For East Coast ski racers, Waterville Valley and Cannon Mountain are the places where East Coast ski racing came of age.
After a five year hiatus, New England Masters Skiing returned to Waterville for 2 GS races on Friday, January 20, 2023. The races took place on the legendary World Cup trail, an opportunity that drew some of the best Masters skiers in the region.
In 1968, Waterville was one of eight ski areas that began NASTAR racing, with the first pacesetter trials taking place at Waterville Valley in that inaugural season. The first ski World Cup race held in the United States was at Waterville Valley in 1969, with four of the six podium positions taken by American women in slalom and GS.
In 2019 before COVID, the U.S. Alpine Championship technical races came back to the East Coast and Waterville Valley. That was my first chance to see Paula Moltzan and future World Cup teammate Nina O’Brien vying for the National Championship. The two were fierce competitors at Waterville with O’Brien winning the first-ever parallel slalom in National Championship history. Moltzan joined her on the podium, finishing second.
Over two weekends, Nina O’Brien captured the Alpine combined, Super-G, Parallel Slalom, and Slalom National Championships at Sugarloaf and Waterville Valley.
Waterville Valley was the venue for two separate GS races with two runs each in the morning and afternoon. The storm that hit the night before, and continued during race day, dropped a solid 6” of heavy snow on the hill. The un-groomed powder run leading to World Cup trail was challenging and tiring, giving me an even higher respect for the Masters skiers. They each powder skied on GS boards a minimum of four times, and then raced.
In the morning race, Matt Dodge posted two blistering runs of 34.22 and 33.22 (1:07.44), finishing in first place overall. Aaron Perry came in second at +2.33, and Bryan Reimer in third at +3.10
Viola Henry took first for the women with matching times of 39.99 (1:19.98). Maggie Sellar captured second with runs of 41.73 and 41.78 (1:23.51) at +3.60, followed by Patti Lane at +7.88.
Matt Dodge found even more speed in the Friday afternoon race with runs of 32.76 and 33.17 (1:05.93), with Aaron Perry once again finishing second at +3.77. Kyle Anderson moved from a fifth place finish in the morning to third in the afternoon at +3.94.
Becka Padgett came back from a DNF in the morning race to first place in the afternoon with runs of 37.98 and 38.75 (1:16.73). Viola Henry took second at +2.11 with Maggie Sellar podiuming once more in third at +6.18.
In the M12 competition (age 80-84), Guillaume De Paoli took first in the morning race, followed by Paul Rogers and Tom Lahaise. In the afternoon race, Paul Rogers had two solid runs to capture first, with De Paoli second and Tom Lahaise third.
The M11 age group provided some of the closest times of the day with Greg Gill, Charles Thorndike and Peter Carter providing two competitive races Gill winning both, followed by Thorndike in the morning and Carter in the afternoon. Only .88 separated Gill and Carter’s third place finish in the second race.
On Saturday, January 21, Masters moved to Cannon Mountain for the Hochgebirge Challenge Cup Slalom race, the oldest team ski race in the United States.Cannon Mountain hosted the Hochgebirge Challenge Cup Slalom race on Gary’s” trail. Begun in March 1931 on the Carriage Road at Mount Moosilauke, the early days featured racers now enshrined in the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame as well as Olympians – George Macomber selected in 1948, Ralph Miller in 1956, Brooks Dodge in 1952 and 1956, and Clarita Heath Bright, a member of the first women’s United States Olympic Ski Team in 1936. The Hochgebirge Challenge Cup became a part of the Masters ski program in the 1970s.
The team of Matt Dodge, Brandon Wilson, Bill Bradley and Lee Ormiston took the title and had their names put on the cup for “eternity.”
Matt Dodge skidded out on a gate during his first run, posting a time of 40.3 seconds. Luke Robins led the leaderboard for best time with 39.98 going into the second run. Matt kicked it into overdrive, setting the best time on the course with 37.13. His combined time of 1:17.43 put him 2.23 seconds ahead of Robins after finishing in 39.68 on his second run for a combined total of 1:19.66.
Becka Padgett led the women with two solid runs, posting 44.45 and 45.48, for a combined time of 1:29.23.
Guillaume De Paoli led the M12 competitors (age 80-84) – Paul Rogers, Tom Lahaise, and Mike Beebe – with a combined time of 1:51.71, with Rogers finishing 2.55 seconds behind.
Charles Thorndike and Peter Carter battled in the M11 age group (age 75-79). Carter led the first run just .03 seconds ahead with a time of 51:18. Thorndike clocked 52.38 in the second run, taking first place after Carter’s 522.74 left him behind by .33 in combined time.
John Spooner missed a gate on his first run, hiked one of the hardest steeps on the hill, and finished his run in gate-pounding fashion. John Rannestad took first in their M07 division (age 55-59).
The intense two days of racing leads into next week’s three days of racing at Stratton Mountain including two National Speed Series Super-G races along with the Eastern Regionals in Slalom, and the Janeway Cup / Eastern Regionals in Giant Slalom.