Santaniello shines in return to SSWSC, wins Sunday’s ski race |

Santaniello shines in return to SSWSC, wins Sunday’s ski race

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athlete Ellese Lupori competes in the women's portion of Sunday's National Junior Race slalom ski event at Howelsen Hill. The Surefoot Holiday Classic will continue Monday and Tuesday with the open divisions.
Austin Colbert

— Welcome back, Nick Santaniello.

The former Strawberry Park Elementary School student returned to Steamboat Springs last month to train with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, and his first race Sunday went as well as he could have hoped.

“I won races when I was really young here and it’s good to win again,” Santaniello said. “I’ve pretty much grown up racing here every year, so I feel I had more of a home field advantage today, and I capitalized.”

Now 20, Santaniello won the men’s division of Sunday’s National Junior Race Holiday Classic ski slalom event at Howelsen Hill, the first of three straight days of alpine skiing in the Surefoot Colorado Ski Cup.

Santaniello, a California native who has spent the past few years living and training in Vail, won the race in one minute, 27.45 seconds, edging out the 1:27.88 time put up by Vail’s Alex Leever, who skis for the University of Denver.

“It’s kind of cool to have him back. It means a lot to have another hometown winner,” said SSWSC alpine coach Ryan Wilson. “It’s actually a place he really hasn’t liked at all in the past. He’s been training really well and making a lot of changes in his skiing. It all came together today for him with good, controlled skiing.”

Santaniello set the bar high when he posted the quickest first run with a time of 43.54 seconds, Leever’s 43.90 seconds right on his tail. The second run was equally as impressive, a time of 43.91 seconds helping hold off Leever and third-place finisher Andrew Hancock, of Aspen.

“I decided to give it my all and I just kind of pinned it. And it worked out first run,” Santaniello said. “Then second run, I was a little nervous, I’m not going to lie. I had a few mistakes but then I executed what I needed to do and I ended up winning.”

Winter Sports Club athlete Zak Kjos had a solid time of 1:29.64 to finish in eighth place, the only other current Steamboat athlete in the top 10. Former SSWSC athlete Nick Veth, last year’s race winner and current University of New Mexico skier, took 10th.

Park City’s Reinhart takes women’s field

Sunday was a big day for Park City Ski Team athlete Jessica Reinhart. In her second year with the program, the 19-year-old, who is originally from Wisconsin, won the women’s NJR slalom at Howelsen Hill, a win she’s been dreaming of for a while.

“I just have never won outside of my home division that I moved away from about three years ago. So it’s really exciting,” Reinhart said. “I just think that this year is going to be a good year, and I’m having way more fun. Not because I am doing well, but I started having more fun and now I’m doing better.”

Reinhart made easy work of the competition on Sunday, finishing with a combined time of 1:26.95. Her first run time of 42.72 seconds and second run time of 44.23 seconds were both second best, allowing her to stay well ahead of Team Summit’s Megan McGrew (1:28.06) and Park City’s Hannah Hunsaker (1:28.22).

SSWSC athlete Ellese Lupori finished ninth, the only Steamboat female in the top 20. Her first run time of 44.19 seconds was sixth overall, but she struggled in her second run, finishing it in 46.85 seconds for a total time of 1:31.04.

“Ellese had a good first run. There is more in the tank for her,” Wilson said. “This is a hill she knows really well and I look for her to step it up in the next couple days when all the older people are here.”

Sunday’s competition was only for those born in 1995 or after. Monday and Tuesday will be an open competition for all ages, with a lot of veteran talent expected to be present. In March, Howelsen will host a portion of the NCAA Ski Championships, meaning this week’s event will allow these college athletes a chance to test their skis on Steamboat’s fabled hill.

“Tomorrow, I think, is going to be challenging,” Reinhart said, “because it’s a night race and there are some really good girls coming, who were too old to race today.”

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.