Whitefish skier takes fourth national crown

by JIM MANN/Daily Inter Lake

Published: Monday, March 2, 2009 10:21 PM CST
Kelsey Schmid-Sommer of Whitefish races to her fourth-straight national telemark title over the weekend in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Photo courtesy of U.S. Telemark Ski Association.
By a margin of just two seconds over seven runs, Kelsey Schmid-Sommer of Whitefish won her fourth straight U.S. National Telemark Champion title in Colorado on Sunday.

Schmid-Sommer, 32, ran into stiff competition from Lorin Paley, a 16-year-old from Steamboat Springs, Colo., where the national championships were held over the weekend.

“I was up against the Steamboat local favorite,” Schmid-Sommer said Monday. “She’s half my age. It was really tight and it came down to a tiebreaker for the overall title.”

Telemarkers compete in several different types of races. Paley won the giant slalom race and then the telemark classic race, with Schmid-Sommer trailing by mere seconds in both races.

“It was very exciting and very dramatic because it literally came down to the last race,” Schmid-Sommer said. “I had to win the last two races in order to tie her.”

She met that challenge, first winning the sprint classic event and then the dual slalom race.

“So I got to race her head-to-head on the final race,” Schmid-Sommer said of Paley. “I beat her by 1.18 second on that final race.”

With each skier winning two events, a tiebreaker was necessary. The total times in four events, involving a total of seven runs, decided the contest for the overall title.

“I had it by 2.05 seconds, which is nothing out of seven runs,” said Schmid-Sommer, who became the only woman racer on record to win the U.S. championship four straight years, from 2006 through 2009.

In January, Schmid-Sommer competed in the World Telemark Ski Championships in Austria.

“My best finish in the Worlds was seventh, which was a bit disappointing because I was ranked fifth at that time,” she said. “There was some very stiff competition.”

The world championships also were held earlier than usual, which can be a disadvantage.

“When they do it in March, you’ve had a lot more races under your belt,” Schmid-Sommer said.

Also competing at the U.S. National Championships from Whitefish were Peter McMahon, a member of the U.S. Telemark National Team; Eric Lamb, a member of the U.S. team who recently moved from Whitefish to Boulder, Colo.; David Hobbs, former member of the U.S. team, now attending the University of Montana; Cole Schneider, who is hoping for a spot on the U.S. team, and Willie Hobbs, a student at Whitefish High School, who just went for fun.

McMahon raced to the podium twice with third place in both the sprint classic and the dual slalom. He also had a fourth-place finish in the classic race to finish fifth overall.

Lamb’s best race was the sprint classic with a fifth-place finish, followed by two sixth-place finishes in the giant slalom and the dual slalom and an eighth-place finish in the classic. He finished seventh overall.

David Hobbs’ best finish was seventh in the giant slalom. He was ninth in the sprint classic, 11th in the dual slalom and 12th in the giant slalom to finish ninth overall.

Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by e-mail at jmann@dailyinterlake.com