TAKE THE LEAD
With over 14 inches of snow falling at Alyeska Resort in the last 24 hours, competitors had to manage soft conditions and variable visibility in their one charge at “The Knuckles” a 1,000 foot vertical run off Alyeska’s North Face. Approximately 55 Freeskiing World Tour (FWT) competitors were invited to the Subaru Freeskiing World Championships at Alyeska Resort, Alaska, based on points earned throughout the season. Without an abundance of exposed faces, contestants still put on a spectacular show. In the end, Rebecca Selig of Utah and Tim Dutton of Squaw Valley, California, took the lead going into tomorrow’s final rounds.
“Today’s event was a testament to what the sport of Freeskiing is all about,” said Head Judge and International Freeskiers Association (IFSA) President Jim Jack. “After facing all the tough venues of the rest of the tour, it’s great for these skiers to be able to send it in a free spirited way. There is a lot of positive energy in this group. Alaska is a goal for a lot of the skiers, and it’s rewarding for them to end the tour on some of the biggest, coolest mountains in North America.”
The first day of competition in the 2009 Subaru Freeskiing World Championships at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska, began on a somber note. On Saturday morning the competitors, along with Mountain Sports International (MSI) and IFSA staff, rode the tram to the top of the mountain and gathered together to share their memories of their fallen friend, John Nicoletta, who died one year ago in the finals of the 2008 Freeskiing World Championships at Alyeska.
“I still hear John when I stand still and listen to the wind,” wrote Andy Sabatier, a close friend and fellow competitor of John’s who was not able to attend the Alaska event, “Let us take today as a reminder to look around at our own lives, and celebrate that which we have and toast that which we have lost.” After other friends shared fond memories of John, the group clicked in and skied the run together in his honor.
A field of 10 women took control of the venue first, and they did not disappoint. Rebecca Selig attacked the expansive terrain and skied an aggressive line to take the top spot after the completion of Day 1. Sitting in second is Karine Falck-Pederson from Norway, who chose a different line than the four women to start before her, taking air over a bush band at the top and charging the heavy powder all the way to the Subaru finish arch at the bottom. “I’m here to have fun,” she said, “and I have more fun when I’m skiing fluid turns than hucking off a rock or cliff band.” In third is Jacqui Edgerly from Aspen, Colorado. She was the first woman to hit the snow today, working every feature of the long, steep terrain in the flat light, enjoying the powder turns on the way down.
A total of 29 men comprised the invitation-only field of today’s Day 1 run. Tim Dutton is getting comfortable with first place after winning the North American Championships at Kirkwood in March. Today he worked every feature he could to send the strongest line of the day. “The snow and venue are awesome,” he said, “I’m happy to be in Alaska and am excited about tomorrow.” Lars Chickering-Ayers from Mad River Glen, Vermont, followed Dutton in second place, starting first for the men and skiing a fast line with fun airs. Luke Nelson from Fernie, British Columbia, took third place. Garrett Altmann, an Alaskan local and University of Alaska Fairbanks student was nominated for the coveted Backcountry.com Sickbird Award for his cross step front flip on the lower Ragdoll rocks.
Tour leader Julian Lopez was not excited about the venue prior to his run, preferring cliffs, drops and airs to the sprawling real estate and deep powder on the North Face, but on his way up the tram he spotted the kicker he needed to pull off a crowd pleasing back flip. “I wasn’t inspired before my run, but I knew I had to get the job done,” he said, “I took a break at the top and a moment to breath, speaking with John and Neil Valiton in my head. Now I am happy and I hope they are too.”
No competitors from today’s field will be cut, so look for tour leaders Lopez and Cliff Bennett, and Crystal Wright for the women, to do what they do best.
Last year’s World Freeskiing Champion Crystal-Rose Lee will go into the finals feeling confident and ready to show what she can do on this mountain. “My goal is to ski smart, but to progress and celebrate the sport at the same time. A clean run today made me feel good about tomorrow.” Tomorrow’s venue, weather permitting, will be on the Headwall starting at 11:00am AKST.
Mountain Sports International will present a live webcast of the Subaru Freeskiing World Championships from Alyeska, on www.freeskiingworldtour.com, www.newschoolers.com, www.backcountry.com, www.powder.com, www.espn.com, www.doglotion.com and www.theskichannel.com. Live coverage of the best freeskiing in the world can be viewed from the comfort of your desk chair. MSI’s content creation team will be producing and posting same-day, world-class photography on its newly redesigned website, www.freeskiingworldtour.com and media partners www.powder.com and www.skipressworld.com