North American Freeskiing Championships return to Kirkwood
The wait is over.
After a one-year hiatus, the North American Freeskiing Championships are back at Kirkwood Mountain Resort.
A scheduling conflict deprived the resort and area extreme skiers of the event last year, but now the contest returns along with its entitlement to the Cirque and its normally off-limits terrain.
Registration is Wednesday, qualifying on Thursday, and the finals Friday and Saturday in the Cirque.
“It’s just the most pristine face around,” said big-mountain skier Josh Daiek of the South Shore. “It has perfect features, steep trannies and perfect runouts. It’s a big-mountain rider’s perfect venue.”
Daiek, however, will have to grind out a year longer to compete in the NAFC. Daiek, 11th in last year’s World Tour and U.S. Freeskiing overall points, suffered a broken right tibia and talus bone a month ago and won’t be able to participate.
“It’s been tough, but it’s something where you have to pay to play. When you strap on the boots, it’s like any other sport,” Daiek said. “I’ve been one-skiing here and there, keeping my one leg strong.”
Daiek said he’s had no close calls the few times he’s been in the Cirque.
“I’ve crashed in there before, but nothing in exposure,” he said. “What’s good about it is that when you hit most of the rock features, there are clean runouts for about 100 yards or so, so you can get your act back together before the next one.”
Freeskiing World Tour men’s leader Cliff Bennett, better known as “Cliffhuck,” of Ward, Colo., takes a 10-point lead to Kirkwood. France’s Julien Lopez is a close second, while Griff Post of Sandy, Utah, is a distant third.
All three might be hard-pressed to win if Craig Garbiel of Gardnerville competes.
“He’s the one to watch for,” said Daiek, who plans to be a spectator. “He’s one of the 25 best skiers on the world tour, and he’s been killing it on that tour. He’s coming back to the U.S., and he’s going to kill it on his home mountain.”
Squaw Valley’s Arne Backstrom and Scott Hanichen are 16th and 17th in the overall standings.
In the women’s standings, Crystal Wright of Jackson Hole, Wyo., leads Phillipa Hunt of Salt Lake City by 70 points. Michele Manning of Salt Lake City is third, one point behind Hunt.
Squaw Valley’s Karine Falck-Pedersen is perched in sixth place.
Competitors are trying to earn enough points to qualify for the Subaru World Freeskiing Championships April 6-12 in Alyeska, Alaska.
Registration for the 12th edition of the Kirkwood event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Red Cliffs Lodge. Competitors who need to prequalify must pay a $125 fee, while prequalifiers will be charged $225.
“Kirkwood is excited to have the NAFC back here again after a year hiatus,” said Kirkwood Mountain Resort marketing manager Chris Eckert. “The Cirque has been a proving ground for the best athletes in our sport, and it should be no different this year.”
Kirkwood will keep spectators fueled. Barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers will be available, as well as water, soda, Gatorade and beer.
For the extreme spectators, a snowcat will make trips to Devil’s Corral at 10 a.m. and noon and Friday and Saturday. Return trips are scheduled for 4 p.m. each day. The cost is $20 for a roundtrip. To make a reservation, phone (209) 258-7360.
North American Freeskiing Championships
Wednesday: Registration, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in Red Cliffs Lodge
Thursday: Day 1, Qualifying on Vista, 9a.m.-4 p.m.
Friday: Day 2, Day 1 Finals in the Cirque, 9a.m.-4 p.m.
Saturday: Day 3, Super Finals in the Cirque, 9a.m.-4 p.m.
Sunday: Weather Day, if needed
Freeskiing World Tour standings
After 3 of 4 events
1 Crystal Wright Jackson Hole 171
2 Phillipa Hunt Crested Butte 101
3 Michelle Manning Alta/Bird 100
4 Emily Teague Telluride 84
5 Leah Evans Red Mountain 71
6 Karine Falck-Pedersen Squaw Valley 62
7 Ariana Stufano Whistler/Blackcomb 60
8 Sonja Lercher Blackcomb 60
9 Alixandra Klein Crested Butte 50
10 Allie Donovan Squaw Valley 42
11 Daniela Anguita Snowbird 42
12 Tanya Christensen Alta 35
13 Hannah Whitney Alta 35
14 Sierra Quitiquit Alta/Bird 35
15 Kristen Schmitt Snowbird 29
16 Rebecca Selig Timber Ridge 27
17 Alaina Huestis Snowbird 25
18 Liz Norton Crested Butte 21
19 Alexis DuPont Sun Valley 21
20 Carrie Jo Chernoff-Hicks Crested Butte 17
21 Ashley Magnuson Vail 14
22 Claudia Bouvier Vail 14
23 Crystal-Rose Lee Whistler/Blackcomb 12
24 Caitlin Ciccone Jackson Hole 10
1 Cliff Bennett Snowbird 160
2 Julien Lopez La Plagne 150
3 Caleb Mullen Crested Butte 84
4 Drew Stoecklein Alta 84
5 Griffin Post Sun Valley 71
6 Dex Mills Alta/Bird/CB 71
7 John Mason Breckenridge 60
8 Matt Potter Echo 58
9 Sean Cochrane Revelstoke 50
10 Mark Filippini Vail 42
11 Mathieu Gagnon Whistler 42
12 Alex Else Attitash 35
13 Daimon Bushi Snowbird 35
14 Luke Nelson Fernie 31
15 Christian Boucher Blackcomb 28
16 Arne Backstrom Squaw Valley 25
17 Scott Hanichen Squaw Valley 25
18 Tom Runcie Mad River Glen 21
19 Mike Vaughan Alpine Meadows 17
20 Nick DeVore Aspen 17
21 Dylan Crossman Alta/Mad River Glen 12
22 Mark Welgos Aspen 12
23 Nick Greener Snowbird 10
24 Travis Wolfe Telluride 8
25 Brayden Brassey Park City 8