USASA event in memory of fallen boarder; dozens compete in rail jam, slaloms |

USASA event in memory of fallen boarder; dozens compete in rail jam, slaloms

Cameron Steinmetz, of South Lake Tahoe, competes Jan. 7 in a rail jam at Sierra-at-Tahoe.
Provided / Roger Ashton |

Sierra-at-Tahoe hosted a pair United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association Rail Jams the past two weekends and will dedicate a special event this Saturday, Jan. 20, to a former competitor who lost her life to cancer.

The USASA’s “Jammin’ 4 Tash” will honor Sierra snowboarder Natasha “Tash” Sagucka who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and died in early November 2017. Sagucka competed in USASA events for seven years, from 2000 – 07.

A Rainbow Rail terrain park feature was made in her honor and will be incorporated into the setup. A cash purse of $1,000 has been donated by Sagucka’s mother, Margaret, in memory of her involvement with USASA.

“Natasha would have loved helping kids do what they love to do, snowboard and ski,” Margaret said in a press release. “She felt so empowered up on the mountain and would want others to feel the same. I feel this ties into her love for nature, the mountains and Sierra-at-Tahoe, her passion for snowboarding and for the place she loved and lived in Tahoe.”

USASA members are invited to participate in honor of Sagucka. Registration for non-members is $45. Sign-ups will take place from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Saturday in Solstice.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Cancer Research. Other support comes from Love Your Melon, which is donating hats to all competitors. The rail jam will take place at the bottom of Broadway Trail near the west end of the Solstice Plaza.

USASA slalom, giant slalom

About 50 competitors showed up last weekend, Jan. 13-14, for USASA’s slalom and giant slalom events on the Escape Trail at Sierra and many competitors double-dipped, taking first in both events on both days.

Winning both days against multiple competitors in their respective divisions were Kai Shilder, of San Francisco, who races for Northstar (12-13 boys); Krystyna Schembri, of South Lake Tahoe (12-13 girls); Lillia Verduzco, South Lake Tahoe (8-9 girls); Graydon Ross, South Lake Tahoe (10-11 boys); and Serina Verduzco, South Lake Tahoe (girls 7 and younger).

USASA does slalom and giant slalom events for snowboard only, and rail jam, slopestyle and halfpipe for snowboarders and skiers. There are over 50 different USASA series locations throughout the nation. The South Shore and North Shore series are two of the strongest and they include competitors from Tahoe and many other areas in Northern California.

Participants ranged from 7 to 60-plus years old.

Rail jams start the season

Seventy-five boys and girls competed Sunday, Jan. 7, in the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association’s Rail Jam at Sierra.

There were three freeski and four snowboard age divisions and South Lake Tahoe kids took most of the top spots.

Zoe Loughlin (girls 10-13) and Finn Abiko (boys 14 and up) took first in their freeski divisions.

Jeremy Muller, of Zephyr Cove (boys 10-13); Veda Hallen (girls 10-13); Anthony Piccinonni (14 and up); Kaitlyn bland (girls 14 and up); Serina Verduzco (9 and under); and Denver Orr (boys open) all claimed first place.

The Sierra-at-Tahoe Education Foundation is the parent volunteer group that works with resort management to manage the competition-level teams, which includes alpine skiing, freestyle skiing and snowboarding. There are about 75 athletes on the comp-level teams and over 250 including the lower lever Development and Ripper level teams from all over northern California and Nevada.

“We are so thankful that Sierra-at-Tahoe and USASA South Shore Series and their sponsors put on such a great venue,” said Roger Ashton, president of the foundation. “We want to give a big shout out to Sierra and its manager John Rice and Bridjet and Joey Orr for making this program happen.”

Final qualifiers for all the different USASA events will go to the USASA Nationals in March at Copper Mountain in Colorado. These events include rail jam, slopestyle, halfpipe, skier and boarder Cross and snowboard slalom and giant slalom.

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