TAOS, New Mexico – Nothing came easily in the World Pro Ski Tour World Championships Women’s Super Slalom at Taos Ski Valley on Saturday. While the first timers on the Rocket Mortgage Women’s Tour ended up as exhausted as anyone, they were the ones who prevailed.
U.S. Olympian Paula Moltzan, who nearly helped her team to a medal at the parallel event in Beijing this February and whose only World Cup podium to date has come in a parallel race (Lech/Zuers in 2020), walked away with the big win and a check for $20,000.
“It was definitely a lot of runs to put together all at once. I’m so tired,” Moltzan said. “I’m tired, but happy to be here. I haven’t had this much fun all season.”
As the 11th qualifier coming into the Round of 16 on Saturday, Moltzan started off strong, handily beating university tech specialist Ainsley Proffit, but then facing fellow Olympian and World Cup racer Erin Mielzynski of Canada in the quarter finals. The two went neck and neck in both of their runs, Moltzan nearly crashing at one point, recovering after doing the splits in the middle of the course, but still advancing to take on Colorado University’s Stefanie Fleckenstein in the semis. That matchup also proved tight, the 28-year-old U.S. Ski Team athlete getting caught in a rut, but pulling ahead by less than two tenths of a second even while finishing the heat on the much faster blue course.
“The snow likes to catch your skis once it’s soft. It’s hard to get out of it,” she said afterwards. I’m just trying to learn run to run.”
Moltzan faced Tricia Mangan in the finals, a fellow U.S. Olympian (two-time, including an 11th place in the Beijing Alpine Combined), who was the top qualifier coming into the Taos races.
Mangan encountered snafus of her own throughout the eight-run race day, beginning with coming back from a first-run deficit to beat Ava Jemison in the round of 16 and also Canadian World Cupper Amelia Smart in the quarterfinals, in which Mangan crashed across the finish line to advance.
“That was not ideal,” she said of the crash. “But everyone was so tired at that point, so it was OK.”
Mangan went on to face Rocket Mortgage Women’s Tour leader Tuva Norbye in the semifinals, the first run of which was so close it called for a computer review to determine who won. Mangan then pulled ahead by just over two tenths to advance and square off against Moltzan. A mistake in the final run put her in second place overall.
“This is very different than anything I’ve done,” Mangan said of the World Pro Ski Tour. “It’s the mental game, the tricky start, how many runs you have to do. It’s different, but it’s fun because every single run is anyone’s game.”
Even with her success in parallel events on the World Cup and in the 2022 Olympics, in which she, along with teammates Mikaela Shiffrin, River Radamus and Tommy Ford ended up fourth, Moltzan concurred that the WPST format is a beast of its own.
“They’re not comparable,” she said. “They’re not even in the same realm.”
Moltzan ended up walking away with a massive prize purse of $20,000 for the win, while Mangan collected $6,300 and Fleckenstein $4,500, the Canadian edging tour leader Norbye for third in the small final, Norbye collecting $3,000 for fourth place.
The 2022 Rocket Mortgage Women’s Tour concludes on Sunday with a giant slalom parallel race in Taos. Watch live at worldproskitour.com.