Ted Ligety made an intriguing statement when he was asked about the World Pro Ski Tour, “Anything that can give traditional FIS ski racing some competition and help invigorate and bring new blood is a good thing.” The excitement that is tied into the concept of the WPST is igniting a fiery comeback! Four years ago, the World Pro Tour relaunched after it folded in 1998, due to the challenges of finding the correct sponsorships to fund the events and livestreaming. However, for about a three-decade run (1970, 80’s, and 90’s) the Pro Tour was successful and in 2017 the concept was reexplored and now it is on the rise!
For those of you who have not watched the WPST, this concept is a different one than traditional alpine ski racing. Two racers dual head-to-head to fight to cross the finish line first. It is a bracket system that moves through Round 16, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals, and Finals. This form of ski racing has a totally different mental approach on the athlete. Psychologically, it can be very tough dueling head-to-head, thus changes up the way the racer has to approach the starting gate. This was shown through a few key racers last night during the Moose Barrows Trophy in Steamboat Springs, CO.
Last night at Howelsen Hill the excitement up roared as the athletes battled it out for the chance at standing on top of the podium and an alluring ten-thousand-dollar prize. Under the lights, Robert Cone was able to reign in another victory on the Pro Tour. Cone was up against some stiff competition in Round 16, but he persevered through and came across the finish line first against Olympian and 2018 Pro Tour Champion, Nolan Kasper.
Unfortunately, a few other athletes in the field met their match, including Ted Ligety who was making his first debut on the WPST. After last night, he was one to admittedly express that the Pro Tour has a very challenging mental strategy and that the approach is completely different. Ligety put up a good fight to come back from a first of two run deficit against Bolivia racer, Simon Breitfuss-Kammerlander. Ligety’s win against Breitfuss-Kammerlander put him in the semi-finals race where he competed against Garrett Driller. Driller pushed Ligety off the podium spot, landing him in 4th place overall.
Garrett Driller is a twenty-three-year-old skier who has shinned throughout his career in ski racing. He made the NCAA First Team All American, was a US National Panel Champion in 2019, and was the runner up for the Pro Tour in 2019. For the Barrow’s Trophy, Driller was able to fight his way onto the podium.
Driller excitedly stated, “Overall I had a pretty awesome day! I had a couple mistakes and an actual crash, but with max differential I was able to make up. So, I am pretty stoked. It all came together. I had some really good skiing, it was a lot of fun, and the weather out here turned amazing! Can’t complain, the snow was awesome, and I just love it out here.”
Driller looks into the Pro Tour season and hopes to be number one for the 2020 overall standings. Ted Ligety commented, “I think it is really great to see these younger guys coming up and I hope to see them on the World Cup tour as well.”
In the finals, Robert Cone and Phil Brown approached the starting gates with gusto and the aggression to strike gold. The two races were nail biting, which was exhilarating for the crowd. The first race was tight, but due to Cone giving up some time in the start, Brown took the first-run win. This meant that Cone had a critical amount of differential to conquer. Nonetheless, during the second run, both athletes went for it hard out of the gate. Unfortunately, Brown’s aggression got the best of him, which caused him to ski out of the course and for Cone to race ahead.
As Cone was awarded the Barrow’s Trophy and the plenteous check, he remarked happily, “It was great making some turns up there, having a great crowd, and now who’s here to celebrate this?!” After three consecutive wins the crowds will be excited to see if Cone can remain on top of the podium for another Pro Tour Championship.
All-around, it was an excellent evening of racing for the World Pro Tour. Stay tuned for the next competition taking place at Eldora Mountain Resort, January 17th-20th, 2020.