CARRABASSETT VALLEY — The final day of racing in the U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf turned into a test of nerves as heavy fog and low visibility forced almost half the field in the men’s giant slalom off the course.

In the end, Hig Roberts of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, relied on his experience at the Narrow Gauge to win his first national title Tuesday with a combined time of 2 minutes, 19.25 seconds in two runs.

U.S. Ski Team teammate Tim Jitloff of Reno, Nevada, was second (2:19.39) and Kieffer Christianson of Anchorage, Alaska, was third (2:19.54).

For the 94 racers who started the day, it was a not question of how fast they would ski – but if they’d finish. In the first run Tuesday morning, 27 racers pulled out, fell or went off course.

When the second run started early in the afternoon, conditions were no better. Another 15 skiers could not finish; two did not even start.

Roberts felt the fog gave him an advantage because he knew the course from his four years of racing for Middlebury College in Vermont. Being familiar with the Narrow Gauge’s soft spring bumps and tight turns in thick fog was a plus. At times, racers said they could only see the gate in front of them.

“I know this hill. I knew it would be tough to see but I thought if I just keep my nose in it, it might not be pretty but I could make the most of it,” said Roberts, 26. “Sugarloaf tends to throw whatever it has at you. So you can’t ski perfectly, but you never ski perfectly. I knew what I needed to do on this hill and just focused on that.”

U.S. Ski Team member Ryan Cochran-Siegle – the winner of Saturday’s super-G – was the leader after Tuesday’s first run with a time of 1:09.76. But he was unable to finish the second run, citing poor visibility.

“The fog holds made it tough. You’re ready to go then there’s a delay,” Cochran-Siegle said. “I had a half-second lead, but those guys were not that far back. With the poor visibility it makes it a tight race.”

In the first run, several skiers crossed the line shaking their heads in frustration.

Alex Leever of Vail, Colorado, finished his first run – but to get down the mountain he had to take it slow. He turned in the 26th best time (1:13.18) and ended up 17th overall (2:22.80).

“It’s pretty bad up there,” Leever said. “Our goggles are fogging up and the fog is so thick, you can’t see where the snow is soft. I knew I had to ease up. In the gate I heard the two bibs in front of me (did not finish), but that’s all I knew.”

Even local favorite Sam Morse, a 2013 graduate of Carrabassett Valley Academy, had trouble on the course and slipped. He did not finish his first run.

“It was pilot error,” Morse said. “You went through a couple of layers of fog, but I just wasn’t patient. In this fog when you can’t see the snow, you have to be patient. If you push off too soon and you’re in soft snow, your skis go away from you.”

Roberts considered the fog an advantage since it frustrated and discouraged other racers. He had never been in the running for a national title, so he figured he had nothing to lose. In 2015, Roberts placed sixth in the giant slalom when the nationals were held at Sugarloaf.

He liked his chances after finishing with the third-best time (1:10.29) on Tuesday morning. Before the second run, Roberts talked with his ski tech, Eric Dasko, about his familiarity with the course.

When Dasko saw Roberts at the end of his victorious run, he gave him a bear hug.

“These are hit or miss conditions,” said Dasko of Aspen, Colorado. “We talked about visualizing the course. I thought he had the right mental state.”