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Who’s responsible for those long lift lines on powder days? Take a good look in the mirror

Hundreds of people wait in line to get on the Silver Queen Gondola for opening day at Aspen Mountain on Saturday, November 23, 2019. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Next time you are stuck in a long lift line on a powder day at one of the four Aspen Snowmass ski areas, don’t point fingers at Ikoners or destination skiers. Look for your neighbors.

Aspen Skiing Co. says its biggest surge in business has come from Roaring Fork Valley season pass holders.

“I would say in terms of local pass sales, those have gone way, way, way up and that’s the biggest shift that I’ve seen,” Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan told the Pitkin County commissioners on Wednesday.

The discussion was an offshoot of the review of Skico’s expansion of Aspen Mountain ski area into the Pandora’s terrain. Commissioner Greg Poschman asked why there have been big crowds at Aspen Mountain on an increasing number of days in recent seasons — with lift lines long enough to dredge up memories of the 1970s.

“Are we seeing more people showing up?” Poschman asked Kaplan.

While Skico’s skier visits have been flat for more than two decades, there are more local customers waiting to leap into action on powder days and weekends, Kaplan explained.

“Overall what we’ve seen in terms of skier days is it’s been a flat line for 25 years,” he said. “We saw some little dips and shifts. When we installed Deep Temerity and opened up into Highland Bowl, you did see some shifting from Aspen Mountain to Aspen Highlands.”

However, Aspen Mountain still pulls in significantly more skiers and riders over the season than Highlands.

“For context, Aspen Mountain does roughly 300,000 skier days per year, give or take. I don’t think it’s ever gone over 315,000, from what I can recall, or under 295,000,” Kaplan said.

Highlands hovers around 200,000 in annual skier days, he said.

Skico’s four mountains typically log around 1.25 million skier visits per season, with the vast majority at Snowmass.

Pass use by locals last season generated more than 50% of Skico’s overall skier days for the first time ever, according to a slide that Kaplan shared with the commissioners. Typically, pass use accounts for about 40% of overall visits.

Last season might have been unusual because of the COVID-19 pandemic when people were seeking ways to get outdoors and more part-time residents spent the full winter in the valley to escape urban areas. However, Skico officials emphatically feel season pass use is the key driver of growth.

Season pass use accounts for even a higher percentage of skier and rider visits at Aspen Mountain. Local pass users have accounted for more than 50% of Aspen Mountain’s skier days since at least the 2011-12 season, according to the information Kaplan shared. Last season, local pass use soared to about 65% of visits to Aspen Mountain. That, Kaplan said, entrenches Aspen Mountain the locals’ ski area.

In a prior meeting with the county commissioners, Kaplan said use of the Ikon Pass isn’t responsible for increasing days of crowding on the slopes. The Ikon Pass is sold by Skico’s sister company, Alterra Mountain Co. It entitles buyers to a certain number of trips to Skico’s four mountains, depending on which pass is purchased.

In Skico’s accounting, Ikon Pass use counts as a lift ticket sale rather than a pass sale, according to Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications.

Kaplan told the commissioners at the prior meeting that many people using the Ikon Pass at Aspen Snowmass formerly used different pass products, such as the Classic Pass. Therefore, Ikon Pass sales haven’t resulted in a significant net gain in skier visits at Skico’s four areas, he said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Kaplan said Skico is reaching its peak number of skiers at one time more frequently, which he tied to the surge in local pass buyers.

“Our peak days are usually about 20,000 skiers in a day,” he said. “If you have 18,000 across the four mountains, you feel busy but you don’t feel like you’re over the top. When you go over 20,000 you go ‘Oooo.’

“That’s the period between Christmas and New Year’s,” he continued. “We have had more days coming up close to that 20,000 number. It’s happened more on weekends in the middle of the year. That, I think is due to the population growth (in the Roaring Fork Valley) and the growth in the Mountain West.”

scondon@aspentimes.com

Vaccine will be needed to enter some of Aspen Skiing Co.’s indoor properties, but not for lift access

Proof of COVID vaccination will be required this ski season for guests in certain indoor Aspen Skiing Co. venues and to participate in some activities, Skico announced Wednesday, but not for lift access.

The policy is in response to a growing number of COVID infections in Pitkin County and across the state and the country, Skico officials said in their announcement.

“Guests vaccines are required for all ASC owned and operated hotels, full-service seated restaurants, Powder Tours and additional experiences where prolonged close contact while unmasked might occur,” Skico said in a news release. “Proof of vaccination is not required for lift access, Ski & Snowboard School lessons, market-style restaurants, rental shops or ticket offices.”

Those 12 and older will be required to show proof of vaccination either with an approved vaccine card, photograph of a vaccine card or an approved vaccine verification application along with proof of identity when entering or checking in to the restricted facilities or activities.

“We put a great deal of thought in to this decision and feel that for the health and safety of our guests and employees this is a necessary step,” Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan said in the news release. “We want to provide the healthiest environment possible in order to give us the best shot at remaining open for the season and providing a safe work environment for our staff and the community at large.”

Last month, Vail Resorts announced proof of vaccination will be required for guests ages 12-older at all indoor, on-mountain quick-service (cafeteria-style) restaurants, but the proof of vaccination requirement does not apply to fine dining establishments.

