The U.S. Alpine championships will return to Sugarloaf and the Narrow Gauge run.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association announced Thursday that Sugarloaf will be the host mountain in 2015 and 2017. Idaho’s Sun Valley will host the 2016 and 2018 events.
Sugarloaf has hosted the U.S. national championships four other times: 1996, 1997, 2006 and 2008.
“This will lend a national and, really, international spotlight on the Maine ski industry and Sugarloaf, which has long held a reputation as a training ground for some of the world’s best skiers,’’ said Greg Sweetser, the executive director of the Ski Maine Association.
“There are some exciting new young athletes on the U.S. ski team (such as Mikaela Shiffrin and Ted Ligety, gold medal winners in the giant slalom in the Sochi Winter Olympics). And when you start to bring these world-class stars to Maine, it gets everyone excited.’’
Sugarloaf has been the home mountain for Olympic skiers such as Bode Miller, who has won six Olympic medals, and Kirsten Clark-Richenbach as well as snowboarder Seth Wescott, a two-time gold medalist in snowboard cross.
“Sugarloaf has a proud tradition of hosting some of the world’s premier ski events and we’re honored to have the U.S. Alpine championships return for 2015,’’ said Sugarloaf General Manager John Diller in a statement. “From Bode Miller to Kirsten Clark to Seth Wescott, many of the country’s greatest athletes have cut their teeth right here on the world-famous Narrow Gauge, and we’re excited to see our country’s best skiers showcase their talent here.’’
The 2015 championships will be the first time the event is held in the East since 2010, when Lake Placid, N.Y., held the event on Whiteface.
“This is huge for us,’’ said Ethan Austin, the director of marketing at Sugarloaf. “We’re ski racing through and through and have raised some of ski racing’s greatest skiers.
“It’s part of our DNA. It’s huge for the community, it’s huge for the mountain, it’s huge for Sugarloafers everywhere.’’
No date has been set for the 2015 championships, though Austin said it will be held in late March. He added that several logistics have to be finalized.
The championships entail the slalom, the giant slalom, the super G and the downhill race.
Patrick Riml, the U.S. ski team Alpine director, said the move to Sugarloaf and Sun Valley indicated a desire to move the annual championships to top resorts across the nation.
“Moving the U.S. Alpine championships around the United States is vital to directly engaging with strong ski racing communities that are instrumental in growing and maintaining a strong developmental pipeline,’’ he said. “It allows us to showcase the excitement of high-level Alpine skiing to new generations of young athletes and fans.’’
Sweetser said it should provide great exposure for the sport to a new set of fans.
“The ski racing community is a fairly tight community,’’ he said. “And this will provide a great boost for our sport.’’
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: