Big mountain competition hits Lover’s Leap in Blue Sky Basin at Vail
VAIL — Lover’s Leap was roped off to the public on Sunday, not that a lot of recreational skiers would have wanted to take it on.
A difficult face greeted participants in the final regional competition of the regular season for the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association. The association oversees the discipline known as “big mountain” skiing and snowboarding, where competitors are judged on their line choice down a steep, cliff laden face.
On Vail Mountain, which had only recorded 1 inch of new snow in the week leading up to Sunday’s competition, the face the competitors were taking on was hard packed and wind scoured, without much give.
The challenging conditions compounded the home field advantage for local athletes, said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach Justin Holder.
“Visibility was pretty low, so it helps to know the terrain,” Holder said. “So you’re not surprised when you come into features, and our kids tend to know when that mogul field will start after your landing, so they know when to go big and when not to.”
Judges also look at control, fluidity, technique and style.
“After a full season of traveling, I think the kids were stoked to compete at home,” Holder said. “It’s fun to end the season where you’re a little more comfortable.”
About a third of the 30 athletes in the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail big mountain program have qualified for one more competition this season, however.
The North American Championships will take place April 9-13 in Kicking Horse, British Columbia, in Canada.
“We’ll be taking a good group up there this year,” Holder said.
MEYERS GETS A WIN
Of all the athletes to benefit from the home competition on Sunday, none were able to improve their ranking as much as Mckayla Meyers, who competes in the 15- to 18-year-old division.
Mckayla Meyers was ranked 32nd in North America in her division heading into Sunday’s event.
“She’s had top-10 finishes this season, but nothing on the podium,” Holder said on Sunday. “She definitely was the one of all of our athletes who really needed a result today to get a last minute invite to the championships.”
Mckayla Meyers won Sunday’s event in her best performance this season.
“That will give her nearly 300 more points in her overall points standing, which could bump her up to somewhere around 20th place,” Holder said on Sunday. “In that scenario, she would most likely be invited to championships … We won’t know until they send out the next round of invites.”
Mckayla Meyers’ younger sister Jenna Meyers has already qualified for the championships.
“Mckayla has come a really long way in the last two or three years from not really competing at all to now being ranked probably top 25 in North America in her age division,” Holder said.
Molly Reeder from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail won the female 12- to 14-year-old division, with her teammate Lindsey LaBaugh finishing second.
While Reeder wasn’t necessarily a surprise as “she’s been winning everything this season,” LaBaugh’s finish is a great way to end the season.
“She’ll be looking for an invite to championships, as well,” Holder said.
LaBaugh is also a ski cross racer who is expecting to compete at nationals in that sport, as well.
“She may end up on the World Cup circuit next year,” Holder said.
An independent athlete finished third in the female 12-14 followed by two more Ski & Snowboard Club Vail skiers, Jessica Lapidum and Caroline Ungar, to notch four of the top five for the local club in that division.
Another non-surprise was local Sam Heller winning the male 12-14 division.
“He has won basically everything he’s entered this season,” Holder said.
Rowan Featherman, of Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team, finished second in the male 12-14 division, with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes taking the next four spots behind him. Ethan Barber, Erik Jaerbyn, Finn Griffith and Miles Sawyer went 3-6 followed by Remy Guillot in eighth and Turner Ringler in tenth.
In the male 15-18 division, Graham Spessard and Reagan Wallis finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Wallis also competes in ski halfpipe where he finished fourth at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Switzerland in January.
The storm that blew through the Central Rockies began to clear Tuesday afternoon, just in time for a smaller storm to show up Wednesday and Thursday.