Skico vice president of communications Jeff Hanle said Thursday there were two main reasons why the Aspen resorts’ cafeteria-style on-mountain restaurants were not included in the vaccine requirement but the fine-dining establishments were.

One is the logistics of checking the sheer amount of people going in and out of those buildings, including the Sundeck at Aspen Mountain or Elk Camp at Snowmass. The other is many of those visitors are there for a short time, whether it’s a quick bite to eat or just using the restrooms.

“In the fine-dining and sit-down establishments you have people who are in there for an extended amount of time — an hour or two hours — and in close proximity and unmasked once they sit down to eat,” he said. “The other places people typically are in and out a lot quicker.”

All of Skico’s employees will be required to be vaccinated unless they have a religious or medical exemption. Those with an exemption are required to be tested weekly.

Pitkin County is currently under an indoor mask mandate, which was enacted in September and likely will continue into the winter unless case counts drop.

Masks will not be required in lift lines, and Skico likely will keep the “ghost lanes” in place, according to Hanle.

“Per the county (mandate), gondolas will be considered indoor space and masks will be required,” he said.

PROOF OF VAX

Full-service fine dining where proof of vaccination required prior to being seated:

Cloud Nine (including the outdoor deck area)

Alpine Room Restaurant at High Alpine

Sam’s Restaurant (for sit-down dining access)

Lynn Britt Cabin (indoor dining area)

Stays at Aspen Skiing Co. hotel properties where proof of vaccination required at check-in:

Limelight Aspen

Limelight Snowmass

Limelight Ketchum

The Little Nell

Other instances where vaccination proof is required:

— All Skico hotel properties including Limelight and The Little Nell sit-down table service dining locations (required prior to being seated).

— Powder Tours (required at the start of the day).

— Aspen Mountain Club and Snowmass Mountain Club locker room and dining areas (required before entry).

— Equipment rental deliveries from Four Mountain Sports to homes or lodging locations (acknowledgment of vaccination at time of purchase and proof verified at delivery).

— Contained venues for large-scale events (required upon entry).

For a full list of locations and experiences visit www.aspensnowmass.com/covid19.

 

Former AVSC, World Cup ski racer Alice McKennis Duran joins Vail club as coach

Alice McKennis Duran goes airborne during a 2018 training session ahead of a women's World Cup downhill in Cortina d'Ampezzo, northern Italy. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

VAIL — The new coach at Ski & Snowboard Vail should command some attention.

The newbie has 10-plus years of World Cup experience, including a win on tour (St. Anton, downhill, Jan. 12, 2013), not to mention world championships (2013) and Olympic (2010 and 2018) experience.

SSCV announced this week the hiring of Alice McKennis Duran as a U12 alpine coach fresh off her World Cup career.

“Hiring Alice reinforces Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s continued commitment to excellence in coaching across all ages. This will be an amazing opportunity for young SSCV athletes to learn firsthand from one of the best in the world,” said SSCV alpine program director Brad Wall. “On days when Alice is not coaching U12 athletes we expect her to have a tremendous impact across the entire alpine program, passing along her extensive knowledge and passion for developing strong speed skills across all ages.”

Born in New Castle, McKennis Duran learned to ski at 2 at Sunlight Mountain with her father and older sister, Kendra. She also had a brief stint training with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club prior to joining the national team.

“I can remember holding onto my father’s ski pole as he taught me to turn. Some of my earliest memories skiing include the feeling of awe that there was so much to explore on the mountain and the freedom I had to ski my own way and find the speed for myself,” McKennis Duran said.

And speed she did find. McKennis Duran was a U.S. ski team athlete for 13 years (2008-2021) and competed on the FIS World Cup circuit in both downhill and super-G from 2009-2020.

McKennis Duran placed fifth in downhill in the 2018 Olympics. A few other highlights include third place in a World Cup downhill in Are, Sweden, in 2018, not to mention being a three-time U.S. national champion, wins coming in super-G in 2015 and 2020, and downhill in 2017.

Alice McKennis Duran brings 10-plus years of experience on the U.S. Ski Team to her new duties at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Courtesy photo.

When not training and racing herself, McKennis Duran shared her passion with the next generation of ski racers, coaching at Keely’s Camp for Girls and the American Downhill Speed Camp. In parallel with her stellar ski racing career, McKennis Duran made the time to earn her Level 3 PSIA Instructor license and pursue her higher education goals. She is currently working to complete her coursework for a bachelor’s degree in small business management and entrepreneurship from DeVry University.

“Results are one thing, but Alice is also known for her resilience and determination, successfully returning to World Cup competition after multiple season-ending injuries,” Wall said. “SSCV athletes stand to learn a great deal from the way she has faced and overcome adversity in her ski racing career.”

McKennis Duran retired following the 2020-21 season, which she spent most of injured. She made her farewell run at the national championships hosted by Aspen Highlands in February.

“I am looking forward to sharing the insights and knowledge I have gained from my 10-plus years of racing on the World Cup with a younger generation,” McKennis Duran said. “By having the opportunity to continue to be involved with ski racing, which has meant so much to me throughout my life, and to share that passion with a younger generation, I hope to continue fostering the love of an incredible sport for generations to come.

