ASPEN HIGHLANDS - Like the rest of Thunderbowl, the slope was smooth and fast on Jan. 9 when a team of coaches, led by Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club freestyle director Eric Knight, started plotting their course on the front face of Aspen Highlands. Using mogul-run specifications outlined by the International Ski Federation, the crew marked off the course width, its angle, the vertical drop from start to finish and even the distance from the second air bump to the finish line. If the process seemed controlled and a bit antithetical to freestyle's roots, well, that's just part of bump skiing's evolution from the showmanship of the K2 team captured in Dick Barrymore's film "The Performers" through the weekly antics that raged for decades during Highlands Freestyle Fridays on Floradora (now Scarlett's Run). Donna Weibrecht's flawless skiing in the first Olympics to award medals for moguls (1992) and Jonny Moseley's trailblazing performances in the subsequent Winter Games brought freestyle to the cusp of today's era, when amazing inverteds are attempted by athletes barely in their teens.Like seeds planted in the garden, every day the Highlands mogul course grew. Mother Nature's contribution was a pile of new snow one day, which was followed by ferocious winds two days later. As young legs skied more shapes into the course, the bump run, with its undulations and peaks, blossomed into the competition-level venue that was ready to host more than 100 of the region's best young freestylers for a weekend competition of single and dual moguls Saturday and Sunday.
While moguls were being made at Highlands, way up north, AVSC freeskier Alex Ferreira was quietly getting the job done at the second stop this season in the North Face Pipe & Park Open Series. Ferreira's win in the halfpipe on Thursday at Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, secured his berth in this week's X Games in Aspen.Another AVSC product, Winter X 2010 superpipe high-air gold medalist Peter Olenick, finished a close second."In the men's competition, it was clean skiing with a variety of combinations including a left 1080 into a switch right 720 into the left dub flip, which accelerated Ferreira into the winning position," said Mike Atkinson, head judge for the Pipe & Park Open Series.To earn the top score of 93.6, Ferreira began with a cork 1080 into a left double with a tail grab, followed by a rightside 900 with a tail grab and an alley-oop flat snow grab for the conclusion.Olenick's run, which scored 92.2, included a cork 900, a 1080 into a switch left 720 mute and a leftside 1080.
As the limits of action sports continue to be pushed, so too does injury awareness. On Thursday, AVSC is sponsoring a free seminar called "Confronting the Concussion Crisis" from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Aspen High School Seminar Room.Supported by the Andlinger family, the talk features Christopher Nowinski, founder of the Sports Legacy Institute and co-director of the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, and Zack Stutzman, a certified trainer from Aspen Orthpaedics. Joining the panel discussion will be Aspen Middle School student-athlete Jordan Fox.Learn more about the seminar on the GrassRoots program "Weekly With Walt." It airs at 7 p.m. today on Channel 12 and will be repeated several times during the week. This week's guests include Knight, AVSC and X Games athletes Torin Yater-Wallace and Ferreira, and homegrown talent Michael Schumacher.