Rookie sweep: New faces win World Pro Ski Tour opener at Howelsen Hill

Winning the first World Pro Ski Tour event for the men in 2023, Mathias Tefre makes his final turns down Howelsen Hill on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

For fans, a dual slalom race can be one of the most exciting events in winter sports, often coming down to fractions of a second and resulting in photo finish after photo finish. 

For the competitors, the races can be intense as they consistently need to keep calm and not panic when falling behind, a skill that takes years to master.

In standard thrilling fashion, the World Pro Ski Tour opened its 2023 season at Howelsen Hill on Friday, Jan. 6. In its previous three trips to Steamboat Springs, results have shown favor to tour veterans, but it was the rookies who showed out on Friday. 

In the first year in a long time in which all four events will feature women’s competitions, Swedish rookie Evelina Fredricsson was antsy to get on the course. She had eyed the tour for a couple years and finally was able to fit it in her schedule. 

Howelsen Hill’s course is always regarded as one of the most difficult of the series. Racing for the first time ever at the venue was hard on Fredricsson at first but it did not take long for her to get the hang of it. 

“It was pretty tough, but towards the end I felt like I skied a bit better at the top because I was messing up a little bit at the beginning,” Fredricsson said. “I think, at least for me, I learned how the conditions were and knew where to go a bit safer and where I could really push.”

The adjustments worked for Fredricsson who advanced all the way to the finals and earned the first victory of the 2023 season for the women, narrowly edging out Erin Mielzynski who slipped at the start of the final race. 

World Pro Ski Tour rookie Evelina Fredricsson wins the opening race of the World Pro Ski Tour season at Howelsen Hill on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. Women will be back competing in each of the tour’s four race weekends this season.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The men’s side saw new blood on the podium as well. Familiar faces like three-time tour champion Rob Cone and last year’s Steamboat event winner Michael Ankeny were both knocked-out in the quarterfinals. 

It was Mathias Tefre, a rookie from Norway, who defeated Ankeny and raced his way to first-place for the men in his first tour event. To Tefre, it meant the world to take out former champions and establish his place on tour’s roster. 

World Pro Ski Tour reigning champ Rob Cone flies off the final jump and makes his decent to the finish line in the first super slalom race of the Tour season on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. Cone would go on to be eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“It’s fun to get the veterans a little shaky and get them out of their place,” Tefre said. “They have been a little too comfortable for a couple years now so it’s nice to push them back and let them know ski racing is still there.”

Tefre will try to keep the veterans off the podium on the second day of racing on Saturday, Jan. 7. Most of the racers from Friday will compete once again with a few new faces also taking to the start line. 

American ski racer Kaitlyn Harsch takes her first turn off the jump at Howelsen Hill during the World Pro Ski Tour on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. Harsch finished third among women last season but was unable to find the podium in the tour’s season opener.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The event is fan-friendly and all are welcome to watch from the base of the area, behind Howelsen Lodge. The second super slalom bracketed races begin at 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning. 

Both Tefre and Fredricsson hope to continue their success and are hungry for a second podium. Meanwhile, veterans like Cone, Ankeny and the reigning women’s tour champion Tuva Norbye will look to exact revenge and reclaim the throne. 

“For dual slalom like this, it’s so challenging,” Tefre said. “You can be a really good skier but you can’t quite figure out how to ski it and that’s very challenging. I for sure want to be in the top and collect some money. I like ski racing and I like money so you have the best of both worlds.”

Norway’s Mathias Tefre celebrates his first-place finish in the World Pro Ski Tour’s season opener at Howelsen Hill on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. Jeremie Lagier, right, from France, took second in the race. Both men look to repeat as podium finishers in the second race at Howelsen at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

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