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NCAA Regionals & UNH Carnival Day 2 Recap: a whole lot of action, a little bit of carnage

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

Blizzard gave way to bluebird this Saturday at Mittersill for the final carnival race of the EISA season: a rapid-fire GS down Barron’s Trail. After the sizeable storm that pummelled the hill on Friday and left a fair bit of snow on the ground, mountain ops had two options: leave the trail ungroomed, and hope that the chops and bumps that the general public pushed together over the course of the storm day could be navigated through and slipped out for the GS set, or groom the hill and risk redistributing the snow into an even—but soft—layer that could rapidly deteriorate over the course of a run to create an absolute nightmare for higher bibs.

Dartmouth's Hannah Utter sprays a little cold smoke on her way to victory (Image courtesy of @camciccone)

They opted for the latter, and thus Saturday began with a healthy amount of full-field slipping as the racers, coaches, and course crew (not to mention some heroic Franconia Ski Club helpers) sought to find the surface hiding below. Lo and behold, a surface was there. And not just any surface… the surface. This thing was race-track Pirelli-slick full-send firm, and with a delayed start due to the extra slippage the EISA was raring to drop the hammer and lay down some railroad tracks.

The first run went off more or less without a hitch—blaring sun on most of the run gave racers ample visibility to make their move to set themselves up well for the second run. A ripping set from PSU coach Trevor Hamilton made for some fun skiing (or at least it looked like it, they still won’t let me forerun), and the first run ended with the Dartmouth and UVM women’s teams in a close battle for podium position. Dartmouth’s Ellie Curtis led the field with teammate Hannah Utter just 0.14 seconds behind and a sea of Catamount Green-and-Gold close on their tail. Utter beat UVM’s Moa Clementson by a mere three hundredths of a second on the first run, and fellow Catamount Justine Clement was just one hundredth of a second behind that. Stephanie Lebby and Marina Vilanova, two other standouts on the UVM squad, came down behind Clement in fifth and sixth place.

In the men’s field, it was a slightly different story. Although UVM’s Jagge Lindstoel, after his remarkable string of victories on the carnival circuit this season, typically ends the first run with a lead over the rest of the field, things get a little bit shaken up when UNH’s Bastian Meisen steps into his Salomons. Knives out, hammer down, bombs away—Werner came down three hundredths ahead of Lindstoel, and set the stage for a dramatic second-run battle for the win. Middlebury’s Justin Alkier came down about a third of a second behind Lindstoel, followed closely by Dartmouth’s Oliver Morgan (just 0.08 seconds behind Lindstoel) and fellow Panther Bradshaw Underhill (0.14 seconds behind Morgan).

First run down, second run to go. With the amount of snow that had been moved out of the track in the morning, there wasn’t really anywhere to set a second course down Barron’s. As a result, officials opted for a redress—move a gate here, move a gate there—instead of a full reset. What was firm and fast in the morning only got quicker and slicker in the afternoon. Although skiers were hunting for some extra speed on a track they’d essentially already skied, the increasingly aggressive surface and changing afternoon light conditions led to some dramatically different results.

Of the top five from the women’s first run, Ellie Curtis (sitting in first) and Justine Clement (in fourth) did not make it through the finish on the second. The remaining Catamounts seized on the opportunity to lock in two spots on the podium: Moa Clementson moved into third place, and Marina Vilanova moved into second. Dartmouth’s Hannah Utter—the mayor of Arc City—came down in first place and ensured the Big Green could hang on to the win.

By the time the men started their second run, the surface was easily the most aggressive snow encountered during a race this season and more and more of the track was falling into the shade as the sun continued to sink behind the mountain. Five of the skiers in the flip failed to finish their second run, which came to a climactic end when Bastian Meisen—running thirtieth, at the top of the flip—crashed out of the course. With conditions fast approaching huck-and-pray territory from the killer combination of slick surface and deteriorating visibility, race officials opted not to run the second half of the field and call the race early.

Middlebury’s Alkier managed to keep himself on the podium despite these challenges, finishing in third place after Dartmouth’s Oliver Morgan turned on his night vision and catapulted himself into second. With Meisen out of the running, meanwhile, Lindstoel was free to reclaim his GS throne and bring home one final carnival win for UVM.

Stay tuned for a recap of end-of-season awards and, next week, some coverage of the NCAA championships in Park City! How will the Ice Coast’s fastest skiers shape up next to the big mountain rippers of the American West? Only time will tell.


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