“As a former athlete from the youth level all the way to the highest level, I understand the challenges and what it takes to achieve big goals. I believe with my experience and insights taken from my own ski racing career I will be able to relate to the athletes of any age or ability and help them to get the most out of the sport that they can — not just from an athletic perspective, but from a personal one, as well.”

Catching up with the ‘Aligator’ — New Castle’s Alice McKennis reflects upon retirement after 24-year ski racing career

Two-time Olympian and Two-time national champion Alice McKennis Duran took a final lap to celebrate her retirement in between the two runs at the Downhill National Championships at Aspen Highlands on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

A disciplined work ethic, a dose of reality and, oh, lots and lots of ski laps.

Those are some of the key pieces of advice long-time U.S. Alpine Ski Team member Alice McKennis Duran offers up for young skiers coming into the sport.

After 24 years of competitive ski racing — 14 of them with Team U.S.A.; a stint that included one World Cup win, two U.S. championships and two Olympics appearances, one of which produced a fifth-place downhill finish — the New Castle native recently announced her retirement.

“I think back to the young part of my career, and I spent so much time just free-skiing,” McKennis said. “That gave me a really good feeling on the snow, and of skiing different terrain.”

Much of that time was spent at Sunlight Mountain Resort outside Glenwood Springs, where she learned to ski with her dad, Greg McKennis, and older sister, Kendra.

Alice McKennis in her Sunlight Ski Team days.
Provided

To honor her roots there, Sunlight in 2018, following her fifth-place run at the Pyeongchang Games, renamed a portion of the famed East Ridge “Aligator Alleys.”

“The Aligator” is McKennis’s Instagram name.

“I remember always loving skiing from an early age, and often just being by myself at Sunlight and going all day long,” she said of those formative years. “I just loved ripping around through the woods; it was such an adventure …”

It was there at Sunlight, when McKennis was about 10 or 11, that she said she first began to understand her own potential.

A lot of young skiers find themselves at that crossroads — take the less-serious, just-out-here-to-have-fun path, or turn down that serious road.

“You have to recognize that if you’re going to have big goals and big dreams, you’re going to have to have a big work ethic and work through some adversity, inevitably,” McKennis said. “It’s never an upward trajectory. It’s up and down, and sideways and plateaus. … You have to be ready to work through that and to persevere …”

It was that mindset that got McKennis through a few injury-plagued years in her own career. And, that dose of reality she talks about is what ultimately led to her decision to hang up the World Cup career at age 31.

After suffering a serious ankle and opposite knee injury just before Christmas 2020 at one of the first World Cup events of the season at Val d’Isére, France, McKennis said she began the difficult mind journey to her ultimate decision point.

Once again, she was looking at an extended rehabilitation and recovery period before attempting yet another comeback.

“I’ve had a lot of injuries in my career, and I’ve pushed it to the limit and overcome all of them,” she said.

Two-time Olympian and Two-time national champion Alice McKennis Duran took a final lap to celebrate her retirement in between the two runs at the Downhill National Championships at Aspen Highlands on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

This time, McKennis said she came to terms with that little voice that said, “you know, I’m really not interested in being injured anymore.’”

After conversations with her husband of two years, Ski Club Vail coach Pat Duran, and with her family, McKennis said she decided now was the time.

“Ultimately, it boils down to the risk-reward balance, and it just isn’t worth it to me anymore,” she said. “Eliminating that risk in my life will give me better health for the next 50 or 60 years that I hope to have.”

McKennis closed out her career with a ceremonial lap during the U.S. National Downhill Championships at Aspen Highlands on April 10, with husband Pat following behind getting video.

There are lots of highlights and good career memories to share now.

“Just making the U.S. Ski Team, that was my only goal at the time,” she said of the hard developmental work she put in training and racing for several Colorado ski clubs during her teens, including the Aspen Valley Ski Club and Ski Club Vail, which finally paid off.

Bigger goals ensued, of course.

The ultimate achievement came at St. Anton, Austria on Jan. 12, 2013, when McKennis won her first and only World Cup downhill.

“That was definitely a highlight in my career,” she said. “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about having a World Cup victory. It’s something a lot of people never get, or even second or third. I just feel really proud of that.”

She also finished 10th overall in the World Cup downhill standings that year. Over the course of her career, she had nine top-10 finishes.

Nationally, McKennis had a first-place finish in the Super G at the 2015 U.S. National Championships at Sugarloaf, Maine, and first-place finish in the 2017 Nor-Am Cup downhill at Copper Mountain.

McKennis doesn’t expect to leave the sport completely. Duran continues to coach, and she may have some things to offer in that regard, also.

“I’m extremely passionate about skiing, and I of course wish I could keep going,” she said. “But I also recognize that I could have an impact in other ways, too.”

Other than that, McKennis said she has plans to work with sister Kendra at her cattle ranch operation near Meeker, raising local grass-fed beef for the growing direct-to-consumer market.

And, there’s the horse-boarding operation her dad continues to run in New Castle, which has its constant responsibilities.

Greg McKennis said he has the expected mixed emotions about Alice’s retirement decision, but it’s one he ultimately supported.

