CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine–At Sugarloaf Resort on Tuesday, spectators couldn’t help but see the humor in watching the men’s U.S. National Championship giant slalom, primarily because there wasn’t much to see. A thick cloud blanketed the hill much of the day, and from the bottom of the course, the finish line was invisible. As announcer Craig Marshall so eloquently said, “It’s like looking for a piece of celery in a bowl of soup.”
Despite that, athletes were still able to find the finish line while skiing at top speed. The independent American athlete Hig Roberts took the first National Championship title of his career, winning the race with a combined time of 2:19.25.
The victory was extremely special to Roberts given the loss of his brother earlier this season.
“I’ve been independent this year, so a lot of this has been on my own and I’ve had a lot of help from the community in a lot of ways, but being away from my family is insanely hard a lot of the time,” Roberts said. “But I believe that I’m doing this for a reason. I’m doing this, and doing well right now, because I’m keeping him close to my heart and I’m not letting that special bond and that push he always had for me go away.”
Roberts was also helped through this season by his ski technician, Eric Dasko.
“He’s been the most incredible person to have around,” he shared. “We mesh really well. We’re very different, but we mesh so well and he’s one of the hardest workers. He works harder than I do, so to see that, it motivates me. Technicians, they put everything they have. It’s a selfless job, so I’m like, ‘Alright, I’ve got to rip now.'”
Roberts unseated last year’s winner Kieffer Christianson, who took third place. The Alaskan was 0.29 seconds away from a win, and he was happy with the day.
“I came out here and performed better than I have pretty much all season, so I’m super proud of that, and to share it with Hig is just awesome,” Christianson said. “I mean we both were independent ski racers this year, and had to do our own logistics and find our own training and to share the podium here at U.S. Nationals is just awesome.”
Sandwiched between the two athletes was World Cup veteran Tim Jitloff, a five-time National GS Champion, who won his first National title in the discipline back in 2008 at this same venue. He was 0.14 seconds off of the winning pace.
“The conditions were really, really difficult and visibility was really difficult,” the veteran shared. “I tried to fight through as best as I could, found myself in some trouble, went on my hip on the top section just because I was trying to go for it and after that I think I was just trying to really stay consistent the rest of the way down, it was very difficult today. Full credit to Hig for winning the race and staying strong through that.”
Tanguy Nef was the top junior athlete, coming in eighth place. The Swiss skier comes from Geneva, Switzerland, but currently competes for Dartmouth.
This giant slalom race wrapped up the U.S. National Championships. Junior athletes now start competing at Sugarloaf in the Junior National Championships over the next few days.
Complete results are available here.