Mark Bedics,

Denver is seeking a fourth straight NCAA Men’s and Women’s Skiing crown this year, but based on the results of the first Alpine event of the season, it appears it will be anything but easy.

Colorado won the alpine portion of the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) season opener at the Park City Mountain Resort, Jan 8-9 in Park City, Utah with 444 points. Utah was second with 435 points, while New Mexico totaled 421.5 for third, and the three-time defending champion Denver Pioneers finished fourth with 412 points.

"We had all around good performances from both our men and women today," Colorado head coach Richard Rokos said. "This is especially good because this is a hard hill and it's hard to ski consistently on it, so it gives us a lot of confidence to ski well. This is also the hill where we will ski for the RMISA Championships in six weeks or so, so doing well gives us a lot of confidence when we return here, as well."

After the first day of competition, which consisted of men’s and women’s giant slalom, Denver was actually in the overall lead as Andreas Kilde won the men’s race. He narrowly edged out New Mexico’s Petter Brenna for first. Utah’s Jeremy Elliott was third, while his teammate Ryan Wilson was fourth and Alaska-Anchorage’s Andreas Adde was fifth.

On the women’s side, the Pioneers had three finishers in the top eight: Jennie Vanwagner was third, Ida Dillingoeen was seventh and Lindsay Cone was eighth to help establish the team lead. Utah’s Eva Huckova won the event by well more than a second over Colorado’s Sara Hjertman. Fellow Buffalo Erika Ghent was fourth, while New Mexico’s Anne Cecilie Bursletto rounded out the top five.

However, on the second and final day in the slalom competition, Colorado took command of the team race. CU’s Gabriel Rivas won the men’s title, beating Brenna by less than three-tenths of a second to win. The remainder of the top five featured Adde in third, Utah’s Torjus Krogdahl in fourth and New Mexico’s Juho-Pekka Penttinen was fifth.

In the women’s slalom race, Denver’s Sterling Grant won top honors, while Colorado was able to secure two of the top four spots to claim crucial points in the team competition. Hjertman was second and Caroline Nordh was fourth for the Buffaloes while New Mexico’s Brusletto was third and Utah’s combination of Huckova and Anna Kocken tied for fith.

Need to Know

• Numerous collegiate student-athletes competed at the United States Cross Country Championships at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine from January 2-8 hoping to qualify for the United States U-23 and Junior World Championships teams. The two teams will compete at the World Championships January 25-31 in Estonia. To be eligible for the Junior team, the competitors must not have turned 20 years of age prior to December 31, 2010. To be eligible for the U-23 team, they needed to be less than 23 years old prior to December 31, 2010.

• There were three female NCAA skiers named to the United States Junior World Championships team: Vermont’s Amy Glen, Colorado’s Joanne Reid and Dartmouth’s Isabel Caldwell.

• Five of the six skiers named to the Men’s United States Junior World championships team were from the NCAA ranks: Tyler Kornfield, Alaska-Fairbanks; Erik Bjornsen, Alaska-Anchorage; Scott Patterson, Vermont; George Cartwright, Northern Michigan; Andrew Dougherty, Denver.

• For the U-23 Men’s World Championships team, four of the seven members of the team are current NCAA Student-athletes: David Norris, Alaska-Fairbanks; Alex Treinen, Alaska-Fairbanks; Eric Packer, Dartmouth; Reid Pletcher, Colorado.

• For the women’s team, of the six skiers are NCAA student-athletes: Ida Sargent, Dartmouth; Sophie Caldwell, Dartmouth, Caitlin Patterson, Vermont.

Quick Hits

The Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) opens its 2011 season Friday and Saturday at the St. Lawrence Carnival in Lake Placid, NY. … The Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) start back up on Saturday and Sunday in Duluth, Minnesota for their second NCAA qualifying race of the season. ... The RMISA will be back in action on Saturday and Sunday at Big Sky (Alpine) and Bohart Ranch (Nordic) in Montana. … Jeremy Hecker of Saint Scholastica was named an alternate to the men’s United States Junior World team, the first time an individual from that institution has ever earned that distinction.