Powder queens make the perfect 8’s
ASPEN – The National Powder 8 Championships can be deceiving. Competitors don’t always get the knee-deep powder and judges don’t look for just the perfect turns.But the top teams know what to expect, at least the second time around.Beaver Creek’s Delfina Darquier and Birgit Kafka won this year’s women’s division title at the powder 8’s in Aspen earlier this month.”Last year we went as rookies and didn’t know what to expect,” said Darquier, who is from Argentina. “We didn’t realize exactly what the judges wanted to see. With the experience we took from that and (the world championships), we had a better idea what we wanted to train.”In their first year competing, the duo placed third at nationals, then went to worlds and took fifth, getting knocked out by the eventual winners, Shelly Giles and Nina Oqvist, also of Beaver Creek.This year, Darquier and Kafka finished the first day of competition as the top-seeded team, thanks to some diverse training.”We knew after last year that on the first day, where you have the qualification round and get seeded for the next day, that you don’t get first tracks all the time,” said Kafka, who is from Austria. “There were many teams going in front of you. It was a bump run by the time you were there. We knew it was going to be a bump run, and we practiced on them. That helped us for this year.”
Starting in January, the duo trained most mornings before heading out to teach. From 8 to 8:30 a.m., they would get runs in on Gold Dust, then hit some other runs until 9 a.m.”We’d train together on days off on rougher terrain,” Darquier said. “We’d go on Golden Eagle for the bumps. We trained on tougher terrain than what we’d be competing on.” Early on in training, they decided to keep their positioning from last year, where Darquier would be in back and Kafka would be in front.
“The person in front has a specific job to do and the person in back has a specific job to do,” Darquier said.During competition, the pairs are scored in three categories: Synchronization, dynamic skiing and line of descent.On some mornings, Darquier and Kafka would race against other instructors who were also training for the national championships.Beaver Creek had plenty of top finishers in Aspen, including four total top-three spots. Adam Hosie and Paul Lorenz were second in the open division, followed by Willy Glanznig and Dieter Frank in third. Giles and Tamara Sentence-Donalson were third for the women, while Mark MacDonald and Jeremy Geyle were fourth in the masters’.
After their first two runs on the qualifying day, which was one on groomed terrain, Darquier and Kafka were sitting in second place. Then, they went head-to-head with the fifth-seeded team on a run in Highlands Bowl, picking up a win and the top seed. The following day, the pair took on the No. 4 team on the back of Ajax Mountain. “We knew the conditions were similar to the conditions we had skied at the world championships (last year),” Kafka said.The pair skied to a win in the semifinals and again in the finals.”We were so happy,” Darquier said. “With all this training, you’re just kind of hoping it’ll pay off, but you never know. Anytime, any day, anyone could be better than you.”With their victory, the pair gets their $6,000 entry fee covered for the Powder 8 World Championships, which are in Blue River, British Columbia. This year’s worlds, however, were canceled due to a lack of national competitions around the globe that came from poor snow conditions. Still, Darquier and Kafka’s entry fee for the helicopter skiing worlds will be covered for the following year.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.