Elder rules in loosey-goosey Freeride
If you were a little confused about just what the ESPN/Airwalk FreeRide ’98 Snowboard Championships at Sierra-at-Tahoe over the weekend were all about, all you had to do was look at the slogan on the media passes: “Less Rules … More Fun.”
The slogan may be a little ungrammatical, but it makes a point. The FreeRide event was about as different from the formalized Nagano Olympics pate is from chopped liver.
Take the slopestyle event, for instance, won happily Sunday by South Lake Tahoe’s Kristie Elder for a cool $4,860 share of the total purse of $75,000. The slopestyle event is roughly akin to an ice skater’s free program in that it’s up to the snowboarder to come up with a varied and well-executed run down a slope using the big hit bumps, the quarterpipe and the rail on the quarterpipe.
In other words, fewer rules.
How was the course? Elder was asked before rushing off to compete in the triple big air? “It was rad!” Elder beamed in true snowboarder fashion. “Can’t wait for the triple big air.”
The triple big air competition involved three big hits off massive tabletops, each demonstrating a different maneuver
Unfortunately, Elder placed 11th in the qualifying round and didn’t make it to the finals. The winner was Tara Dakies of Laguna Niguel, Calif.
Winning the men’s Slopestyle event was Chad Otterstrom of Shore View, Minn.
Capturing first in the men’s triple jump was Peter Iverson of Seattle, Wash. Earlier on Saturday during a near blizzard,the border x battle (and battle is the right word) offered another kind of snowboard competition. In this event, groups of six men start simultaneously and run a giant slalom course of a several hundred yards, then hit a series of three big hits. En route, elbows fly and riders charge ahead in a wild fire drill kind of run.
It’s typical of snowboarders that while only elapsed time counts, most riders managed to do an edge grab or a 360-rotation over the final bump.
Winning the men’s Border X was Andy Hetzel of San Diego, nosing out Laurent Besse of France and Emst Thue of Norway.
“The final heat was a rough one. We were pushing and grabbing each other at the start and I was able to break free. Never looked back,” Hetzel said.
Another Tahoe resident took the women’s border x title. Erin Epperson, of Truckee, came from behind to surprise series champ Nillard Pilavakis of Sugarloaf, Maine. It was Epperson’s first border x title and also good for $4,860.
“This feels amazing,” Epperson said. “I had a great start and tried to stay as close to Nillard as possible.” She did and she passed Palavakis in the final 500 yards.
The last event was the freeride, another new event in snowboard competition. In this match, riders are told at the last minute, in this case Sunday afternoon after unending snowfall all day, that they were to go to the top of the Grandview Chair. There they would be told where the race would be.
“What we’re trying to do is bring snowboarding as the riders do it for fun into competition,” explained Austin Hearst, chairman on LXD, Inc., producers of the ESPN/Airwalk series. A member of the Hearst newspaper family, he said, “We’re trying to keep things loose in what we see as an evolving sport. We don’t want to lay down strict, tight rules like the Olympics.”
Well, there were few tight rules in the freeride. While the titles went to Allen Traves of Vacouver, B.C., and Corrie Rudishauser of Bend, Ore., special prizes were awarded for such things as two riders on a board, skimpiest costume, best crash, most original maneuver and whatever else caught the judges’ eyes.
It’s easy to see why snowboarding events are popular with spectators. There’s a sense of “We’re all in it together,” as demonstrated by the glee and shared joy when a rider performs a tough 540 or hand plant by boarders watching from the finish. No glum formality as at ski races where the most emotion shown is by the winner hoisting skis in the air to please a sponsor.
Earlier in the series, events were staged at Aspen, Colo., and Killington, Vt. The Sierra-at-Tahoe Airwalk competition will be broadcast on ESPN in the first week of March.
Sierra-at-Tahoe did an excellent job of keeping the action going, despite the shifting of Friday’s Border X to Saturday and
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