“I’m just tremendously proud of all that she did in her career, and it really showed what she’s made of,” he said. “After 24 years of racing, there have been a lot of great times.

“I’m just happy for her, and she’s got a lot to look forward to that I’m sure she’ll be just as successful in.”

Two-time Olympian and Two-time national champion Alice McKennis Duran took a final lap to celebrate her retirement in between the two runs at the Downhill National Championships at Aspen Highlands on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Don’t cry for Shiffrin as she continues to push forward, wants others to do same

Mikaela Shiffrin is overcome with emotions in the finish area of the World Cup giant slalom in Courchevel, France, on Dec. 14, her first win in nearly a year.
Marco Trovati / AP file photo

Mikaela Shiffrin doesn’t need to talk about planning — when she was in kindergarten, she planned on being a baseball player, not a two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time overall World Cup champion.

So there’s no need to try to predict the future for the upcoming Beijing Olympics in 2022 or the prospect of catching (more) all-time records in the sport. She knows that plans can change, such as they did dramatically ahead of the 2020-21 World Cup season that recently wrapped up last month in Europe.

“This season was so different from anything I’ve ever experienced in my career,” Shiffrin said Friday while home in Eagle County recovering from the season. “When you couple the pandemic with having it be the first season that I’ve competed without my dad watching over and helping make sure that things are OK … it was definitely something different. And it would have been different even if COVID didn’t happen, but then COVID happened and it was like a double-whammy.”

Jeff Shiffrin died in February of 2020 after a home accident.

FIS canceled all North American World Cup ski races and added COVID-19 protocols to put on this season in Europe.

“One thing that I’ve always believed — and I think it is something my parents taught me — is that I can plan for the future, but beyond preparing for what’s coming, I don’t think so much about the future,” Shiffrin said. “I want to be able to win now, and if I win enough, then I could get close to (other records). It’s possible … but not the thing I’m shooting for. Who knows if I’m going to win another 20 races, but I’m able to win now, so why don’t I just focus on what I can do now?”

Getting back to winning, but more importantly racing

Shiffrin, 26, said she is thankful for the World Cup season happening and that for her it wasn’t all about wins and podiums.

“I didn’t win 17 races this season (like 2018-19), but there was a lot that I am almost more proud of,” she said. “Even getting back on my skis and getting back in the start gate, winning races again. Having four medals at the world championships — that was something I definitely did not expect.”

Shiffrin has said she wasn’t sure she’d be able to return to ski racing following the tragedy in her personal life, so this season was more about doing the best she could.

“Sometimes you need to just sit down and be grateful for what you have been able to accomplish,” she said. “This was one of those seasons where I wasn’t asking for more, I am just doing the best I can. It’s kind of weird but in a way all of the awful stuff that’s happened in my personal life over the last couple of years has given me a little more of a grateful feeling for this season somehow being able to go to Europe, travel and ski.”

Mikaela Shiffrin gets to the finish area of the World Cup giant slalom in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on March 21. Shiffrin will be heading out April 16 from Eagle County to start the first training program of the offseason in California.
Marco Trovati / AP file photo

On Dec. 14, Shiffrin won her first race in nearly a year with an emotional performance in the giant slalom in Courchevel, France. She won four medals at the world championships in February, becoming the most decorated American in world champs history with 11 total medals and six golds, surpassing records of Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn.

“You know, I had some fun,” she said looking back at the season.

Keeping that toughness

Shiffrin is learning the power of being resilient through the storms of life. She is nominated for the Laureus World Sports Comeback of the Year Award for her respectable return to the sport this season.

Along with her family and support from friends, Shiffrin launched the Jeff Shiffrin Resiliency Fund to help support all U.S. ski team athletes financially during the trying year of COVID. The fund exceeded its goal and raised over $3 million that went toward flights, gear, training and more for more than 200 athletes.

“I’ve only just started to realize in the past year or so just how much (resiliency) does play a role, not only in my life but literally in everybody’s,” she said.

In addition to raising millions, the Jeff Shiffrin Resiliency Fund also brought out more stories of perseverance from Shiffrin’s teammates, competitors and athletes from all over the world. People with no connection to ski racing supported the cause, because of the message of resiliency. The fund raised a total of $3,075,899 from 19 different countries and 39 states, with Colorado and New York amassing the most donations.

“To me, resiliency is the ability to experience something really difficult — hardship, pain, struggle — to experience that, and to get to the other side of it, holding on to some form of strength or purpose,” Shiffrin shared on the fundraising page. “And it doesn’t mean you were the same person that you were before … but you keep that strength, you keep that toughness or that determination you had before.”

Shiffrin, who has won 17 World Cup races in a season before, showed her strength, toughness and determination this season simply by being out there — and frequently finishing on or near the podium.

“People just connected with it,” she said of the message of resiliency. “The thing is that every person on the planet has gone through something difficult. … Plans change. Life changes. A lot of times it’s incredibly tragic and difficult, but you can’t choose what transitions come your way. I have found that connecting with people about the resilience that they’ve needed in their life has been one of the things that makes me feel better and stronger myself. In a moment where I don’t feel strong enough to get out of bed because I’m overwhelmingly sad, I hear about someone talk about a moment that they’ve had to overcome and got out of bed anyway — it’s that little bit of strength that I need. When I don’t have the strength to carry on, maybe somebody else can give me a little bit of that. And when they don’t, then maybe I can give a little bit to them.”

