Hucksters in sheer bliss starting Saturday | AspenTimes.com

Hucksters in sheer bliss starting Saturday

Tim MutrieAspen Times Staff Writer

Though it doesnt appear on any maps, theres a place at the Snowmass Ski Area called Leap n Land.According to snow safety supervisor John Brennan, a 12-year Snowmass patrol veteran, the area located off Sheer Bliss just down, or skiers left, from the entrance to Rock Island will never open to the public. Too burly, says Brennan.Back when we had big snow years in the 80s, guys who liked to huck would just kind of flop their way through there because youre literally going from pillow to pillow, or cliff band to cliff band.Its been semi-skiable the last couple of years, but there was a lot of downed trees in there. You couldve been shish kebab-ed, Brennan continues. But I spent a lot of the summer cleaning that stuff up. So theres still a lot of cliff hazards, but youre not going to get surprised with a skewer of timber if you hip-check a landing.Brennans beta might startle some would-be powderhounds. But it ought to be reassuring, at the very least, for the 100 big-mountain skiing and snowboarding competitors descending on Snowmass this weekend for the first event of the 2004 Powerade Colorado Freeride Series.As of yesterday afternoon, 95 of 100 slots were full with the mens skiing division filling about two-thirds of the field, including some of Aspen s heavyweight hucksters and today you can be sure body-armored competitors will be conducting reconnaissance-by-force in the venue, known broadly as Burnside or the Burn Cliffs.Ideally positioned for spectators across from the deck of Gwyns High Alpine Restaurant, Saturdays venue stretches from the entrance of Rock Island on down past Leap n Land, which officially opens to Freeride Series competitors for the first time on Saturday.Lower down, or farther left, are three other distinct areas that first opened during Freeride Series comps last year. This year, after Brennan and fellow patrollers cleared them out, the three areas that promise mandatory air opened to the public, conditions permitting. But like Leap n Land, you will not find Triple Jump, Gluteus or Stihletto on any 2004 maps. (Or Greenback Bowl or Winter Wonderland or Triple X or Carrot Chute, for that matter.)The competition runs from 10 a.m. til 2:30 or 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the womens snowboard division running first followed by womens skiing, mens snowboarding and finally the mens skiing division.The field will include Kiffor Berg, last years Freeride Series overall champion; Vince Lahey, winner of last years Freeride Series Championship event; Ted Davenport of Summit County (and younger brother of Aspen big-mountain skier Chris); two-time 24 Hours of Aspen champion Tyler Williams; and locally know rippers Frank Shine and Anders Gustafson.The panel of judges includes esteemed Colorado freeskier Rex Wehrman of Montezuma and Aspens Aaron Estrada, a former champion of Crested Buttes annual extreme-skiing contest.Berg, a 26-year-old Milwaukee native who rides for Team Aspen Snowmass, skied in the venue yesterday and offered a glowing report.The new terrain is going to make for a great comp, he said. J.B. [John Brennan] definitely did a lot of work in there and the Snowmass Patrol pause what do I want to say?Thanks, I guess. Were really excited about it.He continued with a chuckle. The new terrain is pretty similar to what we got to get into last year, but it almost flows better in some spots. Theres lots of spots that have mandatory air, most of it actually, but you can almost go in some places there blind and ski as you go but I wouldnt recommend going in there blind.And theres not really any obvious winning lines so people can get creative, which should make for a very entertaining competition.Sometimes what happens is that theres an obvious winning line, so it gets repetitious, monotonous even. Thats not going to happen here.Two more competitions are scheduled at Snowmass on Feb. 21 and March 12.Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is mutrie@aspentimes.com

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