Even though the Super G course set here didn't head in that direction, Jeremy Nobis, one of Park City's outstanding ski products, moved a little closer to Europe on Tuesday.
Marking the return of Nor-Am racing to Utah, and the first ever Super G at this level, Nobis ran a "smooth" race to finish third out of 59 racers in the one-run, one-day race.Equally good showings in two downhills planned later this week - Friday and Saturday - will mean an airline ticket for Nobis to ski in Europe for the U.S. Ski Team.
Nobis is, as one ski team official pointed out, "That close to going."
Winning the Super G was A.J. Kitt of Rochester, N.Y., Tommy Moe of Palmer, Alaska, was second and Nobis third.
Following the Super G (a cross between a giant slalom and a downhill, introduced about six years ago as another high-speed event for TV), skiers traded GS skis for longer downhill models and began the three mandatory days of downhill practice required before a race.
Race conditions on Tuesday were as close to perfect as they can get on a course racers called extremely fast and smooth. The skies were blue, temperatures cold enough to keep the course hard and fast, and the rolling slopes at Snowbasin were perfectly manicured for high-speed runs.
It came down to which racer picked the most perfect line. This run, Kitt did by slightly over one second. Or, at speeds sometimes approaching 60 miles per hour, maybe one gate.
"I had a good start and just skiing smooth," said Kitt. "In a race like this you're in a tuck almost the whole race.
What you don't want to do is dump your speed. There's no time to make it up. You've got to be smooth.
"It's tough trying to nail the perfect line. I felt good about my race today. I think I was late on only one gate."
Kitt's time was one minute, 40.51 seconds. Moe clocked a 1:41.56.
Nobis, 18, who skied on the Park City Ski Team for eight years before going back east to train at the Green Mountain Valley Ski Academy two years ago, was the 10th racer out of the gate.
He said he stayed low, picked what he felt was the best line and tried to stay on a flat, fast ski.
"There were things I could have done better," he said after hearing his third-place time (1:41.71). "He just beat me. I ran a good race and this finish will help me. I wanted to win it, though. I like the Super G. The Super G and giant slalom are my two favorite races."
Nobis was named to the U.S. Select Team last year. He earned the attention of team coaches by coming from a 25th starting position to finish second in a Nor-Am GS, then came from a 34th starting position to finish 10th in a slalom.
He hasn't raced in a downhill yet this season, but said he fells good about the way he has been skiing.
Another local skier, Spencer Eccles, finished sixth in the Super G with a time of 1:43.96.
The Utah Winter Game, of which this race and the two downhill are a part, continued with a Legends Race at Alta Wednesday. Among the skiing notables scheduled to compete were Alf Engen, Stein Eriksen, Susan Harris-Rytting, Margo Walters-McDonald, Jim Gaddis, Ralph Wakely, Dick Movitz, Scott Hoffman and Steve Bounous.
The only event scheduled Thursday is downhill training. Friday the Games shift into second gear with the first downhill race at Snowbasin, the University of Utah Invitational at Solitude and Jeremy Ranch and senior hockey at Cottonwood Heights.