While most of Jeffrey Read’s peers were still sleeping at 4:30 a.m. – in college dormitories or at home in preparation for the American Thanksgiving holiday – he was awake to prepare for the last of four NorAms at Copper Mountain in Colorado. Read took the lift up for inspection with the rest of the field before the sun even came up, and by noon the Canadian U21 would claim his first Continental Cup win
“As soon as there was enough light to really ski, racer one kicked out of the gate so it was definitely an aggressive program but you get used to it with skiing,” Read said.
Read is 20 years old and a member of the Canadian development team. His previous best NorAm result was a sixth-place finish in GS at Stowe last year.
“It’s definitely a different feeling. It’s sort of the highest peak I’ve reached ever so fairly unexpected. I’ve always been kind of close. Last year I was always finishing around 5,6,7, and I was consistent but never quite had that breakthrough,” Read said.
Read had finished 10th the previous day.
“Day one there was definitely some fast skiing there, but I didn’t put two together that I wanted. They were still good runs but not quite it. Today I found the groove,” he said.
Hill conditions and relatable preseason training combined to give Read his best finish on the circuit. Race officials chose to hold the slalom on a different trail than usual at Copper, one that was slightly flatter with short pitches intermittently located throughout the run. Read stands at 6’2” and uses his height to help generate speed on the flats, like the one at the very start of the course at Copper.
“I can definitely keep up with those top guys if not be a little faster than them on the flats, but they can still put a little time on me on the pitch. But with this course being mostly flat out of the gate, you have a little start ramp and then you’re pumping as hard as you can, so that really left the door open for my kind of technique and style to push through,” Read said.
Although the hill was injected, the surface crumbled on the pitches. Read was only concerned with keeping as much speed as possible for the finish.
The winner attended three training camps with the Canadian development team in the offseason, and one in particular stood out as helpful for the races at Copper.
“During that camp I had the opportunity to train with [the Canadian] tech team. So my brother, Trevor Philp, Phil Brown and also Hig Roberts was there with them in Amneville, France, which is an indoor [facility],” Read said. He noted that the contour of the slope in Amneville mirrored some of the conditions he experienced in Colorado.
“Just sort of a big start mound, going out of the gate as hard as you can and just learning to pump this flat and it was very icy as well. … I feel like that was a pretty key part of my success today,” he said.
Prior to this week, Read figured himself to be more of a speed skier, but his coach concentrates on all four events and that has paid dividends for Read.
“I always pictured myself as a speed skier. I definitely thought that my World Cup would debut would be a downhill race or a super-G race, but now it could very well be in a slalom race,” he said.
Read also noted that there were some great skiers in the field, some of whom were preparing for upcoming World Cups by competing at Copper, including his own brother Erik.
Read said that he and Erik do not see each other over the course of the season all that often. When they have raced against one another in the past, Erik came out on top. But on Tuesday, the results were reversed.
“It’s definitely competitive. There is sort of an expectation that I’ve got to go up there and try to beat my brother, and it was good to see that today,” Read said.
Official results from the men’s and women’s NorAm races in Colorado are available here.