Aerialists appreciate the lack of pressure in Bumps and Jumps
Some of the best aerials skiers in the world will be taking apres ski to a new level – literally – to kick off the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Bumps & Jumps Grand Prix Championship on Friday.
The Bumps and Jumps Aerials competition launches a new weekend of freestyle competition by launching the world’s elite aerialists as high as a five-story building. Blastoff is T-minus one day: The aerialists will start flying off the LaunchPad next to the Gunbarrel Express near the California base at Heavenly Ski Resort.
Even though it’s not a World Cup, the skiers take the event seriously.
“I want to win it,” said Eric Bergoust, the top American in the Bumps & Jumps Grand Prix standings, in fourth. “I haven’t won a competition yet this year, and six grand is pretty good (money). If I win, that’ll help relieve some of the disgust in myself at not winning a (Chevy) Blazer.”
The stakes are as high as the jumps. Sponsors added $20,000 to the existing $150,000 purse that the aerials and moguls winners will share – along with a new Chevy Trailblazer sport-utility vehicle.
“It is a fun event,” said David Belhumeur of Canada, who trails series leader Alexei Grichin of Belorussia by just a point in the Bumps & Jumps aerials standings. “Because it’s only the top 10 aerialists, the training is much easier.”
Bergoust, a native of Missoula, Mont., agreed. He also said the format made the event more crowd-friendly than the abstractness of a World Cup.
“There’s a little more drama in this,” said Bergoust, who still is recovering from an ankle injury he sustained on a bad landing before the Jan. 23 FIS World Cup aerials event at Heavenly. “In this, there’s only 10 guys, so it’s easy to follow.”
The event narrows that 10-skier field to six, then to three finalists. In the final round, the best jump wins.
“It’s easy for the crowd to kind of judge for themselves and see who should advance,” Bergoust said.
Bumps & Jumps does offer a World Cup field – with luminaries like Canadian Air Force flier Belhumeur, series leader Grichin, and American contenders like Bergoust, Joe Pack and Britt Swartley. What’s missing is the World Cup pressure.
“It’s a little more relaxed than the World Cup events, so I imagine you’ll be seeing them try different things,” said Heavenly communications director Monica Bandows. “It’s fun. Prior to the World Cup, it was without a doubt the biggest event of the season.
“They’re just out there having fun.”
But the stakes are a little higher at Heavenly because it’s the series finals. The final round, at 2 p.m., will settle the series Grand Prix standings, where Grichin leads Belhumeur 30-29 going into the last event. Grichin’s Belorussian teammate, Dmitri Dashinski, is very close to the top two, with 28 points, while Bergoust still is a possibility, in fourth with 23 points.
“Three guys have to screw up pretty good, and I have to win,” said Bergoust, eighth and second in this year’s events so far, of his chances. “If I do, I get a Chevy Blazer.”
Bergoust would have to win, Grichin would have to come in eighth, and Belhumeur would have to finish sixth or seventh in the field for Bergoust to win.
Following the aerials finals, Kellogg’s sponsors a jump-off between the athletes with the two highest scores, for an additional $10,000 in prize money.
Grichin seized the momentum from the beginning, winning the series debut at Copper Mountain, Colo., then taking second at Lake Placid, N.Y. two weeks ago. Belhumeur closed the gap by winning in Lake Placid, and sounds ready for the competition after a week off.
“It gives me a chance to look at and analyze what works and what doesn’t work so well for me, physically,” he said. “I’ve been working out this week so I will be physically ready for the event. The Bumps & Jumps are very challenging events with many more jumps than any other. It’s very physically and mentally draining.”
Spectators can watch the aerials competition from Heavenly’s California base, near the launch pad. NBC will broadcast the event nationally, from 11 a.m. – noon Feb. 19.
Name nationality Copper Mtn. Lake Placid pts. total
Alexei Grichin BLR 16 14 30 $8,600
David Belhumeur CAN 13 16 29 $8,100
Dmitri Dashinksi BLR 15 13 28 $5,300
Eric Bergoust USA 9 15 $5,300
Nicolas Fontaine CAN 14 9 23 $3,800
Joe Pack USA 12 11 23 $3,450
Britt Swartley USA 11 10 21 $3,050
Brian Currutt USA 10 7 17 $2,400
Steve Omischl CAN 12 12 $1,850
Christian Rijavec CZE 8 8 $950
Mariano Ferrario USA 8 8 $950
Matt Chojnacki USA 7 7 $900
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