Heavenly freeride team wraps up stellar season
The Heavenly Ski and Snowboard Foundation Freeride team wrapped up a successful USASA regional competition season with the final skier cross event and three consecutive halfpipe events.
The final skier cross was held at Sierra-at-Tahoe Mountain Resort Feb. 23. The course was technical with icy corners in the middle of the course and variable weather. Sam Ward’s strong starts, however, earned him the hole-shot in all his heats, and his first gold of the season in the skier boys 10 to 12-year-old division. In the skier boys 9 and under division, Ethan Kulchin battled through close starts and a competitive field to earn another top spot on the podium. Clayton Long and Cole Lyon faced one of the larger skier groups of the day in the skier men 13 to 15-year-old division. Long battled through a tough spill in his first heat to earn a sixth-place finish for the day. Meanwhile, Lyon traded in the twin-tips for some race skis and was rewarded with a silver medal.
Halfpipe events followed on Feb. 24 in Heavenly’s new superpipe. The sunny conditions allowed the riders to relax and have some fun. Lyon and Long both made the last minute decision to compete in the events and it paid off. Long earned a bronze medal in the first event and silver in the second. Lyon earned gold in both events with his amplitude and clean style. Kulchin used an alley-oop, air to fakie, and clean grabs to claim gold in both events in skier boys 9 and under. Ward faced the largest skier group in the 10 to 12 division. Smooth consistent riding and 360’s earned Ward fourth place in both events, just a month after his first time riding a half pipe.
The final USASA South Shore Series event for the skiers was halfpipe March 3 at Sierra-at-Tahoe. With fresh snow falling through out the day, the hardest of which during the competition, riders face unfamiliar conditions. The park crew, USASA staff and volunteers, coaches and parents pulled together to keep the halfpipe smooth and as clear of snow as possible. Ward grabbed fourth place in the skier boys 10 to 12 division. Kulchin was first again wrapping up a first-place sweep in all USASA events for the season in skier boys 9 and under. Long picked up silver in skier men 13 to 15 and Lyon threw down a new run for first-place that included a flare safety grab, left 540 and left 720.
Their season performance earned Ward, Lyon, Long and Kulchin invited to the USASA National Championships in Copper Mountain, Colo., on March 30 through April 9.
Ward (skier boys 10-12) will compete in all four events, which include: Skier Cross, Halfpipe, Slopestyle and Rail Jam. Lyon (skier men 13-15) and Kulchin (skier boys 9 and under) will also compete in all four events while Long (skier men 13-15) will compete in Halfpipe, Slopestyle and Skeir Cross. All the athletes have been training extremely hard to prepare for the event on their home turf in the High Roller Terrain Parks of Heavenly, as well as trips to Northstar and Kirkwood.
Coaches Jeremy Witters and Colby Albino have been there with them and will be traveling to Nationals with their skiers. (For more on the National competition see page 18.)
A big thanks goes out from coach Witters to all of the athletes on the freeride team for their hard work and season long focus. A big thanks to the moms and dads for all the work it takes to make everything happen. Thanks to everyone involved in The Heavenly Ski and Snowboard Foundation a lot of people put in a lot of hard work for all the athletes and it’s appreciated. Thanks to the guys at Heavenly Terrain parks for keeping things fun and safe for training all season, day crew and night crew. Rob and Carol Anne Giustina great job as series directors and big thanks for everything you guys do for the community. Thank you to Sierra-at-Tahoe Park Crew and Race department for all the help at the Sierra events and anyone and everyone I may have missed, thank you.