Pro and amateur moguls skiers invited to compete on Cookshack
VAIL — Once upon a time, there was a World Pro Mogul Tour that made its way through Vail. Guys like Mike Kloser helped promote it, it took place on the Look Ma course with the bustle of Mid Vail at the finish, and crowds and competitors alike enjoyed the fun and festive event.
Fast forward to today, the sport has taken quite a turn. Pros compete in the Olympics on hand-shaped courses with hand-shaped jumps, where an off-axis 720 is a regular part of competition. Those pros make their way through the North America Cup en route to the World Cup, and every year they get younger. Vail is still a major training ground for moguls skiers, with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete Morgan Schild winning a World Cup last season at age 17 and Edwards native Tess Johnson qualifying for World Cup competition this year at 15.
Those North America Cup and World Cup skiers just finished U.S. Selections and now have a long break until their next competition.
“They don’t have a competition until the Lake Placid World Cup in mid-January, or even later into February for some of the skiers who didn’t make it to that event,” said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Freestyle Program Director John Dowling. “It seemed like an opportunity to bring in a high-level event, put together some prize money and bring in that crowd.”
Meanwhile, Dowling thought there also might be an opportunity to capture some of what was lost when the World Pro Mogul Tour disappeared.
“We thought we’d hold the pro contest on Saturday and then on Sunday have a masters competition where we could galvanize and consolidate the freestyle community, get some of the old dogs out there and put them on a natural course and give them and opportunity to compete, which really hasn’t existed for a while for the masters moguls skier,” he said.
Chris Jensen won the Vail stop of the pro moguls tour in 1988.
“It was a big deal back then,” he said. “It never really was about the money. … We were doing it for the bragging rights.”
$20,000 PRIZE PURSE
The competition is set for Jan. 9. While the pro event will be a bigger-money event, with more than $5,000 going to the winner, the amateur competition will also pay out $1,500 for the male winner and $1,200 to the top woman. Dowling is hoping the $20,000 prize purse for the pros will attract high-caliber talent from North America.
“Some of the Canadian freestyle team has expressed interest in coming down and competing,” Dowling said. “They said that would be enough of a prize purse to make it worth their while.”
Dowling is also hoping that — while it was never about the money, like Jensen said — the masters moguls community will see the event as a way to reunite and bring back a level of competition to their age division.
“In most sports there’s a masters element,” Dowling said. “I think those guys need a tour and a way to get out there and compete.”
Jensen said he hopes the event is a success and becomes an annual occurrence. Now involved in the real estate industry in Utah, he hasn’t returned to Vail in a long time and said this is the type of event that would bring him back.
“It’s been years since I’ve seen a lot of those people I competed with,” he said. “It would be great to see everyone again.”
Dowling said masters-level competitors are 30-plus years of age and anyone is welcome to compete.
“It’s natural course; you don’t have to be schooled in modern moguls with the steep jumps to do it,” he said. “Anybody who feels they could be good at it can get out there and ski it.”
NO INVERTED OR NUDE SKIING
For the record, inverted aerials will not be allowed in the masters competition. This is also in the tradition of the World Pro Mogul Tour and is often how the tour as a whole is remembered, thanks to the late Shane McConkey, who backflipped during one of his runs on Look Ma, got disqualified, then skied the course naked and got himself kicked off the slopes of Vail.
Jensen said if organizers really want to keep the spirit of that event alive, “They had better throw one heck of a party when it’s over.”
A late afternoon apres party and barbecue is scheduled to follow the event on Sunday, Jan. 10.
The Kaiser Permanente Vail Pro Mogul will be held from Jan. 8-10 on the Cookshack course on Vail Mountain. A spectator friendly event, finals will be held in a head-to-head dual moguls format, where those viewing the event will be able to see the entire course. For more information, or to register, visit http://www.skiclubvail.org.