A weekend to remember | AspenTimes.com

A weekend to remember

Jon Maletz

Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s freestyle skiers showcased their depth and ability last weekend with their strongest performance of the season.Six athletes – in competitions at Steamboat and Copper Mountain – finished first in their respective disciplines. “There’s excitement as far as the whole team is concerned,” AVSC freestyle pipe and park coach Geoff Stump said. “I’m real pleased with the performances they’re able to lay down under pressure. It shows we’re going in the right direction.”AVSC athletes dominated multiple events at the Steamboat Ski USA Freestyle events. Travis VanDomelen put down the run of the day during Friday afternoon’s halfpipe session, coming away with the victory. Zac Giammarrusco got things started Friday morning, finishing third in the halfpipe. He awed the judges with a mute 720 and paired his 360 iron cross with a grab. “Travis is skiing a lot stronger and with a lot more self-confidence, and it shows in his jumping,” AVSC freestyle coach Elana Chase said in a press release. AVSC newcomer Dan Ambruster improved on his fourth-place effort in the morning to finish third in the afternoon. AVSC challenger coach Olivia Agusti won both halfpipe competitions.Giammarrusco and David Hach impressed in the aerials competitions, each taking first. AVSC was close to sweeping the podium in the afternoon, with Nate Chellel taking second and VanDomelen fourth. With 13-year-old Nick Erickson coming in ninth, that put nine AVSC members in the top 10.In the two-day moguls event – the final competition of the weekend – Rachel Weitzenkorn moved up from 12th after the first round to finish fifth. Glenn Engelman finished just off the podium both days, but fared well in one of the strongest mogul divisions in the country. He came in fourth in the junior moguls Saturday, then finished sixth out of 68 skiers Sunday. Engelman’s backflip iron cross garnered perfect scores from the judges. “In a judged sport, it doesn’t always mean you’ll get recognized if you ski well,” Stump said. “That’s just the nature of it. But placing well helps the confidence level.”AVSC echoed the strong results 100 miles away at Copper Mountain. Both Matt Walker and Whitney Wickes took the top spots in the Siver Young Gun Open slopestyle – an event showcasing the top young amateur skiers in the country. While Walker and Wickes walked away with sponsorships from Siver Cartel, Scott goggles, Level gloves, Line skis plus multiple all-expense-paid trips, the remainder of the AVSC athletes at Copper came away with some strong experience.”These performances will carry over,” Stump said. “Just because of the experience we got making it to the finals, it won’t seem like such an impossible task.”If luck fell our way, we could’ve had another kid in the top three. But having the two top spots for men and women is a nice addition to a really good competition.”Four AVSC skiers made the finals in the men’s slopestyle. Twelve of 100 athletes made it past the first round, a 45-minute jam session where skiers competed in groups of 25, with the top three advancing. “Aspen had an incredible competition,” said AVSC skier Andrew Wickes, a senior at Aspen High School. “I was hoping to podium, bit it was awesome to see Matt and my sister [up there].”Along with Walker and Andrew Wickes, Sam Ferguson and Charlie Lasser impressed judges. After falling on the first of his two finals runs, Andrew Wickes said he was surprisingly in good spirits. His rightside 540 did draw attention and strong scores, but he finished just off the podium. Ferguson had learned to land switch rightside 720s earlier in the day, Walker said, and pulled off the trick in a strong finals run. “The main Aspen crew went to Copper and threw down,” Walker said. “To have all our friends in the finals was great. We knew we had a chance to do well together, but we never knew to this extent.”While Stump was quick to deflect any credit from the entire team’s success, he did say he was in the right place at the right time and had some strong athletes to work with. His admittedly “old-school” mentality is paying dividends, however.His athletes don’t try to “huck” themselves, he said. Rather, they focus on body mechanics and making slow, logical progressions. “Holding in the reins,” as Stump calls it, is proving to be a winning philosophy. “I try to hold the reins in until the landing percentage goes up,” Stump said. “When you go for a 900 and know you’re going to hit feet-first, your confidence level is high. The key word is having patience with the takeoff and the trick you’re gonna throw. “They can’t judge you if you fall.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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