Ready for launch: Freeskiing Open is back
VAIL – There’s good reason for freeskiing’s increased popularity. Big jumps, rails and halfpipes.So, it only makes sense that this year’s U.S. Freeskiing Open should bring in more competition.
This week, freeskiiers from across the globe, as well as from across I-70 will be vying for a $60,000 purse in the halfpipe, slopestyle and big air events.Today, most of the more than 320 competitors will go airborne on Golden Peak, hoping to qualifying for Friday’s and Saturday’s finals.While 25 men and women prequalified for the semifinals by placing well in events such as the last year’s Freeskiing Open, the Winter X Games and Gravity Games, the rest of the field is made up of whomever qualifies, as it is an open event.”It’s really unique event in that athletes who just came on scene can prove themselves,” said Amanda McNally of Mountain Sports Media.The top-four skiers from each heat will qualify for the slopestyle semifinals on Friday.Then on Saturday, competitors will soar again in the superpipe and big air finals.
“The big air will definitely be the highlight,” said course designer Adam Comey.From top to bottomThe layout of the slopestyle course is similar to last year with a few changes that allow the entire field to get airborne.”We’ve worked to cater to the women’s and girls’ field more this year,” Comey said. “There are separate hits on the tables to make sure they feel perfectly comfortable out there.”After a short uphill start, skiiers will have the chance to hit up a picnic bench rail and then three downhill rails that include two C rails and a flat rail.
Then come the three big hits, the first a 45-foot launch pad, followed by a 50-foot jump and a monstrous 65-foot jump.For spectators, the accommodations will be a bit more level, with a base area amphitheater where they can get a glimpse of the entire course.Come one, come allThe event attracts a wide array of skiiers, and not just in the age demographic.Josh Madsen is amped to launch himself on Golden Peak like all other competitors. The only difference is, he’ll be on the only one doing it on telemark skis.
“It’s important to come to these events and show the kids that you can do the same stuff (on telemark) skis,” Madsen said.While this is Madsen’s first time competing in the Freeskiing Open, it won’t be his first time skiing in Vail – he learned on the same slopes when he was 10 years old.Madsen, who appeared in Warren Miller’s most recent film, is happy to be able to compete in an open-style event.”I think it’s amazing, especially for someone like me, coming from a different aspect. Things like the X Games are not available (to compete in). Also, it’s a good platform for a lot of young skiers to work hard and come out to this and go up against people they see skiing (on television) all year.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado