For three straight days, the men’s NorAm field arced their GS skis with abounding determination on the bullet-proof snow of Vermont. The racers encountered weather variables, a few sprints, and close overall times, which made for three intense days of giant slalom racing. At the end of the series, it was Bastian Meisen (GER), Fabian Gratz (GER), Brodie Seger (CAN), Stefano Baruffaldi (ITA), and James Crawford (CAN) who achieved podium success over the field.
The series started off at Burke Mountain with a make-up GS race from Nakiska. Then, the series jumped over to Stowe Mountain Resort for two days of scheduled giant slalom.
Giant Slalom Day 1, Burke Mountain, Jan. 5
“During inspection the gates were blowing up hill, which was super dangerous. So, they decided to move the start down the hill, which made the race quite short. Also, the thin layer of snow that feel the night before was on top of some of the hardest snow I have ever seen,” said Brodie Seger of The Canadian Ski Team.
After moving the start for both of the courses almost halfway down the run, the race became an intense sprint to the finish line. This left little room for error or over-skiing. The field had to punch it and be quick on and off the ski.
Jeffery Read, of The Canadian Ski Team, further explained, “I’ve never raced a GS shorter than 5o seconds and this one was under 40. This left little-to-no margin of error in your skiing.”
Bastian Meisen, of the German men’s national team 1B, came down wearing bib 20 and attacked the short course with full aggression. He found victory through the finish line with an overall time of 1:22.28. Meisen is a 20-point GS skier, with two top-ten finishes in the European Cup this season. This season comes with a lot of firsts for Meisen, he made his first World Cup debut in the discipline of giant slalom, and Vermont series was a NorAm debut for the German.
Skiing into silver-medal position, just 0.28 off Meisen’s overall time, was the 22-year-old German athlete Fabian Gratz, who is working toward the World Cup track. Gratz came down, also in his first NorAm race, wearing bib 34. He laid down the winning time for the second run; however, it was not enough to push Meisen off the top spot.
Rounding out the podium, Canadian Ski Team member, Brodie Seger ended the day 0.52 off the winning time for his first GS podium of the NorAm season. The speed skier has been training GS in between his speed training in order to fulfill the goals he has set for the discipline.
Seger said of his giant slalom goals, “I want to be able to race World Cup GS as well. That is why I came and raced this GS NorAm series. I have been training GS as much as I can in between my speed training and racing.”
Giant Slalom Day 2, Stowe Mountain Resort, Jan. 6
The second day of GS moved over to the race hill at Stowe Mountain Resort. This was a new hill, which brought different variables that could change up the leader board. For the German athletes, Meisen and Gratz were able to hold onto their silver and gold medal positions.
The first run was set by U.S. coach Bryant Nathan.
Canadian Jeffery Read explained, “It was a real ‘sendy’ and fast set that I found to be a lot of fun. All of the UVM athletes were saying they have never seen a course with that short of time on that run.”
Once again, Meisen found the fastest time on the shortest course set. Meisen was able to set the pace with an intense sprint, where he let the skis run in the most critical spots. He attacked from gate to gate. On the second run, the course had more of swing to it, and Meisen lost a little time in comparison to his fellow athletes. That time added was not enough to lose his first-place position. Overall, Meisen ended with a time of 2:00.71.
Coming in right behind his lead again was Gratz, just 0.30 off Meisen’s overall time. Due to his second-place finish the day before, Gratz ran bib 6 for the second day of GS. On the final run of the day, Gratz came in 0.10 in front of Meisen’s time, but that didn’t make up the time needed for the overall lead.
To complete the podium, the bronze medal position was awarded to Italian, Stefano Baruffaldi. Baruffaldi made his NorAm debut at the GS series in Nakiska, where he skied strong into second-place position.
Jeffery Read of the Canadian Ski Team was just short of a podium spot, landing in the fourth-place position, but he was very happy with his finish.
“I am really happy with how today’s GS went,” said Read. “I knew there would be some tough competition, but this is a hill I’ve had some strong results on. I knew I would have to push very hard to be competitive and it worked out pretty well.”
The top U.S. finisher was Garrett Driller, who earned a strong sixth-place result. This was Driller’s sixth top-10 finish for the North American Cup. Driller is also skiing for Montana State University and the World Pro Ski Tour.
Giant Slalom Day 3, Stowe Mountain Resort, Jan. 7
The third day of men’s giant-slalom racing was brought to a successful close at Stowe Mountain Resort. Brodie Seger of Canada reigned in his first NorAm win, Stefano Baruffaldi of Italy skied very tightly into second-place, and James “Jack” Crawford of Canada was awarded the bronze medal.
“It felt so good to finally put two good runs together and come away with my first NorAm win,” said Seger with excitement. “It definitely wasn’t perfect, but I was charging hard and it payed off. I finally got the NorAm monkey off my back.”
Seger’s overall time was 1:59.23, which scored him the penalty of 20.49 points. This was Seger’s ninth top-10 finish in a NorAm GS.
“I am shooting for a podium spot on the third day,” he said. “I just need to let the skis run and trust that it will happen.”
In second-place, Italian Stefano Baruffaldi finished a mere 0.05 seconds behind Seger, and Crawford finished just 0.07 behind Seger for a nail-biting overall finish. The podium was extremely close in time, and each athlete skied very aggressively. For the tech specialist, Baruffaldi, it was his third podium finish on the NorAm Cup.
This marks Crawford’s 18th podium finish on the NorAm Cup. Like his teammate, Seger, he focuses mainly on speed events and sometimes races tech when he gets the time to do so. Certainly, both of these Canadian athletes are finding success in their short stints of tech racing. In Lake Louise, Crawford explained that he and Seger would be focusing mainly on speed, with the possibility of some tech runs, so this was an exciting break from speed for the two Canadians. Crawford will still be focusing on the speed disciplines for the rest of the season, he said.
Going forward, Seger will be focusing on downhill and super-G, as well.
“My main goal for the season is to rank top 25 in the world in the speed disciplines, in order to make World Cup Finals,” said Seger. “I have made some mistakes in some races so far, but I am knocking on the door to qualifying. Therefore, I will not be racing the slaloms in Stowe because I will be heading to Europe for the speed World Cups.”