MAMMOTH MTN., Calif. — On the first day of competition at the $20,000 X-NIX U.S. Snowboard Championships at Mammoth Mountain, CA, Manuel Mendoza (Whitefish, MT) and Sondra Van Ert (Ketchum, ID) won the men and women’s slalom titles. Van Ert is the reigning women’s U.S. slalom champion from the 1995 U.S. Championships, while Mendoza’s victory on Wednesday is his first U.S. title.

“This is a great victory,” said Mendoza, who won his first World Cup slalom event in Zauchensee, Austria this season. “I’ve definitely wanted to win this for a long time. It was one of my goals all season — to take the national slalom title. I wanted it today, and I’m glad I got it!”

Mendoza, who was in second place after the first run, made up some time in

his second run to beat first-run leader Anton Pogue (Hood River, OR). Pogue finished the competition in second place, while Steve Persons (Whitefish, MT) finished third.

“The second course was definitely straighter than the first one,” said Mendoza. “I made a couple of little mistakes, but I was able to keep my board straight through the tricky sections, and when I got to the flats — where I’m usually pretty good — I just worked it as hard as I could, reached out and touched the wand at the finish…and I won!”

“It felt good,” said Van Ert of her third U.S. slalom title (she also won the title at the ’93 U.S. Snowboard Championships). “I’m pretty excited. The course second run had a lot of room, and things didn’t come at you too fast, so it was nice — it didn’t have me too frazzled!” Leslee Olson (Bend, OR) finished in second, with Kim Stacey (Stratton Mt., VT) third.

The sunny California weather turned colder on Wednesday, and icy winds brought in storm clouds that are supposed to drop a few inches of snow on the High Sierras Wednesday night.

“The weather wasn’t too much of an issue for racing,” said Van Ert. “I love the sunny days, though! Today I was thinking, ‘Wait! This isn’t like sunny California any more!’ But it could be raining, so…”

Competition at the X-NIX U.S. Snowboard Championships now moves to June Mountain for the remainer of the week, with men and women’s giant slalom on Thursday, women’s halfpipe on Friday and men’s halfpipe on Saturday. Van Ert and Rob Berney (Whitefish, MT) will be looking to defend their giant slalom titles from the ’95 U.S. Championships on Thursday.

Notes…You’ll usually find U.S. Snowboard team rider Rob Kingwill (Jackson, WY) in the halfpipe, but Wednesday he traded his freestyle board for a slalom board and ended up in seventh place. “I got start number 4, so I guess I have to ride,” said Kingwill, who won three World Cup halfpipe contests this season, as well as the bronze medal in halfpipe at the inaugural World Snowboard Championships in Lienz, Austria this past January.

So is Kingwill switching to alpine riding? “I think Powers teammate Ross Powers would kill me,” said Kingwill.

X-NIX U.S. Snowboard Championships

SlalomWed., March 27 — Mammoth Mountain, CaliforniaMen:1. Manuel Mendoza, Whitefish, MT, 1:32.752. Anton Pogue, Hood River, OR, 1:33.863. Steve Persons, Whitefish, MT, 1:34.594. Jeff Greenwood, Granby, CT, 1:35.995. Travis McLain, Snowmass, CO, 1:36.83.

Women:1. Sondra Van Ert, Ketchum, ID, 1:38.422. Leslee Olson, Bend, OR, 1:40.333. Kim Stacey, Stratton Mt., VT, 1:42.124. Erin O’Malley, Mammoth Lakes, CA, 1:46.715. Andrea Dobrzelewski, Plainwell, MI, 1:48.72