More than a skier

Outside of skiing, Shiffrin works with the Kindness Wins Foundation, a nonprofit that celebrates and recognizes acts of kindness. She partnered with the local Mountain Youth’s He(art) of the Vail Valley Youth initiative in July to talk virtually about how she uses arts such as singing and dancing to support her mental health.

She’s also busy traveling the world and working on fun projects with her sponsors, such as her four recent days spent in Austria with Adidas and Longines. She recently celebrated Carbonara Day with her longtime sponsor Barilla — the company seen plastered on the front of her helmet on race day. She’s been loving the comfort of Land Rover while traveling and the different styles of Oakley, as well as Bose headphones under that helmet.

“I really enjoy working with every single one of my sponsors,” she said. “I’m surrounded by companies that have really great people.”

Her music lineup these days is a lot of Taylor Swift, but Jason Derulo’s “Don’t Cry For Me” has been a popular one lately. With lyrics like “somebody told me I was done, I’m still pickin’ up the pieces from when I was number 1” and “if you thought I was down, if you thought I was losin’ sleep, well I’m still goin’ hard eight days a week” — it’s easy to see why it’s popular on Shiffrin’s playlist.

“That is one of my favorite songs right now,” she said of “Don’t Cry For Me.” “It’s so good, and Jason Derulo is just crushing it.”

So don’t cry for Shiffrin — she’s pushing through with the help of her family, friends, coaches and teammates, and she wants you to be resilient, too.

rleonhart@vaildaily.com

Glenwood’s Cornelius fourth in combined at U.S. ski nationals, Radamus wins super-G

Glenwood Springs skier Cooper Cornelius navigates the U.S. Alpine Championship course on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at Aspen Highlands. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

After missing all of last season due to injury, Cooper Cornelius is still rounding back into form. But the Glenwood Springs ski racer put down some of his best runs of the season Wednesday, finishing just off the podium in the men’s combined at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Aspen Highlands.

“I feel great about today. It’s my best result so far in this series. I know I’m skiing well,” Cornelius told The Aspen Times. “It’s just a lack of consistency sometimes from top to bottom. I honestly thought my better run of the day was going to be in super-G, just because that’s been a stronger event all year for me. But it was a really nice surprise to throw down a slalom run and move up a few places.”

Cornelius, who grew up racing with the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club, was fourth in Wednesday’s combined with a two-run time of 1 minute, 47.66 seconds. He was 0.86 seconds off the pace set by combined winner Luke Winters, an Oregon native and U.S. B team member who had a time of 1:46.80. In second was Canadian and University of Denver skier Simon Fournier, 0.27 back, and in third was River Radamus, 0.51 back of Winters.

Middlebury’s Erik Arvidsson was fifth and Aspen’s Bridger Gile finished sixth in the combined, a day after snagging a podium in giant slalom. Vermont’s Ben Ritchie, who won Monday’s slalom national title, had the fastest slalom run on Wednesday (36.97 seconds), but was well off the pace in super-G.

Radamus, one of the country’s rising stars who hails from Edwards, won Wednesday’s super-G national championship, which also served as the first run of the combined race. His time of 1:08.64 held off Winters by 0.16 and Maine’s Sam Morse by 0.22. Radamus also won the delayed 2020 U.S. national championship in giant slalom prior to the season.

“In slalom, I knew I was in for a battle with Luke — he’s skiing amazing in slalom right now — and I really wanted to execute and give him a good fight,” Radamus said. “He’s really good though, so I didn’t quite do what I wanted to, but there’s no shame in losing to him right now, so I’m satisfied.”

Fourth in super-G on Wednesday was Aspen’s own Tristan Lane, who is currently skiing for DU. He was seventh in the combined.

The fourth-place combined finish was a satisfying result for Cornelius, who did not finish Monday’s slalom and was 15th in Tuesday’s GS. He was 10th fastest in super-G.

Currently 21, Cornelius is in his third season on the U.S. ski team, where he’s a member of the C team. Late in his first season with the national team, Cornelius suffered a major knee injury that forced him to miss all of the 2019-20 competition season. He made his return this past November at the 2020 national championships — delayed from last spring because of the pandemic — at Copper Mountain, and has kept up a rigorous schedule since then, competing in mostly FIS races and a few Europa Cup events.

“Definitely after a long year of travel, it’s nice to be an hour or so from where I live,” Cornelius said of nationals being held in Aspen. “It was generally good skiing, just some costly mistakes (throughout the season). And other days, maybe not so good. But that’s why you got to continue to grind and keep working at it. But it was the most time I’ve spent in Europe.”

The 2017 Glenwood Springs High School graduate said his knee is fully healed, although he’s still learning to regain the same mental confidence and trust in his body he had before the injury. But overall, Cornelius is feeling strong and determined to make a climb up the ladder next season. He’s knocking on the door of his first World Cup start and figures to be a factor in the battle to make the U.S. Olympic team next winter ahead of the 2022 Winter Games in China.

