One run. That’s all that was possible to decide high school skiing’s giant slalom state champions in Colorado.
With deep snow at Purgatory Resort in Durango with seven inches overnight and heavy snowfall all morning Thursday, the Colorado High School Activities Association state skiing championships condensed the opening alpine event to one run instead of the typical two.
On a tricky course that deteriorated throughout the day, it was Aspen senior Levyn Thomas who beat out Battle Mountain senior Gretchen Pavelich in the girls giant slalom. Later, after the course was dyed and packed down once more by the athletes in attendance, Vail Mountain senior Shane Cole found state redemption with a giant slalom title in front of Aspen senior Trey Thorpe.
“I was surprised,” said Thomas, who was the 10th skier down the course Thursday morning. “I really didn’t think I’d come in first. It was pretty bumpy and really snowy, and there was some air on the course. It was pretty tough.”
Thomas finished her run in 39.61 seconds, 0.17 ahead of Pavelich. Battle Mountain junior Berit Frischolz was third, 0.46 behind. Aspen senior Estelle Sweeney placed fourth in 41.14 seconds.
Cole won the boys race in 39.81 seconds and was the only boy to break 40 seconds. Thorpe finished in 40.34, while Battle Mountain freshman Will Bettenhausen placed third in 40.37. Aspen dominated the top 10, as Charlie Olsen and Noah Forman, a pair of sophomores, tied for seventh in 41.62 seconds, while Aspen senior Ethan deMoraes was ninth in 42.47 seconds.
Cole watched the girls races and knew he had to properly plan his path going into two rollers that sent skiers airborne.
“Using more direction off those two big rollers was the biggest thing,” he said. “I learned a lot watching the girls. When you hit those, it’s pretty scary sometimes, especially today with the conditions. All that’s going through my head is getting my skis back on snow as quick as possible to continue the turn if I need to.”
Thomas said she didn’t expect to go into the air on the course, but she had the advantage of seeing nine other girls hit the rollers first.
Battle Mountain coaches had hoped for a second run for Pavelich to challenge Thomas, but the weather didn’t make it possible.
For Cole, the win served as redemption after he fell in both runs at last year’s state championships and did not finish in three other events that season.
“I only had one DNF this year. I’m just really hyped that I was able to get the win here,” Cole said. “We all came to the bottom and thought we did terrible because of the conditions. I was definitely surprised that I was the only person to crack into sub 40s.
“Today’s weather really showed that you have to go with the flow. Everything was changing, but you can’t control the weather. It teaches you to take it how it comes to you.”
Host Durango was led in the girls race by Analise Gates. The senior finished 12th in 42.01. She also had hoped for a second run.
“I’m bummed we didn’t get a second run. It always feels like it’s a redemption for mistakes on the first run, but it is what it is,” Gates said. “I was really lucky to be one of the first girls down. It got pretty chopped up as girls continued to go down. The snow was weird, with a lot of weird terrain, but it was fun.”
Durango’s Skylar Thorpe finished 23rd in the girls giant slalom in 43.85 seconds, while Juliana Gans was one of 12 girls who did not finish the race.
In the boys race, Durango’s Jian Cohen was the only Demon to finish. The disabled skier without arms finished 61st in 1:14.78. Harry LeSage and Blake Ridgway of Durango were two of 18 boys who didn’t finish in the deteriorating conditions.
Friday’s slalom event will change venues, with the hope of getting two runs completed. Rather than racing at Purgatory, the race will be held at Chapman Hill. It will give the feel of a World Cup city event with the speedy slalom stars racing from the top of a hill that overlooks downtown Durango. Gates said she is looking forward to the venue change on the steeper hill on a harder surface.
The National Weather Service has called for another three to seven inches Thursday night in Durango and another one to three inches Friday during the day.
“It looked like a nice, pretty even hill,” Thomas said. “It’s a nicer surface and a good venue to have a slalom.”