Expert slope preparation was required to host the Burke Mountain Stifel NorAm slaloms: Photo Credit Jay Riley
After the holiday break NorAms are back and the men kicked off their series with two Burke Mountain slalom races. Coaches were forced to use water, salt, and a lot of effort just to make two races possible. Thankfully, despite warm weather, Burke Mountain Academy used the combined efforts of coaches and course crew to create a smooth and stable surface. “Gnarly” and “wet” were the often heard adjectives to describe the slaloms.
Tuesday, Jan 3rd
Monday was a memorable victory for Cooper Puckett. Notably, Puckett experienced a partially torn MCL on December 2nd, which sidelined him for the month before the race. Fortunately, Puckett has healed and is once again skiing full-time. However, he had only two training days before jumping back into the start gate.
“This was really special for me,” said Puckett. “I’m so stoked that my knee felt good and that I was fast.”
Puckett’s teammate and super-G Junior World Champion Isaiah Nelson had a flying second run and ended the race just 0.11 of a second behind Puckett.
Rounding out the podium was Middlebury graduate Justin Alkier. This year, Alkier is skiing independently as an invitee with Alpine Canada. He put together two solid runs, slightly falling behind the pace in the final run, to end the day only 0.29 of a second slower than Puckett.
“The coaches and crew did a great job adjusting to the challenges of the warm weather,” said Alkier. “I’m looking forward to more races here at Burke and hope to leave it all on the hill.”
Wednesday, Jan 4th
On Tuesday, the international competition arrived, with the Swiss taking four of the top ten positions.
However, Isaiah Nelson had the fastest time out of the gate and held his combined run lead despite a close final run. Notably, It was Nelson’s first NorAm slalom victory.
Just behind Nelson was Swiss skier Federico Toscano. He was among six athletes within a tenth of a second during the second run. Toscano finished 0.14 seconds behind Nelson and ahead of Stifel US Alpine tech team member Jay Poulter. Uniquely for Poulter, he earned his career first NorAm tech podium in third.
Then the waiting game began. A warm front accompanied by 24+ hours of rain engulfed Vermont. The unsuitable conditions then caused the cancelation of the Thursday and Friday NorAm GS races.
“We watched it rain hard all night,” said Puckett.” We we’re bummed because we all wanted to race.”
Conditions then changed and permitted Burke to host the NorAm speed events for men and women over the weekend.