National championship coming to Heavenly |

National championship coming to Heavenly

Since its humble beginnings as a two-rope-tow operation on Ski Run Boulevard in 1954 through the start of a $250 million redevelopment project that triggered construction of a high-speed Gondola a half century later, Heavenly Ski Resort has lacked national theater.

But that void will be filled in March.

For the first time in Heavenly’s history, the resort will host a U.S. Ski and Snowboard national skiing championship. The 2004 Chevy Truck U.S. National Freestyle Championships are set for March 26-28 at Heavenly Ski Resort’s California base lodge area.

“It’s not only good for Heavenly, but we think it’s great for South Lake Tahoe because we have quite a few athletes on the U.S. Ski Team that we hope to have competing in the event,” said Molly Cuffe, who is beginning her third season as the resort’s director of communications.

The Lake Tahoe venue will give a handful of local athletes an unprecedented opportunity to compete for a national title in front of family and friends. Defending World Cup moguls champions Travis Cabral and Shannon Bahrke lead the list of Lake Tahoe athletes expected to compete. World Cup veteran Chris Hernandez and promising youngsters Jessica Davis and Laurel Shanley are also in position to participate.

“I think it is awesome that Heavenly can hold nationals,” said South Shore’s Cabral, who was runner-up at last year’s nationals and became the youngest national champion ever at 15 when he won in 1999. “It will be fun to finally have a hometown crowd like we used to have with the Heavenly World Cups and Bumps and Jumps.”

Financial terms between Heavenly and the U.S. Ski Team were unavailable, but Cuffe said, “There’s not a lot of money to be made. We do it more for the benefit of the national TV exposure. Not only does Heavenly get huge national TV exposure but so does the South Shore. It’s a bigger-picture type of event.”

ESPN plans to provide national championship coverage on April 8.

Throughout its long history, Heavenly has generated national and world-wide interest by hosting World Cup events, Celebrity Ski Classics and professional freestyle and Alpine races. But Heavenly hasn’t hosted a major skiing event since the U.S. Freestyle Grand National World Cup in 1999 and 2000.

The U.S. Ski Team approached Heavenly three months ago about the possibility of hosting nationals and an agreement was reached last week.

“It gives us an opportunity to showcase everything that has been happening here and how far the destination has come in the past couple of years,” Cuffe said.

For the nationals, Heavenly will build a special moguls course on Gunbarrel Run and a large aerial jump near the base lodge.

“We don’t typically build a jump of that size at the base area of the mountain,” said Cuffe, who is confident the resort’s snow-making capabilities can pull off the championships late in the skiing season. ‘We’re hoping to have a bountiful natural snow year to augment all of that.”

The USSA has also announced that Alyeska resort in Alaska will host the Alpine national championships March 16-23.

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