Yates are still in the mix, as is Saint Lawrence University’s Carter Amstrong.
Part 4: New Coaches
And, one last thing (You are surely tired of reading by now.): We have two new head coaches out on the hill. If you see Craig Marshall or Justin Sperry, of Boston College and Colby-Sawyer College, respectively, introduce yourself and and give them a big ol’ welcome!
See you out on the hill! Bring your boot gloves.