For some people, back-to-back World Cup races is just not enough. Fortunately for elite skiers looking for more fun, more pain, and potentially more cash, there was a perfect option on Sunday—the World Uphill Trophy.
The Polish World Cup races were shifted to Friday and Saturday to accommodate the event that had originally been considered for the World Cup calendar.
It ultimately did not make the cut, but that didn’t stop some of the top skiers in the world from contesting a 4-kilometer climb that surpasses the Alpe Cermis for difficulty and then an immediate descent down a giant slalom course back to the bottom and one last 200 meter hill to the finish.
If that wasn’t challenging enough, soft new snow fell over night, and the wind was howling.
“Turned out to be a really nasty day with high winds and snow,” Andy Newell (USA) told FasterSkier. “So it was a little bit of a battle out there.”
Newell, who placed 12th, described the hill as “massive.”
The race was a mass start event, with the relatively meager field separating into groups.
Just 20 men and 15 women contested the elite race.
Maurice Manificat (FRA) won the men’s event, opening a sizable lead on the hill. He wrote on his blog that this allowed him to descend conservatively and stay on his feet.
Christoph Perillat gave France a 1-2 sweep. According to Manficat, Perillat fell once as he worked the downhill to try to make up ground.
Anastasia Slonova (KAZ) won the women’s race with Masako Ishida (JPN) continued her run of strong performance by taking second, and Liz Stephen (USA) was third in the women’s race.
Stephen earned 1,000 Euros for her troubles and was just eight seconds behind Ishida and 16 out of the win.
Tad Elliott was also in the money for the US, placing sixth, good for 600 Euros.
Elliott wrote in an email to FasterSkier that the race may as well have been an individual start given how hard the climb was.
He described the descent as “scary, really scary. “
The US skiers had not previewed the course, so they hit the downhill in low visibility with no real idea of what to expect.
“So fast [I] had no idea where the fencing or the gates were.” Elliott said. “I was in a group for second, hanging it out on the downhill when I crashed really hard. Knocked the wind out of me.”
Newell said the event was “pretty low-key” and that he was tired after racing the World Cup sprint on Friday and the 15k classic on Saturday.
“At the top I was already out of the top 10, which was the money, so I had nothing to lose and could push it and have fun on the downhill.” Newell said. “It was awesome for the first part but I ended up flying off course twice.”
Newell said he ended up in the fence both times “pretty tangled up,” but that is was still plenty of fun.
Both Newell and Elliott said they thought it would be great to see the event on the actual World Cup schedule, though Elliott doesn’t believe that will happen.
“Its a little bit too scary of a decent right now to make it a World Cup” he said.
Manificat took a different view, writing that the descent can make the race too random — such events should end at the top or take a more reasonable way to the bottom, he argued.
Chandra Crawford (CAN) was also in the money, placing ninth in the women’s event.
More photos can be found here.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.