Solid mogul skiing by Andra Sakson, of the Aspen Valley Ski Club, earned her an 18t- place finish last weekend in Heavenly Valley, Calif., against a field that included the best in the world.
Sakson, 15, a first-year J2 athlete, and Colby Lee, 18, just returned from the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships, where they competed against the likes of World Cup titleist Hannah Kearney and Tahoe-area native Sho Kashima.
This was AVSC's best finish at nationals since 2006, when Glenn Engelmann was fifth in dual moguls and 10th in singles.
Freestyle Program Director Eric Knight said the strength of Colby Lee and Andra Sakson was their turns, which "impressed the judges."
"Both of those athletes are really talented," Knight said.
Lee and Sakson contended with spring Sierra conditions, everything from perfect corn to boilerplate, slush and then sloppy snow.
"It did take some adjusting," the coach said.
On the first competition day, the start was delayed an hour to allow the solid surface to soften and the fog to lift. Things changed quickly as temperatures surged to 60 degrees, Knight said.
The AVSC mogul skiers had potentially great runs but each encountered issues, Knight said. Still, their turns were rock solid, he said.
An incoming storm forced organizers to move dual moguls to Saturday, which meant back-to-back competitions following days of travel and training.
In the qualification round, Sakson "laid down a great run and ended up 18th," Knight said. Her finish was well ahead of several U.S. Ski Team members, he said, and that will gain her some valuable seeding points for the future.
On the men's side, Lee had a great run in duals but blew out of the course.
"I think he was a little over-skied after two days of competing and two days of training," Knight said.
Lee will return next year for a post-graduate season, Knight said.
AVSC's backyard and on-hill improvements will give club members the opportunity to become as adept in the air as they are on the ground, he said.
"Their turns are so far ahead of the rest of the field, once they can get some air to where their turns are, they can produce higher scores," Knight said.
Both Lee and Sakson have been skiing with AVSC since their Devo 1 years.
Devo athletes are among the team that the Aspen Valley Ski Club is fielding this week at Copper Mountain for the USASA National Championships, said to be the largest free skiing and snowboarding event of its kind.
AVSC has 26 athletes supported by five coaches for the snowboard events, coach Travis McLain said.
Highlights in the week include Daylynn Sanchez being crowned national boardercross champion for the 6-and-unders. Jack Ryder Warble was second in slalom.
In a field the included WInter X Games competitors, Robert Pettit rode well in halfpipe but was docked 20 points for putting his hand down, McLain said. He finished in the top 15. Jake Orzech was preparing for his second run (slopestyle) at press time.
Snowboarding events continue at Copper through Thursday, with the skiing nationals scheduled for April 6-9.
AVSC is fielding large teams in both divisions.
Check out "This Week at AVSC" on April 10 for a wrapup of the USASA's.
For all-things AVSC, be sure to tune into "Weekly with Walt" on GrassRoots TV 12 at 7 p.m. today. The program is replayed continuously throughout the week.
Summer camps for freestyle, freeski and freeriders are featured today when AVSC Excellence Director Walt Evans interviews coaches Greg Ruppel and Sean O'Donnell.
At the Canadian Para-Alpine Championships in Sun Peaks, British Columbia, AVSC's team was surprised by more than just the clear, sunny days.
During the final event in a week-long series of Nor-Am races, AVSC's Chris Slavin won the slalom and "was crowned Canadian National Champion," said Barrett Stein, the director of ythe Paralympic Alpine Development Program. "It was awesome."
In this final slalom of the year, Joel Hunt, a men's standing skier, put the previous day's disappointment (where he hooked a tip in the flush) aside. Hunt skied into a triumphant silver.
"We did go out on a high," said Stein, recounting a week of podiums by the two national team members (Melanie Schwartz and Andrew Kurka) with strong finishes by the 10 members (plus two guides) of AVSC's development team.