Stacey Cook wants to own the Narrow Gauge again.

Cook has won three U.S. championships in her storied skiing career – all on Sugarloaf Mountain’s Narrow Gauge course in 2006 and 2008.

The U.S. Alpine Championships are back at Sugarloaf beginning Saturday, and Cook would like to turn back the clock.

“I’m definitely excited to race the national championships and try to own this track again,” said Cook. “That’s the goal, to do it again over the course of a decade.”

The competition begins at 9:45 a.m. Saturday with the women’s super-G, followed by the men’s super-G at 12:15, and runs through Tuesday.

This is the second time in three years that Sugarloaf has been the host mountain for the nationals. Sugarloaf also hosted in 1996, 1997, 2006 and 2008.

Cook remembers the races in 2006 and 2008 vividly. A 32-year-old native of Mammoth Lakes, California, Cook had just competed in the first of her three Olympics in Turin, Italy, in 2006 before she won the super-G at Sugarloaf.

“Of all the things that happened that year, my World Cup races, the Olympics, when I got home my parents were most proud of the national championship,” said Cook. “When you come from small-town America, that’s what resonates.”

While not all of the nation’s top Alpine skiers will be at Sugarloaf – for example, Mikaela Shiffrin (the star of this event two years ago), Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso won’t be there – most of the members of the U.S. A and B teams will compete. The field includes Cook, Resi Stiegler, Laurenne Ross, Leanne Smith, Alice McKennis and Lila Lapanja on the women’s side; and David Chodounsky, Travis Ganong, Tim Jitloff, Michael Ankeny and Carrabassett Valley’s Sam Morse, who recently won the downhill at the junior world championships.

Cook would not miss this event. She views it as a more relaxed competition than the World Cup tour, but significant nonetheless.

“The World Cup schedule is more stressful, just being on U.S. snow is more relaxing,” she said. “And, on the other hand, a national title is a national title.

“It looks good to the sponsors, so there’s that side, but it means something to me, personally.”

Cook has competed in three Olympics, in Turin in 2006, Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014. She wasn’t sure she was going to make a run at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, just 11 months from now, but after skiing on that course earlier this winter, she set her mind.

“It took me a minute to make the decision,” she said. “I want to go. Of all the mountains I’ve skied on, it gives me the best chance to do well. It’s a true downhill. It just felt more natural and more fun. I’d like to run that course again.”

After winning the super-G at Sugarloaf in 2006, she came back two years later to win the super-G and downhill.

She’s been at Sugarloaf since Wednesday, getting a feel for the Narrow Gauge again while competing in Nor-Am events. Cook, who was fifth in giant slalom and eighth in super-G at Sugarloaf two years ago, will compete in the super-G on Saturday and giant slalom on Monday.

“Winning is the goal,” she said. “That’s definitely what you go for. I know all those young girls are shooting for it, too. They keep me on my toes. Eleven years ago, I was that (young) girl.”

The field includes many young skiers, including three women from Carrabassett Valley Academy: Sam Conzelman, Emma Kearing and Rylee McCormack. They qualified in their first year of eligibility for FIS competition.

“It was a surprise, the girls talked about it here and there throughout the year, but I was downplaying it a little,” CVA Alpine Coach Kraig Sourbeer said in a press release. “I don’t think it was ever out of their sight though. They never doubted there was a chance it could happen.”

The forecast for Sugarloaf calls for 3-to-5 inches of snow on Monday, with a wintry mix on Tuesday.

Noelle Tuttle, the communications manager at Sugarloaf, said the weather shouldn’t impact the competition. “It depends on how much snow,” she said. “It may run a little slower if we have to clear the course.”

Tuttle added that Sugarloaf hopes to stay in the rotation to host the national championships.

“We love having the races here,” she said. “And we’d love to do it again.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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