“A lot of it comes down to who is healthy next year. A lot of stuff can change, so you never know. But I definitely know I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can to be in that mix,” Cornelius said. “I’m very excited for the challenge. I’m more than ready to make a statement as soon as the next year kicks off.”

Cornelius also plans to compete in the men’s downhill national championship on Saturday. That race, along with the women’s downhill, was moved up a day from Sunday by the race jury late Wednesday. They condensed the two days of downhill training into one day, which will take place Friday. There is a FIS race — as in, not for a national championship — slated for Thursday.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Sunlight Need for Speed race results announced

The annual Need for Speed ski and snowboard race event took place at Sunlight Mountain Resort on March 7. Competitors had two runs each on the lower Joslin course, attempting to record (via speedgun) the combined fastest speed.

Men’s Ski Results

  1. Don Strickland (70/72 mph)
  2. Adam Roberts (69/70 mph)
  3. Bruce Bell (65/66 mph)
  4. (T) Adrian Vanthoff (64/62 mph); Richard Landingham (62/64 mph)
  5. Chris Fab (61/62 mph)
  6. Oliver Janey (61/55 mph)
  7. Yancy Nichols (59/59 mph)
  8. Brett Jolley (58/59 mph)
  9. Joe Smith – (one run only, 52 mph)

14 and Under Boys

  1. Caleb Landingham (54/59 mph)

Women’s Ski Results

  1. Katey Hauser (66/65 mph)
  2. Mikaela Thompson (58/59 mph)

Men’s Snowboard

  1. James Quoetone (61/64 mph)
  2. Dan Bettel (61/60 mph)
  3. (T) Robert Naes (58/59 mph); Billy McMillan (58/59 mph)

Shiffrin wins slalom bronze, her 4th medal at this world championships in Italy

Austria's Katharina Liensberger, center, winner of the women’s slalom, poses with second placed Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, left, and third placed United States’ Mikaela Shiffrin, at the alpine ski World Championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)

The reign was going to end sometime.

Mikaela Shiffrin couldn’t win FIS Alpine World Ski Championships indefinitely. But after four straight crowns in 2013 (Schladming, Austria), 2015 (Beaver Creek), 2017 (St. Moritz) and 2019 (Are, Sweden), it seemed somewhat endless

Shiffrin, of Edwards, closed out the world championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, on Saturday with a bronze medal in the slalom, her fourth medal at the two-week world championships.

Her 11th world championship medal ties her with France’s Marielle Goitschel and Sweden’s Anja Paerson for the most by a woman in the modern era (since 1948).

Austria’s Katharina Liensberger won the slalom on Saturday, and Petra Vlhova finished with the silver; Shiffrin finished 1.98 seconds behind the leader after sitting in fourth after the the first race.

“It’s been a pretty incredible couple of weeks,” Shiffriin told the NBC Sports broadcast after the slalom, still breathing heavily under her mask. “I never imagined that I could win four medals in one world championships. That’s quite a spectacular feeling.”

Shiffrin went on to add she wished she could have placed better in some races over the two weeks, but knew her competition was strong.

“It’s been a lot of ups and downs, for sure,” she said of her challenges this year. “It’s been a very emotional year. Right now, I’m feeling pretty grateful to be able to smile a lot more often. Every day I feel a little more excited for the next day to come. … It’s come a long way in a year.”

In addition to ski racing challenges this past year as well as COVID-19, Shiffrin has been dealing with the death of her father in February of 2020.

“Some days I feel good … and then the next day it hits you like a train. What I’ve heard is it’s like this the rest of your life,” Shiffrin said. “I don’t think there’s a time I feel perfect, but these two weeks have been a big step in my ability to focus and control my emotions during the day and still fight.”

On Thursday, Feb. 12, Shiffrin opened the worlds with a bronze in the super-G. On Monday, she won the combined — her first time competing in the event at the world championships. On Thursday, she took silver in the GS; followed by Saturday’s bronze in slalom.

With six world championships titles and 11 medals, Shiffrin is the most decorated U.S. skier in worlds history.

Who won worlds?

There is no official champion of the world championships, but it’s a fun game to play. In some ways, Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami takes the unofficial title with super-G and giant slalom golds and downhill bronze.

Liensberger receives consideration as well. The Austrian had never won on the World Cup tour, but takes two golds from Cortina in parallel and slalom and a GS bronze. The 23-year-old has been part of the Austrian gold rush in the Dolomites — five gold medals and two bronzes.

Fellow teammates Vincent Kriechmayr (men’s super-G and downhill) and Marco Schwarz (Alpine combined) also landed on the top step during the last two weeks. Schwarz will be the favorite in Sunday’s finale, men’s slalom.

But Shiffrin? She definitely has a claim as well. Medaling in four of the traditional five events does the trick. in an era when the traditional all-around skier is an endangered species, Shiffrin reminded everyone of her preeminent skills.

The stat of Cortina 2021

Mikaela Shiffrin has entered 13 races during five different championships and never missed the top 10, medaling in 11. Again, her “worst” showing at worlds was eighth in GS here at Beaver Creek.

Mikaela Shiffrin’s record at worlds. Please note nothing but top 10 finishes and no DNFs. (Screen grab)

Even the greatest of the great struggle at worlds.

