Hernandez fired up for Selection event
When Chris Hernandez didn’t receive a World Cup spot from the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, the 21-year-old bump skier circled Dec. 13-17 on his calendar.
Those dates afford the South Shore resident with the opportunity of earning several North America World Cup invitations. There’s only one catch: There’s only one spot available.
But the upside is that the weeklong U.S. Freestyle Selection event unfolds on familiar terrain for Hernandez: at Squaw Valley USA.
“You have to be consistent,” Hernandez said. “You have to win two days of competitions to have a chance. It’s not like you can go out there and be lucky one day and do it.”
Mogul training starts Saturday, with the five-day event opening Monday with a single moguls competition. The rest of the schedule is duals on Tuesday, acro on Wednesday, a second single moguls Thursday and a second duals Friday.
Mother Nature has done little to ensure that Squaw keeps the event. However, Squaw hopes to set up a course made predominantly of artificial snow on Red Dog run.
“It’s good to have it there because we’ve competed there every year,” said Hernandez, who joins fellow U.S. teammates and South Lake Tahoe residents Travis Cabral and Travis Ramos in the selection event. “We’re competing on that exact same run, so we have more of an advantage.”
The 1998 Gold Cup Olympic qualifier bronze medalist has trained for the event by skiing the flats at Heavenly Ski Resort and by sneaking in a few jumps off rocks on Maggie’s Run.
“It sucks because everyone is training, but the Tahoe guys,” Hernandez said. “There are so many good skiers. It’s gonna be tough to win two days, but one of us is gonna do it. We can’t let anyone else do it.”
But the lack of training doesn’t mean Hernandez won’t unveil one of his new jumps at Squaw.
“I’m doing a 360 tail grab. It’s a 180 iron cross, but I grab the tail and tweak it out,” said Hernandez, arguably one of the more the creative jumpers around. “I’m doing that and a lot of 720s. I’ll have to bring it out to Squaw and see how it scores.
“Now everybody is spinning. People are throwing a lot of 720s and quads, where as before it was straight triples.”
Hernandez is not only confident about his jumping but his speed and turns. A healthy knee following a 1998 injury has rejuvenated his outlook for this season.
“I feel good this year. Last year my knee was iffy at times,” Hernandez said. “I feel like I did three years ago before it happened.”
That could be bad news for the other competitors, considering Herandez has risen to the occasion in other big events, winning a 1997 national-qualifying title and placing third at the 1997 nationals.
“I’m amped on this whole contest. I’m gonna go out there and win. I’m gonna get that spot,” he said.
Area Far West members pencilled in to compete are male mogulists Travis Woodcock, Heavenly; Tony Basille, third at the last U.S. Nationals, Squaw Valley; Garrett Altmann, Squaw Valley; Bryan Collins, Squaw Valley; Jesse Jenison, Squaw Valley; Tim McKeever, Squaw Valley; and Justin Self, Squaw Valley. Qualified female mogulists are Jessica Davis, Squaw Valley; Carla Dodge; Amber Ramos, Squaw Valley; Shelley Robertson, Squaw Valley; and Laurel Shanley, Squaw Valley; and Alpine Meadows acro skier Carla Dodge.
Insufficient snow and a water line break has cast some uncertainy on whether Squaw Valley will host the U.S. Freestyle Selection event next week.
The weeklong event kicks off with the first of four moguls competitions on Monday on Red Dog course. However, the bottom of Red Dog has a shortage of snow cover, emphasizing the need for additional snowfall or manmade snow.
Tuesday’s snowshowers added several inches, but a snowmaking line water break for Red Dog hindered crews from providing additional snow cover for the course.
“We were trying to get the break repaired (Tuesday morning),” said Far West Chairman Lou Basile, who has spearheaded the division’s efforts to host the event. “If the snowmaking is back on track, we’ll be trying to make snow like crazy Tuesday and Wednesday to fill in the bottom of the course.”
Raymond DeVre, director of freestyle skiing at Squaw and the chief of course design, expected snowmaking to resume on Tuesday night, with the resort chipping in additional snow guns to give the course a recommended 2 to 3 feet of cover.
“Squaw Valley is doing everything it can to make this event happen,” DeVre said. “Hopefully it will go off and we’ll be looking at a great event next week.
“What’s happening is the work is condensing into a short time frame to get everything done. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
If Squaw had hosted the event in any of the previous five seasons, snow cover wouldn’t have even been an issue.
“It’s unbelievable. We’ve just had unseasonably warm weather during the daytime and that really prevents us from making snow,” said Basile, whose son, Tony, finished third at last year’s nationals, and is entered in the moguls field.
Competition begins at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and is expected to conclude by 3 p.m. Viewing is free to the public.
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