Alyeska lands U.S. championships

Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The next wave of American ski champions will be crowned on the slopes of Mount Alyeska.

The Alyeska Resort in Girdwood will host the U.S. Alpine Championships March 16-25, the first time the championships have been held in Alaska in 22 years.

The 10-day event is expected to attract more than 300 racers, plus lots of spectators. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association said the championships typically have a $1 million economic impact on host cities.

The last time the national championships were here, in 1981, a couple of superstar brothers named Phil and Steve Mahre won a pair of titles.

This time, two-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller and defending world champion Daron Rahlves are among those expected to contend for titles.

The championships, to be televised nationally on ESPN, could turn into a showcase for Alyeska. By mid-March, the days are long, the sun is often shining, and the views of Turnagain Arm can be spectacular.

''We'll get some national exposure, some TV exposure, and an immediate financial impact as well,'' said Larry Daniels, manager at Alyeska.

A dozen or so Alaskans typically qualify for the championships, and this time many of them will be racing on the slopes they grew up on. Leading the way for the Alaska group is two-time Olympian Megan Gerety of Anchorage, a longtime member of the U.S. Ski Team who missed this season with an injury. Gerety, 30, has won two titles and nine silver and bronze medals at the national championships.

One or both of Alaska's Olympic medalists could be on hand also. Tommy Moe and Hilary Lindh could compete in a race called the Return of Champions, a popular event that features former members of the U.S. Ski Team in a head-to-head racing format.

That will be in addition to the regular downhill, super-G, giant slalom and slalom.

Daniels said the national ski association was interested in Alyeska because it has a long, challenging downhill course.

Downhill courses are rare in the United States, especially ones as long as Alyeska's. It lasts anywhere from 90 seconds to two minutes and has a vertical drop of about 2,500 feet.

''There's a shortage of viable downhills, good or bad, in the United States,'' Daniels said. ''Not only is ours a long and challenging downhill, it's also, if there is such a thing, one of the safest ones you can have, because there's nothing to run into.''

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