U.S. Alpine Junior Championships: A Recap

The 2018 U.S. Junior Alpine Championships brought the nation’s top junior alpine racers together, by region, to compete in three events over three days on Baldy. In between the men and women’s super G, giant slalom and slalom races, SVSEF hosted awards ceremonies, a welcome celebration, and a get-together for coaches, parents and officials. It was truly a celebration of ski racing and ski heritage, and was a great way to round out the season. SVSEF hosted the event this year as it falls on the heels of U.S. Alpine Championships, and Sun Valley is completing a four-year schedule. This has involved alternating hosting with the eastern resort of Sugarloaf, Maine, from 2015-2018, and is part of U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s long-term plan of moving the annual event to different resorts and ski racing communities across the country.

Hayden Terjeson, © Glen Allison

The Alpine Junior Championships series featured U21 and U19 athletes, who are the up-and-comers in the sport of alpine skiing. They have worked hard to get to this point – it takes commitment and dedication, a willingness to travel long distances for comparatively short races, and the decision to put the sport before other interests. Each region has standardized quota selection procedures based on points earned at races throughout the season. This year, SVSEF has nine athletes who have qualified for U.S. Junior Alpine Championships: Erin Smith, Lily Fitzgerald, Skylar Cooley, Allison Rathfon, Madison Ferris, Spencer Wright, Jack Smith, Hayden Terjeson and John Blackburn.
On the bulletproof courses extending from Warmsprings to Hemingway to Greyhawk for the super G, and Greyhawk for the giant slalom and slalom, athletes didn’t hold back. With a total of 120 athletes the first day and 150 the second, one third of the field did not finish in the super G, and one half did not finish in the giant slalom. Athletes who stayed on from U.S. Nationals, also held in Sun Valley, were slightly more familiarized with the courses. AJ Hurt, who won the alpine combined and the giant slalom and was second in the super G at U.S. Nationals, took top spots at Juniors Championships, as well. The same went for Roni Remme for women, and River Radamus, George Steffey and Kyle Negomir, who all had top results at Nationals.
Alli Rathfon, © Glen Allison

In the men’s super G on Wednesday, River Radamus came out on top, ahead of Louis Muhlen-Schulte and Jacob Dilling. SVSEF’s Hayden Terjeson was 20th, Spencer Wright finished 24th and John Blackburn 27th.
In the women’s super G, AJ Hurt took the winning spot, followed by Roni Remme and Alix Wilkinson. SVSEF’s Alli Rathfon had a superb race, finishing eighth on the day. Erin Smith also clocked a good time, tying for 12th, just ahead of Lily Fitzgerald in 14th.
The giant slalom was the next event on Thursday. George Steffey skied to first, River Radamus to second and Andrew Miller to third. In the women’s event, Alix Wilkinson took a step up from her previous finish, winning the event. Stefanie Fleckenstein was second, and Roni Remme third. Erin Smith and Maddie Ferris were SVSEF’s only finishers for the day, with Erin taking 11th and Maddie 24th.
In the final event, the slalom, George Steffey again walked away with the win. Tim Gavett and Jacob Dilling rounded out the podium in second and third. John Blackburn skied to 28th. For women, Stefanie Fleckenstein followed up with a win this time, with AJ Hurt in second and Sandra Schoepke in third. Lily Fitzgerald finished 19th and Maddie Ferris was 24th.
Women’s overall podium

Men’s overall podium

The top three overall for the series were George Steffey, River Radamus and Jacob Dilling for men, and Stefanie Fleckenstein, AJ Hurt and Alix Wilkinson for women. Erin Smith was SVSEF’s top overall finisher in 15th. The Rocky/Central region was the overall winning team with 142 points, followed by the Western region (including the Intermountain division) in second with 107 and the Eastern region in third, with 82 points. This scoring was based on the top 10 U.S. athletes in each race. See full results, from individual races and overall, here
AJ Hurt at the bib draw, © Idarado Media

Awards for Wednesday’s super G event took place in Ketchum Town Square, and were given to the top 10 men and women. They were handed out by local Olympian Chase Josey, Olympic Gold Medalist and U.S. Women’s Hockey Team member Hilary Knight, her teammates Hannah Brandt, Haley Skarupa, Nic Hensley, Kelly Pannek and Lee Stecklein, and snowboarder and Olympic Bronze Medalist Arielle Gold. NBC host Steve Porino announced, and the event ended with a unique bib draw for Thursday’s giant slalom, which involved a group of young SVSEF alpine athletes and some celebratory flame throwers. Old Death Whisper, a local favorite, performed at the event, and vendors KB’s, Smoke Over Baldy, Warfield Brewery & Distillery and Sawtooth Brewery provided food and beverage.
Jon Casson addresses parents and coaches

As part of a parent, coach and officials gathering, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Director of Sport Education Jon Casson discussed the concepts of Long Term Athlete Development and how these principles can be applied to developing ski racers. He delved into strategies that athletes, coaches and parents can use to give aspiring ski racers of all ages the best chance to reach their goals. As we are always working towards giving our athletes and their families the best experience possible, it was great to have Jon’s insight and to continue the conversation.
The U.S. Alpine Junior Championships were a great opportunity to watch high-quality racing at home. Anyone who skis or rides on Baldy knows the terrain, and it was inspiring to watch these athletes tackle it in a competitive setting. For the younger generation of skiers, it was a brief but important glimpse into the world of ski racing, and a group of athletes to look up to.
Thank you to sponsors Smartwool, City of Ketchum and Sun Valley Company for the support! And thank you to all of the volunteers – we could not host events like these without you.
To see more photos of all athletes, go to Smiley’s Mountain Photo and use code 52F71471 for a 10% discount. For other photos, visit SVSEF’s Smugmug page.