KEYSTONE — On a bluebird day, temperatures in the 40s baked Upper Go Devil, the run in which the giant slalom course was set to kick off two days of skiing state championships.
The field of 71 girls began their turns downhill promptly. It didn't take long for viewers to notice the snow was firmer than met the eye and the turns were full of pebble-like chops of hard-pack, creating the chattering ski edges of competing high schoolers.
The upper half was mellow, but the second half was a steep pitch that ended with a tough, sharp maneuver around the last gate to reach the finish line. Merely a quarter of the riders had finished before one went careening into the netting at the bottom.
The tournament director and jury eventually decided to move the gate and races resumed.
All previous racers were then given the opportunity to race again, and if they accepted, the second time would be the one to count. Now racing for time to fit all the events in one day and give all competitors an equal chance, racers and spectators alike made adjustments and avoided protest.
When all the hiccups had passed, Aspen sophomore Quincy Dollahan, finished on top with a time of 1:22.1.
Last year was her first year racing, a season in which she placed in the top-10.
"I haven't been practicing as much as I liked to so I was not expecting this. I'm pretty psyched," Dollahan said. "I really liked this course, but I'm not so sure many others did. I am just really excited to be here and that helped me win."
Dollahan heads into the slalom race Friday morning, though she notes her stronger event is the giant slalom.
Gisele Thompson from Summit and Brenna Hattler out of Evergreen followed behind her. Sophie Defries, a junior at Nederland, who placed fourth, agrees with Dollahan's enjoyment with the course.
"That was a really fun run," she said. "It was fast and straight, one of those courses where if you mess up you're done for, which is scary, but there was just this prevalent feeling of fun the whole way down."
The boys giant slalom ran a little smoother, and very similar to last year.
Spectators remembered teammates Sands Simonton and Quintin Cook of Battle Mountain taking first and second place last season. They didn't skip a beat.
The two seemingly neck-and-neck classmates raced on Friday in the slalom, a race Simonton topped last year as well. Simonton won in 1:17.3. Cook was second in 1:18.7. Luke Bailey of Platte Canyon followed in third on Thursday.
Due to the morning delay, parents and coaches scrambled to get the Skimeisters — racers who compete in both alpine and nordic events — to the Frisco Adventure Center.
The girls led the Nordic Skate race, followed by the boys.
The Aspen girls squad, a strong contender every year, qualified 10 ladies. Four of those finished in the top 10.
Nina Beidleman was among the exhausted athletes as the sun set and temperatures dropped.
"It hurts the whole race," said Beidleman, a fourth-place finisher. "But you might as well get a reward from all the pain."
As with the downhill course, the Nordic one seemed to entertain the racers.
"There were so many downhills and transitions," Beidleman said. "It was so fun to compete on."
Summit's Ezra Smith won the event in 15:22.5. Vail Mountain's Maddie Donovan (15:40.1) was second.
The boys closed out the packed day, with Summit's Henry Trowbridge (14:10.4) and Aspen's Nick Sweeney (14:25.7) finishing first and second.
Cook, the dual discipline competitor who raced his way from downhill to cross-country, showed every bit of tenacity as he crossed his second finish line of the day, with two more to go Friday.
"Everyday we train for both. I'm used to hopping right from one set of gear to the next," he said. "But it really hurts to do two in one day. And it also feels great."