Vail freeskiers take podiums at nationals

Emerson Lawton with coach Dave Zweig at USASA Nationals in Copper Mountain last week. Lawton said the increased payouts at this year's event pushed the competitors a little harder.

Emerson Lawton and Connie Brogden lead the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail freeskiing team to a string of podium finishes in the USASA national championships at Copper Mountain last week.

Lawton, 18, is a Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy class of 2018 graduate who competes in big air and slopestyle events. He won the slopestyle contest at nationals and finished second in the big air event.

Brogden, 17, is from Great Britain and made headlines earlier this year when she won the halfpipe event at the Freeski Junior World Championships in Switzerland. She won the big air event as USASA nationals and finished second in the halfpipe.

Along with a victory from Matt Labaugh in the halfpipe, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes claimed first or second place finishes in five of the six open class events at the USASA national championships.

“That is pretty hard to do,” said Elana Chase, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s freeski program director. “And the one that we didn’t, Connie should have won, but it wasn’t her day.”

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Brogden finished fourth in the women’s slopestyle open competition.


Lawton received a $2,280 payout for his slopestyle victory, which is at the higher end of the payout scale for USASA events. Payouts are based on number of entrants.

“It’s nice that they’re bringing out a little more prize money now to maybe push everyone a little more, but my goal is always just to make finals and then see what happens from there,” Lawton told USASA after the event. “Today it went well.”

Lawton’s run — a switch double cork 900, followed by a right-side double 1080, to a left-side double 1260 through the jump line, followed by a switch 270 on continued 270 off, right 270 on continued 270 off and switch right 270 to pretzel 270 out on the rails — earned him a score of 93.33, the top point total on the day.


Lawton has competed in USASA nationals since he was 12 years old.

“When we were out here for nationals in April of 2012 and we met the coaching staff at Ski Club Vail and learned about the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy,” Bryan Lawton, Emerson’s dad, told the Vail Daily. “We applied and he was accepted as an athlete, my wife moved out here with Emerson in the fall of 2012 and he did eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grade at the academy.”

Emerson’s biggest challenge at nationals this year, aside from landing a 1440-degree spin in the big air event, was the 7 a.m. start time for the slopestyle contest.

“It was a real early start and a little scary and hard out there first thing in the morning,” Emerson said after the event. “And then for finals the conditions were changing and there were speed differences and all that, but I put down a run and ended up on top.”

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