Vail duo wins Powder 8 event |

Vail duo wins Powder 8 event

Ryan Slabaugh

Take Vail ski instructors Josh Lautenberg and Nina Oqvist for example. Lautenberg organized last year’s Powder 8 competition on Vail Mountain – which isn’t happening this season – and recently won the New England Powder 8 Championships held in Vermont, with his teammate, Oqvist, who was the only female in the men’s open division.

In the finals, the Vail duo knocked off an Aspen team that came into the competition as the favorite and defending national champion. One point separated the two teams.

“We felt pretty well. Actually, we felt good,” said Lautenberg, a champion of a sport that’s declining, losing sponsorship money and events off the schedule. “Nina’s so good in the back. She can multi-task. She can be thinking about the connection to the figure 8, then think about her shoulder and her head placement.”

In those type of competitions, judges look at speed, but most are concerned with style and the shape of the turns. Lautenberg and Oqvist competed on different teams until last year, when they went to the World Championships in British Columbia and took fourth. Oqvist won the World Championships in 2000 and 2001 with partner Catherine Fortier. Before every run, Oqvist tells her partner just to “freeski,” and she will do the rest.

When Lautenberg leads, he can never see his partner. Trust plays into every team.

“When I say, “just freeski it,’ it kind of relaxes you,” said Oqvist, who was born in Sweden and moved to Vail in 1999. “It allows you to ski the way you would if you were by yourself. I’ve always been in the back in these competitions. It’s where I feel the most comfortable.”

Lautenberg gives a different reason that Oqvist’s the trailer.

“She’s better than most guys,” he said.

Another Vail team, composed of B.J. Aguilar and Jon Morath, competed in New England and finished fourth. It was their first competition together, and the success they had has them looking towards nationals with new goals in mind.

“We were ecstatic,” Aguilar said. “We didn’t expect to do that well. We thought this season would be a learning experience and, all of a sudden, we were competing right with the top teams.”

By winning the event, Oqvist and Lautenberg collected $400 and free lodging for the national championships in Big Sky, Mont., March 28-29. It helps, he said, but without sponsors like Vail Resorts, Descente, Atomic and Spy, they’d still be stuck on Ghengis Khan training, and training, and training some more.

A win at nationals will earn the duo a seven-day package at the World Championships, which include free helicopter rides for the finals held April 12.

“The biggest thing about Worlds is there’s a bunch of teams,” Lautenberg said. “But we are the Vail team. If we go to nationals and win that, then we need to go to the worlds and win that. That’s been our assignment from Vail Resorts since they started their sponsorship.”

Ryan Slabaugh is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at

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