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New faces top the Town Downhill podium

One local, one newcomer take crowns at annual Town Downhill.

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Town Downhill

Jackson Hole, WY News

Perched atop the podium, Kristin Leggett tried to make her Town Downhill pro division crown sit on her head for a photo op, but it just didn’t fit. Instead, it slid over her eyes and rested more like a gaudy necklace than head wear.

“Yeah, I’m going to have to hold my crown,” she said. “I’ve got to get a different hat, and then maybe I can wear it.”

Leggett cruised to the women’s pro division victory at the 37th Town Downhill competition Sunday, finishing in a cumulative 2 minutes, 2.06 seconds, more than four seconds ahead of Kara Munsey in second place.

It was Leggett’s first trip to the top of Snow King, and last week was her first in Jackson Hole.

A former professional skier from Vermont, Leggett hopped in an RV and headed west from New England for a backcountry ski trip with no real destination in mind. She rolled into town to visit friends, saw the race was happening and decided to enter.

Then, on the day of the race, nerves caught up to her.

“Oh, my gosh, I haven’t eaten anything all day I’ve been so nervous,” she said moments after stepping off the podium. “This is like the most nerve-racking race I’ve ever entered. It was scary, ask anyone. It’s super scary.”

Town Downhill

Men’s pro division champion Owen Doyle sails off the pro bump Sunday during his final run of the 37th annual Town Downhill at Snow King Mountain. Doyle finished more than two seconds ahead of second-place finisher Gordo Chapdelaine.

The men’s winner is no stranger to Snow King, but Sunday’s race was the first for Owen Doyle since competing in the event in sixth grade. Now 18 years old and a student at Montana State University in Bozeman, Doyle returned home to strap on skis and take on the pro field.

He also cruised to a victory, taking the men’s crown in 1:49.37, ahead of second-place Gordo Chapdelaine by just over two seconds.

And not only was it his first Town Downhill in seven years, it was his first race of the year. In the past, he said, he has been busy with USSA and FIS races during Town Downhill weekend. Now, tackling races as he chooses for fun, he walked away with the stash of prize gear and a $1,000 check the winners of each pro division received.

“The weather was fine, and the snow was good,” he said. “I was feeling pretty ready for it I feel like.”

Doyle, quite like Leggett, has largely moved away from racing and committed more time backcountry skiing this winter. But unlike the women’s champ, Doyle felt no nerves on top of the mountain. Even though he hasn’t been competing, downhill skiing for him might as well be like riding a bike.

Town Downhill

Men’s 50+ division winners Adam McCool, in first place, second-place finisher Andy Parazette and third-place finisher Maho Hakoshima celebrate atop the podium following Sunday’s Town Downhill at Snow King Mountain. McCool has competed in each of the 37 Town Downhill races.

“I was just thinking about skiing,” he said. “That’s my favorite way to do it, think about skiing it, and don’t really think about anything else. There’s nothing else that really matters truly, you’re just skiing it.”

Gold, silver and bronze coffee mugs along with leather coasters and a grab-bag of other prize gear went to the top three finishers across all categories, which were well represented by Town Downhill regulars like Benny Wilson in his black top hat and big buckle.

Another name atop the podium was Adam McCool, who not only can boast a quick descent down the Mini-Hahnenkamm course, but also his title of being the only person to compete in all 37 runnings of the Town Downhill.

Competitors have come and gone, but a note of concern for McCool has been the decline in turnout over the years. He said last year’s event — moved to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort because of low snow at Snow King — saw an uptick in turnout, but this year’s race again fit into the recent mold of steady decline.

“A lot of people were a little more at ease riding the downhill at the Village than here at Snow King just because Snow King is a bit more challenging,” he said. “In reality, it’s a perfect place for this event, it’s a great place to have it.”

That’s a note the 2019 champions, who said they’d like to defend their titles in a year, agreed with.

“I love this event, of course,” Doyle said. “This is the iconic course. The Village is kind of a boring course, and it’s not right in the base of town with everyone. This is by far the better venue.”

“Snow King is awesome,” Leggett said. “People here are rad; the event was horrifying, but I’m really glad I entered it. It was fun.”

McCool said the idea of alternating years between the Village and Snow King has been kicked around. No matter the future of the event though, there’s hope it can return to its heyday, when McCool remembers 100 to 150 people signing up for their turn in the Town Downhill.

“I’ve just got to get these younger kids back into it and keep them racing,” he said, noting Doyle’s victory could help bring younger talent out in years to come. “There’s just a little bit of disconnect going on that we need to see how we can fix it. Because it’s a great event, it really is.”

With the Town Downhill out of the way, only the Pole Pedal Paddle slated for March 23 remains in the Triple Crown Series.

Contact Chance Q. Cook at 732-7065, sports@jhnewsandguide.com.

Sports Editor Chance Cook has lived in rural Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Butte, Montana. He is no stranger to spending time in the woods chasing animals. If you see him out, challenge him to a game of pool. Send tips and questions.

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