BOW VALLEY – Banff's Liam Wallace is in the hot seat to start the Nor-Am Cup circuit.
The 22-year-old technical specialist got a pleasant surprise seeing his name at first overall in rankings following last week's slalom and giant slalom (GS) season-opening races at Copper Mountain Ski Resort in Colorado, USA.
"It's kind of wild. I've never led or won at Nor-Ams before so it feels good," said Wallace. "I definitely just can't stop smiling once it happened and I want more."
Winning gold and fourth place in slalom and riding to a pair of 12th places in GS between Nov. 20-23, Wallace snatched 194 points on the Nor-Am Cup, which is a feeder circuit to the world cup.
USA's Luke Winters is currently in second with 180 points and Switzerland's Thomas Tumler is third with 150.
"Starting off, I was just excited to get back to everything and be in the start gate of a high level race," Wallace said. "Especially [after] not having the results that I wanted the past few years and not making it on the [National Ski Team]. Starting out this way, I couldn't stop smiling. Finally, it feels good to start off that way and kind of prove to myself and others that I can do it."
After opting out of the 2019-20 national ski team (NST) to attend university in Alaska, Wallace was penalized heavily and lost affiliated with the team. He said he struggled to find his way back onto the NST and had to "clean up" his act, work on his mental game and get in some results during the awkward pandemic season where finding race starts wasn't easy.
This past summer and into the fall, Wallace rededicated himself to the NST and trained overseas with the team.
"What I did this past weekend was something I was always shooting for," said Wallace. "At the end of the day, that's all it is. You need to have good runs and good turns. I'm shooting for things one step at a time and having my sights set on these Nor-Ams up until the new year is good. On January 1, I'll play it by ear and take with confidence what I've built so far and roll with that to whatever comes up."
On the women's side of the Nor-Am Cup, Canmore's Kaite Fynn started the season with a pair of top 30s in slalom.
For the 18-year-old skier, a recent graduate of the acclaimed ski racing school Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, USA, it's her first season where she'll follow the majority of the Nor-Am circuit in order to try and qualify for the 2022 FIS Alpine Junior World Ski Championships in Panorama, British Columbia, in March.
"[Nor-Am races are] definitely more intense, but it also helps because every run you have to charge to be able to even make the flip whereas some of the other FIS races you just have to ski a solid run to make a good finish," said Fynn.
Up next, the Nor-Am Cup is in Lake Louise from Dec. 6-10 before the circuit heads to Panorama between Dec. 12-18.