Tahoe skiers show flashes at World Cup
While the Americans couldn’t pull off what Alex Wilson did last year – World Cup Freestyle gold at Heavenly Ski Resort – the natives showed fans shades of the future.
With the Bear Republic’s flag flying over Heavenly’s California side at Saturday’s Sprint U.S. Freestyle Grand National, four Tahoe skiers demonstrated how far they’ve come. They also hinted at how far they can go.
While friend Travis Ramos edged him in the final men’s standings, the most impressive run of the day belonged to South Lake Tahoe’s 16-year-old moguls wunderkind Travis Cabral. In just his second World Cup start – his second World Cup run, in fact – Cabral threaded the thin line between glory and disaster, and achieved the former. Cabral’s quicksilver 25.41-second sprint down Gunbarrel coupled with a huge triple twister and double spread, vaulted him into third place after the first run.
“It was really important, because that was what would put me in the finals,” said Cabral, hair dyed red, white and blue, after the run.
Ultimately, Cabral got too loose on the second run – too much space between his knees, and too much room between the halves of the smiley face his kneepads make when they come together.
But Cabral, who nailed a triple twister and double twister spread on the second run, appeared to be very close to his goal of the total freestyle package on the first run. He said he would attack the course the same way the next time he was in the same situation.
Cabral was 11th for his second World Cup top-15 finish in as many races. The only two Americans to finish in front of him were Ramos, who was eighth, and Wilson, who was fifth.
“The level of freestyle has elevated itself substantially in the past year,” Ramos said.
But the fourth-year member of the U.S. Freestyle team elevated himself right along with it. To top his crowd-jazzing first run, Ramos threw up a double twister spread off the top jump on the second, and followed it with an iron cross double twister spread – arguably the most aggressive air of the day. Judges awarded him a 6.65 for the second air, but it wasn’t enough for Ramos to catch the four flying Finns who finished atop the winners podium – two of their scores Saturday ranked in the top five ever on the World Cup circuit. Still, Ramos said the judges are getting familiar with him, and said he also would attack the same way.
“I feel like if I ever have to do a competition run where I have to do something special, then I’m relying on luck, and I don’t want that to be a part of my competitive routine,” Ramos said.
They weren’t the only two Tahoe skiers in the finals. Along with the two Sierra-at-Tahoe bumpers in the men’s breakaway, Tahoe City skier and Squaw Valley product Shannon Bahrke was rock solid in the early round. The second-year U.S. Freestyle Team member jumped seven places in her move up the World Cup standings, ending the day 12th. Like Cabral, Bahrke considered the first run, when she qualified 10th, crucial.
“The first one was really important because I just wanted to get into the finals,” Bahrke said.
Her second run actually was the better of the two, a 23.12 with 4.80 for air. Bahrke followed her helicopter off the second jump on her first run with a 360 on the second.
While three of the South Shore skiers qualified, the rest kept things interesting despite missing the cut. South Lake Tahoe’s Chris Hernandez proved that the World Cup field’s late entry was a great entry after all.
“It was good,” said Hernandez, who found out he would be a World Cup participant on his home mountain just three days before the Grand National. “I think I had a good run, but I really didn’t get the score I wanted. Me, personally, I think I got a little loose in the middle and that’s what killed me.”
Still, Hernandez made his third World Cup start, and pleased the crowd with his air. His time through the bumps – 26.13 seconds – was competitive with some of the qualifiers, and he ended up 21st overall.
“I was psyched just to have the opportunity, and I wish it had worked out a little better, but you know, you live and you learn,” Hernandez said.
He will continue to learn on the Nor Am Freestyle circuit through the U.S. and Canada. He leaves Wednesday for a pro bumps event in New York, then will participate in the first Nor Am of the year in LeRelais, Quebec, in February.
Christmas Valley skier and Heavenly pride Brooke Ballachey didn’t make the cut in the women’s race, but she continued her comeback from a knee surgery and separate knee injury this summer. The soft snow made Ballachey’s landings easier on her knee. Ballachey’s slip after a spread twister on the bottom hurt her in the standings, but not in the minds of the partisan fans.
“It’s fun to get out here and ski and get back into a competitive mode,” she said after her run.
Ballachey finished 28th.
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