It was an all-star start in Aspen.
Erin Mielzynski opened the 2015-16 FIS season on a high note over the weekend, taking a fourth-place finish in the slalom at Aspen, Colo. on Nov. 29.
The Collingwood, Ont. resident posted a two-run time of one minute, 43.59 seconds (1:43.59) to miss the podium by 0.51 seconds. She was also 3.41 seconds back of American Mikaela Shiffrin, who put up a dominant performance. Sweden's Frida Hansdotter and Czech Republic's Sarka Strachova also hit the podium.
"I'm really happy to be back in the top five! It's been awhile since I've been there," Mielzynski told the Alpine Canada website. "I'm really happy with a lot of sections but I know there's more to be done and hopefully I can make changes and keep moving forward."
Mielzynski's teammate Marie-Michele Gagnon placed 15th, 4.33 seconds behind Shiffrin.
In the Nov. 28 race, also in the slalom discipline, Mielzynski cracked the top 10 with a 10th-place showing of 1:45.47, 5.66 seconds behind the victorious Shiffrin. Slovakia's Veronika Velez Zuzulova placed second and Hansdotter was third. Gagnon was just up on Mielzynski, placing eighth, 5.45 seconds off the pace.
Guay cracks top 10
Erik Guay also got off to an encouraging beginning to the year, taking a 10th-place finish in the downhill at Lake Louise, Alta. on Nov. 28.
Guay posted a one-run time of 1:48.13 to place 0.84 seconds behind Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, who edged Italy's Peter Fill by 0.01 seconds. American Travis Ganong placed third.
A plethora of Canadians completed the race, with Benjamin Thomsen placing 21st, Whistler Mountain Ski Club's Manuel Osborne-Paradis taking a 30th, Tyler Werry ending up 36th, Jeffrey Frisch landing in 56th and Whistler's Broderick Thompson finishing 58th.
Guay was also the top Canadian in the following day's super-G, placing 13th, 1.37 seconds behind Svindal, who was once again victorious. Austria's Matthias Mayer and Fill rounded out the podium.
Other Canadian finishers included Osborne-Paradis in 28th, Werry in 38th, Whistler's Morgan Pridy in 45th, Frisch in 51st and Thompson in 56th.
WMSC's Fleckenstein opens season in Jackson Hole
Whistler Mountain Ski Club's Stefanie Fleckenstein held her own against those her age in recent NorAm Cup action in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
In the ladies slalom events on Nov. 24 and 25, Fleckenstein posted results of 14th (1:57.22) and 15th (1:55.69) overall. However, in the U19 age group, those times were good enough for fifth and fourth, respectively, as FIS veterans took up the top of the leaderboard. Marie-Michele Gagnon won the opening race with a time of 1:48.70 and Erin Mielzynski captured the second race with a time of 1:47.25.
In men's giant slalom action at Copper Mountain, Colo. on Nov. 30, Ford Swette and James Crawford posted the top local results, finishing 34th and 37th, respectively. American Tommy Ford took the victory.
Humphries starts season with gold
Calgary's Kaillie Humphries and brakeman Melissa Lotholz wouldn't alter anything at the World Cup opener in Altenberg, Germany on Nov. 27.
The Canadian bobsleigh duo captured gold in record fashion at the event, with Humphries nicking her track record by 0.002 seconds to knock off the Belgian duo of Elfje Willemsen and Sophie Vercruyssen by 0.74 seconds. Americans Jamie Greuble Poser and Lauren Gibbs were third.
The win was Humphries' 14th, as well as her 30th podium finish, while it was the first triumph for Barrhead, Alta.'s Lotholz, who hit the podium three times last season.
In a release, Humphries said she embraces everything Altenberg throws at drivers, noting it just seems to jive with her style.
"I like this track. It scares most people slightly. It doesn't matter if you are the best in the world, it will eat you alive. This track keeps people honest, but at the end of the day it matches my driving style," Humphries explained. "I enjoy the difficulty of it and overall it allows me to drive and I can feel the pressures well. Some tracks just fit with a driver's style and this is one that does for me."
In the skeleton competition that was held the same day, North Vancouver's Jane Channell notched a seventh-place showing while Calgary's Elisabeth Vathje placed 15th. Great Britain's Laura Deas captured the victory.
Harvey skis to silver in Finland
A little early-season success is always nice, especially when one is unaccustomed to it.
Canadian cross-country skier Alex Harvey picked up a silver medal at the second World Cup event of the season in Kuusamo, Finland on Nov. 28. Harvey, who has been hampered by a compressed artery that restricted blood flow to his legs but underwent surgery to correct the issue, finished the 10-kilometre skate-ski race in 21 minutes, 16.7 seconds (21:16.70) and was about 11 seconds behind winner Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway. Switzerland's Dario Cologna was a second back of Harvey to finish third.
"It feels great. This is my first World Cup podium before Christmas so it is a big step for me," Harvey said in a release. "Kuusamo has been a hard place for me to race with the steep uphills and now it is better for me in skate-skiing thanks to the surgery."
Gough scores a bronze in Austria
Alex Gough shot down the Igls, Austria track to capture bronze at the first World Cup race of the season on Nov. 28.
The 28-year-old veteran notched a two-run time of one minute, 20.017 seconds (1:20.017) to snag the third-place finish behind German winner Dajana Eitberger's time of 1:19.795. Fellow German Natalie Geisenberger placed second.
Gough put together a particularly good second run after being slowed by newly fallen snow in her first attempt, sitting fifth going into the final shot.
"It was a good start to the year. I wanted better starts. I felt I was a little stronger than what I showed but I am sliding really well and it felt good," Gough said in a release. "Getting off to a strong start to the season is a good confidence booster for the rest of the season."
The result was the Calgary-based racer's 21st of her career.
Kim McRae placed 11th and Mount Currie's Jenna Spencer was 20th.
The Canadian doubles tandem of Tristan Walker and Justin Snith placed sixth behind German champions Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken.
In the men's singles the next day, Calgary's Mitch Malyk posted the top Canadian result by placing 16th. John Fennell, meanwhile, was 29th. Italy's Dominik Fischnaller slid to the win.
Malyk, along with Gough, Walker and Snith posted a fifth-place finish in the team relay event. The German squad eked out the win.
Grizzlies knocked off in final
Though they entered the BC Varsity League final on a high, the Pemberton Grizzlies were unable to maintain the momentum.
In a season where they faced the Richmond Raiders in six consecutive regular-season contests, posting a 4-2 record, the Grizzlies got to know their championship game opponents well.
After five very tight contests, Pemberton was riding a wave after trouncing the Raiders 53-6 in their final matchup before the Nov. 21 title game in Kamloops. The Grizzlies dropped a 19-14 decision, with quarterback Kex Nelson finding John Spencer twice for the Pemberton points. Trailing 19-7 at the half, the Pemberton defence stifled the Raiders in the third and fourth quarters and allowed the offence a chance to claw back into the contest.
Nelson and lineman Jeremey Lacsamana are the lone two players whose eligibility has expired and both reflected on the effect playing on the team has had on them.
"It's really changed my life a lot. I used to be not athletic and really out of shape. Football really gave me motivation," said Lacsamana, who is currently studying criminal justice at Douglas College.
The duo have both been around for major moments in club history like the first home win as well as season-opening trips down south to give the small-town players a sense of what it's like to play in "the Mecca" of football, according to head coach John Burleson. This year, the Grizzlies went to Bandon, Ore. to face the hometown Tigers.
Both Nelson and Lacsamana are looking to further their football careers in the junior ranks.
Nelson also plans to go on to college with an eye on engineering.