Women make their return to World Pro Ski Tour at Aspen Mountain; Cone back on top

Like the rest of the women on Sunday, Aspen’s Galena Wardle had to learn the unique ins and outs of competing in a World Pro Ski Tour event. With its head-to-head racing, jumps in the middle of a slalom course and quirky two-run format, it has a different flow than a World Cup race.

“It’s really awesome. It’s not something we are used to,” Wardle said. “It’s a lot of runs, too, which is a different aspect that is pretty cool. But it was really exciting to be a part of the first women’s one and of course being in Aspen was really cool.”

Wardle, a former member of the U.S. ski team, was among a group of largely collegiate skiers to compete in the Rocket Mortgage Women’s Tour on Sunday, the second and final day of the WPST stop on Aspen Mountain. While the tour has always allowed women to compete with the men in the open division since it returned from a nearly two-decade hiatus in 2017, Sunday’s tournament in Aspen marked the first time the tour had put together a bracket exclusively for women since the 1990s.

Taking the win was Norway’s Tuva Norbye, a former University of Denver skier, who held off the University of Vermont’s Caroline Jones in the final. Jones grew up attending the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.

Wardle finished fourth, losing the small final to University of Colorado ski racer Kaitlyn Harsch, another Vail product. A day prior, another Aspen skier, 2018 Olympian Wiley Maple, had made his WPST debut as well, advancing to the quarterfinals on Saturday. He lost in the round of 16 on Sunday.

“I didn’t fully know what to expect, but each run you kind of figure it out a little more,” Wardle said. “I took a pretty big fall in the middle there. It shook me up a little bit. Definitely wish I could have skied a little better after that, but it was a good day overall.”

Wardle, 23, currently attends DU as a ski racer and continues to compete in FIS and NorAm events, with the goal of one day making the World Cup always there as motivation. Injuries derailed her promising career with the U.S. ski team.

Healthy again, Wardle is looking forward to getting the collegiate season started here soon and sees the inclusion of a women’s tournament on the WPST as nothing but a bonus for the female athletes.

“It’s awesome they are opening it up to women,” she said, “and I think with each one you will see more people come out and more competitors, and hopefully it just builds up from there.”

Taking the Reven Cup, or the de facto men’s race, on Sunday was Vermont’s Rob Cone, the two-time defending WPST season champion. It was his first win in four races so far this winter and has him atop the standings in defense of his title. Austria’s Simon Breitfuss Kammerlander, who won Saturday’s race in Aspen before finishing fourth on Sunday, is currently second in the season standings. Kammerlander will represent Bolivia next month at the Winter Olympics.

Cone beat Norway’s Joachim Lindstol in Sunday’s final, while Minnesota’s Michael Ankeny finished third, beating Kammerlander in the third-place match.

Both the men’s and women’s winner went home with the same $10,000 check.

While the races this past weekend were the first for the WPST in Aspen proper since its rebirth, tour CEO Jon J. Franklin said he hopes to see it become a regular stop going forward.

“We are excited to race here and excited to come back in the future,” Franklin said. “We had the women for the first time in 25 years as part of the pro tour, and we had last year’s champion win a race and we had a new winner on the podium, Simon, who’s been on this tour for three years and was always a bridesmaid, never a bride. So, it was super exciting. We had so many great elements this weekend and that’s one of the best things about coming back to Aspen, is all the excitement and a great crowd.”

The World Pro Ski Tour has two more stops scheduled for this season, next being a trip to Steamboat Springs from Feb. 13 to 15. The season finale will be held at Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico, although dates have not yet been announced for those races.

-The Aspen Times