* Ingemar Stenmark: Like Shiffrin, he was a tech racer, meaning that he would finish racers more often than speedsters. At the same time, Stenmark medaled in “only” 6-of-14 worlds races. He DNF’d in his first two worlds in slalom before winning three straight titles.

• Hermann Maier: He had a terrific debut at worlds, winning super-G (in a tie with Norway’s Lasse Kjus) and downhill before DNF-ing in GS at Vail/Beaver Creek 1999. Maier finished with three total golds at the championships (2005 GS). In Maier’s fifth worlds, he was 13th in the downhill, seventh in the super-G and 21st in the GS.

• Marcel Hirscher: Maier’s Austrian tech counterpart went through a run of 11 medals in 14 events at worlds from 2013-19. He didn’t medal at his first championships in 2009 and was injured in 2011.

• Lindsey Vonn: Yes, we tread on dangerous ground here. Apples and oranges, yes, but Vonn didn’t have the crossover success that Shiffrin has had at worlds. Vonn’s best tech finish at this event was 14th in the giant slalom at Beaver Creek in 2015. Vonn’s best finish in the combined was fourth in 2005. Shiffrin has a gold in the combi and gold (2019) and bronze (2021) in super-G.

Vail Daily Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart contributed reporting to this story.

Mikaela Shiffrin just misses GS crown: Gut-Behrami wins

Switzerland's Lara Gut-Behrami celebrates winning the gold medal as Mikaela Shiffrin comes in second in the women's giant slalom at the world championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, Thursday. (AP Photo/Marco Tacca)

MIkaela Shiffrin raced magnificently, but came up short in a photo finish in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships giant slalom in Cortina, Italy, on Thursday.

Chasing the one major medal that has eluded her during her career,, Shiffrin edged Gut-Behrami by 10-hundredths of a second in the first run. Gut-Behrami won the seond heat by 12-hundredths of a second, taking the gold by 2-hundredths over Shiffrin.

Austria’s Katharina Liensberger took the bronze, just 9-hundredths off the pace.

This is Shiffrin’s third medal of the 2021 worlds — she ended up with bronze in a delayed super-G and gold in even more delayed super combined on Monday. And Shiffrin will have a crack at her fifth consecutive slalom crown on Saturday.

This is the 10th medal Shiffrin has earned at worlds dating back to her debut in the compeition in 2013 and the second time she has been the runner up in the GS (2017).

While Vincent Kriechmayr and the Austrians have dominated the men’s side of world champs, these appear to be Gut-Behrami’s and Shiffrin’s for the ladies. The Swiss veteran has taken super-G and GS gold from Cortina with a bronze in downhill.

Meanwhile, Shiffrin seems to be emitting the vibe that she is returning to her form at the optimal time. Regardless of what happens in slalom on Saturday, and she will be the favorite, Shiffrin may not be “all the way back.” But this is starting to look like a pretty good rendering of Shiffrin in flight.

“GS has always been so important for me in my entire career,” Gut said to The Associated Press. “I always knew that if I’m skiing well in GS then it’s easy to be fast even in the other disciplines.”

Bigger questions

• Is Mikaela Shiffrin “back” in giant slalom? If we roll back the tape — a whole 10 days ago — before worlds, the big question was Shiffrin’s giant slalom, particularly after a pair of sixth-place finishes in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Jan. 16-17.

Shiffrin was flawless in the first run and had no major mistakes in the second. She just got beat on Thursday by Gut-Behrami. It happens, even to the best.

Truthfully, we really won’t have a definite answer until the firs weekend in March in Jasna, Slovakia, where tech will first be competed after these championships.

• Does Shiffrin continue speed after worlds? While we completely understand the simplified focus of tech in the build-up to worlds in an uncertain season and a difficult time in her life, Shiffrin seems to have been energized by her return to speed.

After slalom this weekend, the tour hits Val di Fassa, Italy, for two downhills and a super-G. These events replace what were meant to be races in Yanqing, China. Just thinking aloud, but Val di Fassa is slightly closer to Cortina than China. Does she take a whirl at speed or just take a week to rest and train for Jasna?

Good for Gut

We’d be lying if we said we weren’t rooting for Shiffrin. That said, huzzah for Gut-Behrami. She is 29 and made her World Cup debut on Dec. 28, 2007. She’s won 30 World Cups, including christening the Raptor, the women’s answer to Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek, with wins in downhill and super-G back in 2013.

Despite all this success — and injuries; a hip forced her to miss the 2010 Olympics; did an ACL on home snow during the 2017 championships and hadn’t won on tour for three years until this season — Gut-Behrami had never won at worlds until last week’s super-G and Thursday’s GS after a 14-year quest.

It’s hard winning one gold at world championships, much less three.

Ski, snowboard traffic picking up at Sunlight Mountain

A couple of skiers ride the chairlift up Sunlight Mountain on Saturday morning. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Saturday, 9:45ish a.m.

Even the backup parking lot is nearing capacity. Casual conversations and giggles of happy children are sharply permeating the crisp air.

