Over the chutes and through Kirkwood the freeride champs go | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Over the chutes and through Kirkwood the freeride champs go

by dan thomas

They say any landing you can walk away from is a good one, so the athletes walking into Kirkwood today, basically, are looking to walk away.

That’s more true for the skiers and snowboarders in the fourth annual North American Freeskiing and Riding Championships today through Saturday at Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Unlike other events, the Freeskiing and Riding Championships demands boarders and skiers take full advantage of the terrain beyond a mountain’s race courses or moguls runs.

“The athletes really thrive on this venue,” said Adam Comey, president of event promoter Mountain Sports International, of Crested Butte, Colo. “It’s a really large venue, so they have a lot of space.”

And they use every bit of it. Riders will tackle the steeps of the resort’s most difficult terrain to pick the best (and sometimes the only) line through the chutes, trees and cliffs. Competition begins today with a 9:30 a.m. start on the Lookout Vista venue. That first round will whittle the field from about 115 to 80. The second round, which begins at 9:30 a.m. on the normally closed terrain at the Cirque, will cut those 80 to 50. The final round begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Cirque, and will crown a champion from the final group. Awards follow at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and the weather day is Sunday.

“It’s got fantastic terrain in the Cirque,” Comey said. “The Cirque is a fantastic venue for this type of competition.”

The roster for the event reads like central casting for extreme ski and snowboard movies: World Freeskiing and Riding Tour athletes like Jon Johnson, Jack Hannon, Jason Anthony, Jarard Mazlich, Charlotte Moads, Susan Medville and Asia Jenkins will show off their moves for a panel of judges. The judges will award marks from 1-10 in five categories: line difficulty, control, aggressiveness, technique and fluidity. Celebrity athletes Jim Moran and Shane Anderson will look for the elusive perfect score of 50.

Many of the other athletes in the event compete regularly on the North American Freeskiing and Riding tour, which makes stops at mountains like Mammoth, Calif. and Crested Butte. The North American vets use events like this week’s to make the transition to the World Tour.

“They are all guys who have competed on the tour and are here this week,” Comey said.

While registration still was happening Wednesday, Comey expects strong representation from Tahoe.

“This is a big local event for all the Tahoe region, South Lake in particular,” Comey said.

And it would be hard to pick a better mountain than Kirkwood. Not only has the resort – which tops out 9,000 feet above sea level – earned infamy for its steeps and trees, but it has been averaging a foot of new snow each night for the past few days on top of base depths as high as 26 feet.

“We basically go out and look for resorts with some of the most difficult venues we can find,” Comey said.

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