Despite a season plagued by challenging snow conditions, rescheduled events and cancellations, the Northwest Conference of the United States Collegiate Ski Association (USCSA) managed to hold 5 of 8 qualification races to determine the teams eligible to compete at the Western Regional Championships this weekend at Brundage Mountain Resort in McCall, Idaho. A lack of snow forced even these events to be moved very recently from Powderhorn Resort in Colorado, just outside Grand Junction, to Brundage, previously host of the 2014 Regional finals.
Not surprisingly, the University of British Columbia is among the group of nearly 20 teams who will be competing at Regionals. The Skibirds sailed easily through Conference-level competition to get this far, and the rookie-led Men’s team made a convincing debut. Now, it’s the top-four team finishers in the combined team rankings at Regionals who will earn a spot to the USCSA National Championships next month at Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon.
The first race of the season was initially to be the 2nd Qualifier and took place the weekend of January 24/25 at what will be the host venue to Nationals, Mt. Bachelor. Racing Slalom on day #1, UBC’s women finished up 2nd behind the College of Idaho, with Sandra Gerlich‘s 4th place and Samantha Bisnaire‘s 6th place contributing to that ranking. Their teammate Dimitri Djuricic missed the top of the podium after 2 runs by less than two-tenths of a second (1:22:70), placing second behind College of Idaho’s Lucas Underkoffler (1:22:53), and making a strong impression in his first race as a Thunderbird.
In the Ladies’ event on day #2, Bisnaire and Gerlich swapped spots, placing 4th and 6th respectively. Teammate Lindsay Frame finished in 13th spot, and the team again ranked 2nd at the end of the day behind College of Idaho. Lucas Underkoffler again dominated the field, but it was Cameron Hale of UBC who claimed silver in the men’s race this time.
Qualifier #1, rescheduled to Bogus Basin, took place on the weekend of February 5/6 and athletes competed in Giant Slalom both days. UBC’s teams delivered some strong performances in this discipline, starting with the women’s 2nd place team results thanks to a 4th place by Samantha Bisnaire (1:32:97); 10th place Lindsay Frame (1:43:21); and Alex Ensing (1:55:21). Thunderbird Ski Team Men won Saturday’s event by claiming 4th (Cameron Hale, 1:31:79 combined 2-run time), 5th (Dimitri Djuricic, 1:31:83) and 6th (Maxim Yushchenko, 1:36:28).
For Regionals, athletes and teams qualify based on a tally of their top 6 of 8 finishes; however, February’s 8th‘s Qualifyer #4—the 5th race of the season—was the last chance to measure for all NW Conference athletes. Also held at Bogus Basin, the Ladies’ Giant Slalom was championed by Caroline Sanden Gustafsson from the College of Idaho (1:25:87), winner of every race so far this season. She clearly set the pace for her teammates as well, who placed immediately behind her in 2nd (Mary Totten, 1:28:34), 3rd (Miyu Nakamura, 1:29:30) and 4th (Eleanor Tansley, 1:30:15). UBC’s top finisher was Lindsay Frame in 13th with a time of 1:38:31. The Men had a stronger day, narrowly missing top spot behind the College of Idaho and placing 2nd. Cameron Hale was fastest from the Thunderbirds with a combined time of 1:26:84, only twenty-four one-hundredths of a second out of first place, finishing 4th. He was followed by teammates Paul Cotton in 5th (1:27:41) and Maxim Yushchenko in 7th(1:30:70).
Results from all of the qualifying races can be searched and reviewed here:http://www.uscsa.com/conferences-events/uscsa-results/
Heading into this weekend, the team is focused on consistent finishes that will secure their spot at Nationals. Unfortunately, UBC’s Samantha Bisnaire will not be on the start list this weekend either as she is currently awaiting MRI results to determine whether her meniscus is torn from racing GS at Bogus Basin. She will certainly be missed, as will Alex Ensing who was unable to travel to this weekend’s event, but their teammates Sandra Gerlich & Lindsay Frame are determined to give it all they’ve got to capture individual spots for Nationals