Seventeen-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin defended her slalom title with Hailey Duke second and Kiley Staples third to open the 2012 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships at Winter Park (USSA/Tom Kelly)
WINTER PARK, CO (March 28) - World Cup Rookie of the Year Mikeala Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO/Burke Mountain Academy) cracked open the 2012 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships by defending her slalom gold in sun soaked Winter Park. Shiffrin, who became the youngest U.S. Champion in history last season, won both runs as Hailey Duke (Boise, ID/Park City Ski Team) took silver and Kiley Staples (Park City, UT/Rowmark Academy) bronze. Shiffrin was also the top junior on the day ahead of a surging Lila Lapanja (Incline Village, NV/Sugar Bowl Academy/Diamond Peak) and Paula Moltzan (Lakeville, MN/Ski and Snowboard Club Vail).
Audi FIS Alpine World Cup Rookie of the Year Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO) defended her slalom gold to open the 2012 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships.
Shiffrin, who was also on the World Cup slalom podium this season, won both runs en route to victory.
Hailey Duke (Boise, ID) took silver with Kiley Staples (Park City, UT) bronze.
Shiffrin also won top junior honors ahead of Lila Lapanja (Incline Village, NV) and Paula Moltzan (Lakeville, MN).
Spring conditions and blue skies greeted fans and racers to open the five-day series of races in Winter Park
The Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships continue Thursday with men's slalom.
QUOTES Mikeala Shiffrin I love skiing in the U.S., winning a race is great, but to be able to drive home and sleep in my own bed is really comforting. There's certainly an advantage to that.
I remember being one of the young kids running up to get an autograph from athletes like Lindsey Vonn or Sarah Schleper and I truly can't believe that kids are now looking for my autograph. I hope that I'm able to inspire them as much as the other girls on the U.S. Ski Team have inspired me.
It was an amazing season. I hoped for podiums and top 10s in slalom this season and I'm really excited to continue skiing well in Winter Park. Hopefully I can put down some fast runs in giant slalom too. It's always so much fun to race in Colorado and this is a great way to end great World Cup season.
I didn't even know Rookie of the Year was an award so I was extremely flattered. It's an honor when teammates and other racers are voting and cheering for you.
Hailey Duke I raced in the ProAm yesterday with a nice group of J4/J5s and we ripped around probably five or six runs before we even raced. We actually raced pretty well too and came away with the silver. It reminded me about just having fun with skiing and I was thinking about that when I kicked out of the start today. I definitely had a smile when I went out of the start today.
I started getting my feet back underneath me this year and this is a nice way to finish out the season.
Kiley Staples I came off last year with a really good NorAm year and this year was a little bit tougher so I'm really glad to end my slalom season with a podium.
The snow was a little soft today, but it actually held up really well so it was all about just sending it. I made a big mistake and just went for it. I'm looking forward to the rest of the week, I'm here for it all and if the weather stays perfect like this, it's going to continue to be a lot fun ski racing.
TV NBC will air the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships on April 7 at 3:30 p.m. ET