WINTER PARK, Colo. - Tommy Ford and Julia Mancuso have soft spots for soft snow.
Years of skiing on mountains with similar springtime conditions has prepared the American skiers, helped them discover the ways to maintain their speed through the slushiest of surfaces.
Ford and Mancuso certainly mastered the mushy snow at U.S. championships Saturday, adding super-G titles to their expanding collections.
They both also won giant slalom crowns at nationals this week, turning this competition into the Tommy & Julia Show.
Going first in the men's competition, Ford flew down the twisty course in 1 minute, 10.10 seconds, a time that held up as Keene native Tommy Biesemeyer finished 0.10 seconds behind. Ryan Cochran-Siegle was third on an afternoon when temperatures soared into the 50s.
Biesemeyer had a solid run, save for a couple of bumps and bobbles, but couldn't quite catch Ford.
"Getting second to Tommy Ford is pretty respectable," said the 22-year-old Tommy Biesemeyer, who recently won the NorAm overall title. "Coming back from an ACL injury last year, I was coming into the year nervous because I didn't know what to expect - I didn't know if I'd be fast, slow or if I'd be where I left off. Today, was the season coming to an end and I really wanted it today. I really wanted to win but second behind Tommy is still pretty good. I'll take it."
Ford, of Bend, Ore., has won the last five U.S. events he's entered. He took the giant slalom title Thursday, along with the GS, slalom and combined at nationals last spring.
All those wins have come in snow conditions just like this - very soft and slushy.
He hardly minds, given his background at Mt. Bachelor.
"It's got a lot of soft snow, a lot of good snow, but a lot of soft snow," Ford said of his home mountain. "It's easy to slide around and make it down. But you've got to keep the speed up. ... You develop a touch with that."
Mancuso honed her ability to carve swiftly through soft snow in Squaw Valley, Calif. In fact, she spent a few days freeskiing there just before nationals.
That's paying off now.
Mancuso glided through the course in 1:13.34, edging Leanne Smith by 0.20 seconds. Mancuso also won the giant slalom Friday, using a fast second run to eclipse Sarah Schleper.
"It's really nice to win races. It's not something that happens very often for me, especially because I'm racing World Cup all the time," said Mancuso, who has five World Cup wins, including the final downhill of the season last month. "It's fun to go to nationals and win."
That's something she's done quite often. Mancuso has extended her record to 13 national titles and has a chance to earn another in a slalom race Sunday. She moved ahead of Andrea Mead Lawrence last spring for most national titles by an American, a mark that had stood for 55 years.
This was Mancuso's first super-G national title in four years. She also won in 2003, beating, among others, Lindsey Vonn, known then as Lindsey Kildow. Vonn skipped these nationals to rest after a long World Cup season.
Stacey Cook finished third on a course that featured quite a few tight turns, causing many skiers to fail to finish.
Cook also took third in the giant slalom.
"It's my week of thirds, I guess," Cook said, laughing. "I'm happy to be on the podium. Julia is on fire right now, and Leanne has also had some incredible super-G results this year. I'm psyched to be close to them."
It's quite a day for the Cochran clan with the 19-year-old Cochran-Siegle finishing third and his uncle, Bobby Cochran, being inducted into the ski Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
"It's kind of funny how that worked out," said Cochran-Siegle, whose mother, Barbara Ann Cochran, won a gold medal in the slalom at the 1972 Olympics.
Mancuso is ending her season after nationals. She will head to Squaw Valley for a little more freeskiing, then swap her skis for a surfboard and waves in Hawaii.
She figures that will be good therapy for her chronically sore right hip, something that's given her grief since a crash in 2003.
"As long as I'm just dealing with my hip, and feel strong, and it's not going into my back again, that's good," said Mancuso, who won gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics and two silvers during the 2010 Vancouver Games. "My back feels awesome now."
Days like this make it hard for Mancuso to leave the hill. The sun-splashed course made for some mushy conditions. But that hardly mattered.
"Nice to race in this weather," Mancuso said. "It's a beautiful day out here. One of those moments where you're really thankful for your job."