Bloody noses and freeheel backflips
Free-heelers were everywhere in Copper’s Catalyst Terrain Park on Saturday.
The 2004 U.S. Telemark National Championships invaded Copper’s park all day, with a slopestyle competition in the morning and a superpipe jam session in the afternoon.
Jack Tolan defended his status as the best slopestyle telemark skier in the country on his very first of three runs, when he linked up the four features in the course beautifully for a score of 8.65.
Tolan, who is part of the vast entourage brought to the event by the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) in Carbondale, won the event last year, as well.
Teammate, Andrew Still-Baxter, finished second with a come-from-behind third run score of 8.08.
Cody Smith almost made it a CRMS sweep of the podium, but came up just short of Seth Steffen’s first run score of 8.00. Steffen, who hails from Big Sky, Mont., earned the bronze medal with his run while Smith had to settle for fourth with a score of 7.50.
“These kids are just killing it,” said Copper Mountain Freeride Team member Ben Dolenc. “It’s so good to see.” Dolenc finished 16th in the competition.
Breckenridge real estate agent Eron Turnipseed had the best local finish by slipping into sixth place, with local telemarker Brian Moon not far behind in ninth.
“I got the competition jitters out,” Moon said. “I just had a blast, and that’s what it’s all about.”
One of the most dramatic moments of the day came when Todd Greenwood attempted a double front flip off of the last hit. As he entered the second revolution, he accidentally went off axis and landed sideways, ripping a ski off and slamming his face into the front of his full-face helmet.
Skiing down to the base of the course on one ski where spectators were gathered, Greenwood greeted everyone with a viciously bleeding nose.
“I wanted that trick so bad,” he said as he tracked down his loose ski. Greenwood finished 11th on the day.
All of the CRMS students are actually junior competitors, but many of them chose to ski in the open class as it gave them the opportunity to qualify for a big air competition held Saturday night at Copper.
The top 10 competitors from the slopestyle event advanced to the big air competition.
After the slopestyle competition, a handful of the competitors stopped by Copper’s superpipe and showed that telemarkers can handle the entire park.
For roughly an hour, about a dozen of the day’s skiers took turns riding the pipe as a handful of Tough Guy Productions videographers documented their efforts.
The entire day was a showcase of freeheel talent, and the affect was not lost on the spectators.
“It’s been energizing and exciting to see these guys out there doing the things they’re doing,” said Scott Vinas, a Dillon resident who just recently took up telemark skiing.
“You’ve got a culture here and it’s an untapped market both for the resorts and for the people developing the sport,” Vinas said. “It’s good to see that people are embracing it.”
The big air competition on Saturday night marked the end of the competition, but watch for the U.S. Telemark Freeskiing Championships, a big mountain contest being held at Crested Butte March 25-26.
For more information on that event, visit the Tough Guy Productions Web site at http://www.totaltelemark.com.
Richard Chittick can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.