STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – After crashing across the finish line to victory in her first ski race after she had “retired” from the sport last month in Aspen, Norway’s Tuva Norbye decided she’d better stop using the “R” word as well as put some time in the gym before signing up for the next World Pro Ski Tour women’s race in Steamboat Springs.
She not only managed to stay on her feet through every round of dual slalom action on Howelsen Hill on Saturday, but the University of Denver graduate found extra strength to once again finish on top, landing yet another $10,000 check for her effort.
“I crashed through the finish at the last race because I was so tired. Since Aspen, I’ve been doing some more workouts, definitely got my legs in shape,” said Norbye, who is pursuing a post-graduate degree at the University of Utah. “I haven’t done any heavy lifting, but have been working some muscles in my legs. I knew I could finish the whole day without crashing. That’s been a big advantage, also being excited about this race because I’m a Tour member now. It’s been cool building up to this race.”
Although she has spent time in the gym, Norbye said she’d only been on skis once since last month’s women’s World Pro Ski Tour opener in Aspen.
“I’ve skied so much my whole life, just getting one day on these skis was enough,” she said. “I kind of thought I had more of an advantage in Aspen, where it was flatter, but throughout the day, I figured out this course and was able to push it the last couple of runs. I got better and better throughout the day, which was a cool experience.”
The fourth seed of eight qualifiers going into the first heat, Norbye took down Slovakian Sona Moravcikova by only about a tenth of a second before squeaking by No. 1 qualifier, the University of Utah’s Katie Vesterstein in the semifinals. In the final round, Norbye truly met her match in University of Denver’s Galena Wardle, who arrived to Steamboat fresh off of a pair of top 10 finishes in Nor-Am tech races in Canada.
Norbye pulled ahead of Wardle by about a tenth of a second in the first run and after Wardle slipped up at the top of the course in the last and final run, looked like she’d run away with it. That’s when Wardle somehow scrambled to match strides again, making for a photo finish and a Norbye victory by mere thousandths of a second.
“I think I’m good at fighting back,” Wardle said afterward, walking away with $4,200 for second place. “Honestly, I feel like I fought for every run tonight. Nothing was a clean run or an easy run at all. I’m pretty sure I didn’t win a single first run. I was always fighting.”
In addition to her success on the Nor-Am giant slalom and slalom circuits, Wardle, like most women competing on the Pro Tour, is an active NCAA racer. An Aspen native, the 23-year-old charged to victory and a couple of podiums in university races in her hometown last month immediately following her fourth place in her World Pro Ski Tour debut in Aspen.
She says that while she hasn’t done much dual slalom racing, the format is definitely growing on her.
“These races, the whole event is so fun,” she said. “I’m just learning more and more. It’s real-time feedback. You know instantly if you’re going fast enough or if you need to do more. It’s so cool.”
Vesterstein ended up facing off with the University of Colorado’s Kaitlyn Harsch in the Small Final. In spite of skidding onto her hip around one gate and the two racers grappling around every turn, Vesterstein conquered and rounded out the podium as Harsch took fourth.
Women return to the World Pro Ski Tour for the season’s final stop, the world championships in Taos, NM, April 7-10.