By: Caleb Horsch
Carrabassett Valley, ME - The carnival season officially kicked off on Friday with racing at Sugarloaf Mountain, home of the historic Narrow Gauge hill. Colby played host to the 13 teams of the EISA after the University of Vermont Carnival, originally slated first, was pushed two weeks due to a lack of snow.
The weather was typical for Maine in January, with cold temperatures and moderate winds present. Still, the sky was clear, and the cold weather made for a great day of racing. Racers dodged in and out of the lodge as coaches tried to stay warm.
Mika-Anne Reha (Middlebury) - Stephen R Cloutier
For those unfamiliar, the GS hill at Sugarloaf is one of the most legit hills on the circuit. It boasts a moderate top section followed by a cut into the steep and daunting Headwall. Coming off of Headwall is one of the most challenging sections of ski racing in the United States, with a right-footed turn forcing racers to commit to the outside and withstand the often overwhelming G-forces. They then must quickly find their left foot as they turn onto Miles-Mile. The flat nature of the next section puts the utmost importance on the exit of Headwall.
Despite feet of snow over the last week, the surface was strong. The snow at the top half of the course was near perfect, with the bottom half boasting a more grooved-up but still rippable section. The ladies got the action underway, with the near-unstoppable Allie Resnick picking up right where she left off, winning the run. The US Ski Team member skiing for Dartmouth was followed by Hanna Larsson-Nathhorst, who transferred from Plymouth State in the offseason to join the team at the University of Vermont. Larsson-Nathhorst's teammate, Justin Clement, sat in third.
Allie Resnick (Dartmouth) - Stephen R Cloutier
The men got their shot after a redress from former Dartmouth head coach and now league referee Peter Dodge. Gray Flanagan, running with bib number one, set the early pace and put down a time that would not be beaten. He skied aggressively, particularly coming out of Headwall, and then continued to attack through the turns of Kangaroo, set at an open 27-28 meters. Flanagan was followed closely by Dartmouth's Oscar Zimmer and his teammate Simen Strand.
On the second run, early bibs played a key advantage. A duo of skiers from hosts Colby pushed out of the gates one and two. Carissa Cassidy set the opening mark with a time that would go unbeaten on the second run. Her effort moved her up to 15th place on the day. However, a large advantage on run one eventually overcame even fast second runs. The top 10 was reshuffled but mainly held the same group of women. Resnick, playing with a significant advantage, did just enough to hold off a charge from Mika Anne Reha from Middlebury, who had skied lights out at the opening Nor-Am races. Reha would settle for second, followed by Larsson-Nathhorst, who, although fell from second, was able to hold on for a podium.
The women's top 5 was rounded out by Meagan Olsen from Colby and Chloe Aust from Williams. In the end, five different teams were represented in the top 5. The Middlebury women finished with the highest number of points on the team side, buoyed by four girls in the top 10.
On the men's side, times could not have been tighter; the top 4 were decided by just one-tenth of a second. Brad Underhill started his NCAA qualifying campaign with a fifth-place finish behind Magnus Berge Styren from UVM. The podium was filled with Oscar Zimmer, who slipped slightly to third, and then the 1-2 of Simen Strand and Gray Flanagan from Saint Michael's.
The Saint Michael's alpine men's team delivered an astounding 122 points off the podiums from Strand and Flanagan. Combined with the Nordic and women's alpine teams, they slot in sixth place after the first day of competition. The University of New Hampshire landed in fifth, with hosts Colby in fourth place, Middlebury in third place, and UVM in second place; Dartmouth leads the carnival by commanding 52.5 points.
Gray Flanagan (Saint Michael's) - Stephen R Cloutier
Tomorrow the racers will tackle a long and daunting Slalom on the same Narrow Gauge hill. That race can be followed live at https://livetiming.usskiandsnowboard.org and be sure to check out the team scores at https://www.bullitttiming.com/events/EISA-CBC-2024.