CARRABASSET VALLEY — They swept down the tight confines of Sugarloaf’s Narrow Gauge, two of the best skiers in the world, showing the form that gives them the right to make such a boast.

Few of the 121 racers that tried their hand at the men’s and women’s super-G at the U.S. Alpine Championships, carried with them to the starting gates resumes matching those of Travis Ganong and Laurenne Ross. World Cup skiers both, they carved their way down the tricky trail to third- and first-place finishes, respectively, their smiles not fading as they slid off the piste.

The rest of the year can be about stress and pressure. Saturday was about having a little fun.

“It’s kind of like a little cooldown race for the year for us,” Ganong, 28, said. “It’s fun to come and see all the younger kids and just have one more race in the U.S., which is pretty rare for us.”

While many of the skiers who made the trip to Carrabassett Valley dream of reaching the big time, Ross and Ganong are already there. They’re two of the best skiers in the world at the super-G — one of Alpine’s two fastest events, along with the downhill — with Ganong sitting in 14th in the men’s World Cup standings as the top American and Ross taking 17th, second only among U.S. women to superstar Lindsey Vonn. Most of Saturday’s skiers have a goal of making the Olympics; Ross and Ganong can tell you what Sochi was like a few Februarys ago.

And as super-G and downhill World Cup skiers, they’re both hooked on the idea of going fast — very fast. Car-on-the-freeway fast.

“I feel my flow going fast and I feel like I’m put in a very meditative state,” Ross said. “It’s just kind of where I feel I can be my freest. It’s just kind of where I feel good.”

Ross, 28, doesn’t remember when her epiphany occurred, but she’s pretty sure she knows where. She said she competed in her first super-G at Big Sky in Montana, and knew right away she had found her calling.

“I do remember my first super-G race and just absolutely loving it,” she said. “From that second, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do.”

She debuted in the World Cup in 2010 and has seen her performance climb since an 80th-place showing in 2014, climbing from 11th to 10th to ninth in the downhill, and 18th to eighth to 17th in the super-G. She’s made the podium once in each event, and racked up 23 top-10s in World Cup events.

“Knowing that I can be one of the fastest in the world was definitely a huge boost to my confidence,” she said. “I’ve been working toward this my whole life. To be able to compete with the best, it’s a dream come true.”

For Ganong, the decision to commit to the sport’s two most dangerous disciplines was a result first of natural talent. Ganong didn’t have to work hard to find speed, so why not pick the formats that most fully embrace it?

“But I was always good at the speed events without training much and without putting much effort into it,” he said. “Once I got to the higher levels of my career, I just decided that’s where I wanted to go.”

There was still the matter of getting over the initial terror of plunging full speed down an icy slope. That’s where his home peak, California’s Squaw Valley, factored in.

“(I was) constantly challenged every day, not just skiing groomed runs but going off piste and scaring myself,” he said. “That really prepared me for downhill and super-G on the world stage.”

As was the case with Ross, results soon followed for Ganong in the World Cup after a rough start. He’s placed in the top 12 in the downhill since 2014, peaking at ninth in ’14, and he’s on track for his highest super-G finish yet at 14th.

“There’s been a rise in confidence,” he said. “That’s been the biggest change from 2011 until now. I’m a lot stronger, both mentally and physically.”

Both roads wound to Sochi for 2014, where their fortunes split. Ganong made himself a skier to watch, placing fifth in the downhill, while Ross crashed during her super-G run before finishing 11th in the downhill.

Both agreed, however: Finding themselves on the same slope as the biggest names in sport was an experience surpassing the results.

“It was just such an awesome thing to be part of the Olympics,” Ross said. “I didn’t feel the pressure of performing and winning, but I wanted to. I still wanted to, and I actually believed that I could.”

Both are ready for another chance. Ross and Ganong share a goal of making it to Pyeongchang, South Korea for next February’s Olympics, and continuing their marches up the Cup standings, perhaps even — who knows? — to championships.

“The Olympics are always looming off in the distance, but for us, it’s all about the World Cup tour,” Ganong said. “We have a ton of racing coming up, a lot of big events, and having success in the World Cup is first and foremost.”

Ross wants to feel the same feeling she had Saturday at Sugarloaf, this time on tracks far away from it.

“I would like to be the fastest skier on a given day, any day, in a World Cup, in a FIS race,” Ross said. “It just feels like such an accomplishment to know that you skied the fastest down the mountain, and it doesn’t matter where the gates are set or what the course is like. Just the knowledge of being the fastest one, you know, it’s kind a cool thing.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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