Eliassen defends her title at Golden Peak
VAIL – Local skier Claudia Bouvier was likely the smallest girl on the slopestyle course in Friday’s U.S. Freeskiing Open finals. But it didn’t take a lot of size for the former gymnast to pull two and a half spins and land it off the last jump.Bouvier took fourth in the contest – an improvement from last year’s eighth. Defending champion Grete Eliassen, a partial Norwegian who resides in Park City, Utah, put another victory onto her tally board with a 74-point run. Freeskiing veteran Sarah Burke of Toronto, Ontario, was right at her heels in second with 73.6 points and Squaw Valley, Calif.’s Michelle Parker was even closer with 73.4 points for third.Bouvier finished with 69.2 points but certainly did herself justice by making her mark on the contenders’ map.A local’s mark
“I’ve only done two of those all year,” said Bouvier of the 900 she ended her second run with. The trick was proceeded with a 360 onto the picnic table at the top of the course, a slide down the flat rail, followed by a jump sequence with a 360 and safety grab off the first hit, a 720 and the 9 to rap it up.”I wasn’t dizzy. I knew where I was,” she said, adding that intensive training she’s put herself through for the last few months has paid off.”I’m a workout freak,” she said. “I work out every day. I’ve been going to the diving boards a lot, too. On the diving boards I work on D-9s (a semi-inverted spin two-and-a-half-times) and stuff, but I can’t do one (on snow) yet. I have great coaches now. I’m pretty psyched (about the 9). I’m psyched to get one down like that and show people that … I’m around too.”Rather than instilling her with confidence, Eliassen, who also took gold in last year’s X Games superpipe contest, felt added pressure going into Friday’s contest as the girl to beat.”I was really nervous at the start,” said Eliassen, who sat in the snow and tore her boots off after her run to alleviate pain she was having throughout the day in her shins. “I’m really tense in my body. It wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be, but it was still really good.”
In her second run, Eliassen did a 270 on and onto the box at the top, went blind-side down the rail, pulled a cork 540 with mute (left ski) grab, then a 720 and didn’t quite pull off a 9 at the bottom.”I guess I didn’t have enough rotation,” she said. “But I had a lot of fun today.”Having what it takesBurke, an X Games and U.S. Open 2005 superpipe gold and slopestyle silver medalist, said that fluidity with tricks is more important than number of spins.
“When it comes down to one thing, it’s how smooth you are,” she said, after her second run which included a 540 off the second run that captured so much air she hit the snow under the line markers on the landing.”I feel amazing just because I was having the worse day ever skiing. i hadn’t done a 5, anything over a 5 this year.”Parker impressed the judges with a switch 0 spin off the last jump. In other words, she charged into it backwards and soared 80 feet or so into the landing backwards without a single twitch.”You’re looking over your shoulder the whole time,” she said. “That’s the first time I’ve thrown it in contest. And probably the biggest jump I’ve thrown it over.”As pointed out by 15-year-old Whitney Wickes of Aspen, who finished seventh Friday, the key component of a successful slopestyle run is a dose of nerve.
“You have to be brave,” she said. “It takes hitting the (big) jumps and having trained a lot and being comfortable with it. You also need people cheering you on.”Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado