Olympians and World Cup racers join final stop of WPST at Taos World Championships
The regulars on the World Pro Ski Tour are about to get a run for their money – several runs, in fact – as the final event of the season unfolds with the 2022 World Pro Championships at Taos Ski Valley, NM, April 8-10.
Fresh off of their World Cup season, numerous top tier racers will be joining the mix in both the men’s and women’s races, including Olympic medalist Linus Strasser, Canadian National Team members Erik Read, Trevor Philp, US National Slalom Champion Jett Seymour, and the U.S. Ski Team’s Paula Moltzan and River Radamus. German Olympic medalist Lena Dürr was scheduled to compete in the Taos event until a recent injury at German National Championships, which unfortunately will not allow her to race.
“In the last few years, I always had it in my mind to participate in the World Pro Ski Tour, but unfortunately, I could never accommodate it in terms of time. So I’m glad that it works this year,” said Strasser, who helped Germany to a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics this February and has proven himself one of the world’s No. 1 slalom skiers, winning the famed Schladming World Cup slalom and holding a successful track record all around in both the tight gates and dual formats.
“I’ve always liked parallel events,” Strasser said. “The man-against-man or woman-against-woman comparison is a lot of fun and I think that ultimately is the biggest difference to the normal disciplines. My goals for the WPST are, first and foremost, to have fun. Anything can happen at parallel events. I always say, if you survive the first round, anything is possible. The biggest differences to a normal World Cup parallel event is for sure the start, but also the course setting and gate distances. I will need a few training runs to manage the start perfectly.”
The usual stars of the WPST will, of course, be charged up for their last stop of the season, including defending tour champion Rob Cone, Michael Ankeny, Simon Breitfuss Kammerlander, Nolan Kasper and Drew Duffy on the men’s side and tour leader Tuva Norbye, Galena Wardle and Kaitlyn Harsch on the women’s side.
Moltzan heads to Taos hot off her smoking National Championships performance that included a blowout slalom victory, beating her nearest competitor (Katie Hensien) by nearly three seconds and following up with second place in giant slalom, missing the win by 0.01 seconds. Along with Radamus, Mikaela Shiffrin and Tommy Ford, Moltzan landed just out of the medals in fourth place in the Olympic Team Parallel event and has a handful of World Cup top 10s to her credit.
Radamus comes to Taos on the coattails of a breakout season, topped by his Olympic showcase, which, in addition to the fourth place in Team Parallel, included a jaw-dropping display on the GS course, which landed him less than half a second away from a medal.
Other notable newcomers to the WPST include three-time Olympian Resi Stiegler, who retired last season on the heels of her fourth career U.S. Championship title. Along with husband David Ketterer, a current World Cup athlete for Germany, Stiegler will be traveling to Taos with two-month-old baby, Rosi.
“I’ve heard great things about the Pro Tour and am super excited to get back in the gates,” said Stiegler, adding that, depending on how the Taos races go and her obligations as a mom, she would consider becoming a WPST regular. “For me, at the end of a 20-year career, it’s great to know I have options like this.”
Like Stiegler, Ketterer is also a slalom specialist and has, according to his wife, been vying to compete in the WPST for years and has his sights set on Cone.
“He’s been talking about the Pro Tour for a long time and keeps saying, ‘I want to go to one event,’” Stiegler said. “To be honest, Rob Cone has been a big focus. Everyone was like, the ex-ski racer banker is showing up on weekends and crushing this event? That one year that he won everything was the talk of the ski world. I think Nolan and Ankeny did a good job of showing what they were doing at all the events, too. This year, there was talk of women doing it and David asked, ‘Do you want to sign up?’ I was like, ‘Well … yeah.’”
If it weren’t for pregnancy and having Rosi, Stiegler would have joined the WPST sooner.
“Whoever took it seriously and showed up at the first event was really smart,” she said. “Now you look at the field and you’re like, wait. I have to compete against Paula right now?”
Beyond the stacked list of athletes competing in the WPST World Championships, there will be several former athletes and ski racing legends among the crowd of spectators in Taos, including Franz Klammer, Bode Miller, Billy Kidd, Deb Armstrong, and Julia Mancuso.
To further add to the excitement, the total prize money for the event has been increased to $250,000 thanks to a late bonus contribution from Taos Ski Area. Perhaps, the richest pro race purse in history, expect to see athletes putting it all on the line for a chance to take home a piece of the pie.
The 2022 World Pro Ski Tour, presented by Rocket Mortgage Taos World Championships kick off April 8 at Taos Ski Valley with men’s Super Slalom and Rocket Mortgage Women’s Tour & Pro Open as well as a Youth Race. Men’s and women’s parallel slalom racing continues April 9 and wraps up with a finale of parallel giant slalom racing April 10.