Sunlight Mountain Resort worker Jaramie Smith is busy directing traffic like it’s a Metallica concert. He helps push a small sedan stuck in the snow with a coworker, then goes back to playing mountain marshaller.

“We’ve just had good turnouts, and it seems like the crowds are pretty happy,” he said. “It’s good snow for the season, ya know? With more people coming up, we’re having more traffic to direct.”

Last weekend, people had to park on the county road leading to the resort. This weekend, for the first time in the alpine oasis’ history (just go with it), lift tickets were sold out. Single-day ticket sales are limited this season due to COVID-19 precautions.

“That’s a banner I thought I’d never make — those sold-out banners,” Marketing and Sales Director Troy Hawks said. “And I’m probably going to keep one as a souvenir, to be honest with you.”

A skier tows his daughter at Sunlight Mountain on Saturday morning. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Sunlight hit 1,600 ticket sales last weekend. This President’s Day weekend, Hawks said he anticipated anywhere from 1,200 and 1,600 in sales, with 1,500 passes being the sweet spot.

By 11:40ish a.m., good luck trying to find a parking space.

What the heck is going on?

Garfield and Pitkin counties are seeing downward trends in COVID-19 cases. And, as of Saturday morning, restaurants up and down the Roaring Fork Valley were officially operating at level yellow on the Colorado COVID-19 dial.

Overcast never felt so great. Fresh “pow!”

Pitchers of beer occupy picnic table tops near Sunlight’s base. Room on the ski racks is scarce. The site of an empty seat on the uphill chairlifts is uncommon.

A full ski and snowboard rack at Sunlight Mountain on Saturday morning. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Hawks said it’s the culture at it’s finest.

“It’s just an old-school powder day,” he said. “You have people cheering from the lift and people hitting powder shots underneath.”

This actually puts Hawks and the Sunlight Mountain crew in a bit of a tough spot. How do you maximize business while still trying to maintain social distancing?

Logistically, Hawks said he has to factor in how many season-pass holders will show up, how many hotel and Sunny ski packages there actually are and how many people will come up the mountain for a day pass.

Colorado problems…

“So, it’s a little bit of an experiment to hit that fine number,” Hawks said. “You don’t want to under sell, you don’t want to over sell.”

Hawks said Sunlight is capable of catering to the rush, but last weekend’s parking situation was a bit of a stretch.

“With people parking way down the road, we are kind of outgrowing our volume there on that end of things, so we definitely encourage people to carpool as much as possible,” he said.

A secondary parking lot at Sunlight Mountain loaded with vehicles Saturday morning. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

It seems like people from coast-to-coast are starting to wake up from this COVID-19 coma and are out for blood.

“They are literally coming from around the country, and we do get some foreign visitation as well,” Hawks said. “But a lot of Texas — Texas has shown up in force. California has shown up really strong this year.”

“We’re still working on our data collection,” Hawks added. “One of my collection tools is just going to the parking lot and noting where the license plates are from.”

Kim Viera had just flown in with her family from Tampa Bay, Florida. She stood, one foot in a snowboard binding, with her husband near the base area.

With package rates pretty much double the price elsewhere, Viera said, “There’s just nowhere else to go.”

“With the pack and the deals, we ski for, like, $45 a day, versus $180, $200 at Steamboat,” she said. “It’s way better out here.”

A snowboarder washes his way down to the base of Sunlight Mountain on Saturday morning. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Viera also said she likes the fact she can go enjoy some of Glenwood Springs’ most treasured amenities.

“I like the fact that it has the slopes and the hot springs,” she said. “And it is a fraction of the cost of the stupid tourist areas.”

Viera described the atmosphere of Sunlight on Saturday morning.

“Energetic but kind of chill, too,” she said. “Everyone’s just so nice. Everyone’s just, like, ‘Whatever, not a big deal.’ It’s cool … I like it.”

Waiting in one of the lift lines, Salida resident Daniel Brown said he came to Sunlight to beat the President’s Day weekend rush encountered elsewhere.

“It’s not as crazy as a normal President’s Day weekend could be,” he said. Brown’s been skiing for 17 years.

“On average, it can be a complete zoo. Generally, honestly, I try to not ski President’s Day weekend. We usually ski back country or something and stay away from the resorts.”

But the fresh powder and the agreeable weather drew Brown from his typical Monarch Mountain mainstay.

“It looks better than it was yesterday,” he said of the snow. “It’s pretty nice, honestly. It’s not like crazy cold and windy. There’s better coverage than what it looked like yesterday. Hopefully this cycle pulls some things together and helps the snowpack for the rest of the season.”

Riders on a chairlift at Sunlight Mountain acknowledge the camera Saturday morning. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

For Hawks, he said he wouldn’t have guessed traffic would get this significant, especially if you asked him back in summer and fall 2020.

With about 48 days left in the season, he said the future is bright for Sunlight Mountain.

“Not counting any chickens before they hatch necessarily, but if we can see ourselves through to the end of the season, we’ll come off of here with a pretty profitable year,” Hawks said. “And that just bodes well with making future improvements here at the mountain.”

Sunlight has approvals from the U.S. Forest Service to build a new chair lift serving the East Ridge, and has been working for the past two years to cut new skiable terrain on the eastern pitch.

rerku@postindependent.com