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Aspen’s Klug triumphs at U.S. Snowboard Championships

Tim Mutrie

In a fitting statement before the final day of skiing-only on Aspen Mountain, local snowboarders dominated competitions on both coasts this weekend.

In Saturday’s U.S. Snowboard Championships, U.S. team rider Chris Klug of Aspen claimed the national title with a victory over Canadian Jasey Jay Anderson in the parallel giant slalom finals. Two days earlier, Klug, 28, took fourth in the slalom at the national championships in Sunday River, Maine.

Also Saturday, Snowmass Village’s Gretchen Bleiler aired into second place in the halfpipe competition of the championships.

On the other side of the continent, at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., Klug’s sister, Hillary, 18, won the 18- to 22-year-old class slalom race at the U.S.A. Snowboard Association (USASA) Nationals. The younger Klug, an Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club rider, also nabbed second in giant slalom and 14th in the boardercross to claim first place overall in alpine.

“It was a great weekend for team Aspen and team Klug,” Chris Klug said yesterday from Burlington, Vt. “Aspen riders were right up there.”

Also on Mammoth Mountain, 16-year-old Laura Hadar of Aspen clinched first place in the women’s halfpipe at the USASA Nationals Saturday. Hadar, a former AVSC rider who attends the Okemo Mountain School in Vermont, is now headed to Italy for the USASA World Championships.

In other riding news, AVSC rider Erin Simmons moved into third place overall in the North American Boardercross Tour rankings last week. She placed fifth at the U.S. Open at Stratton Mountain, Vt. Simmons’ consistent top finishes at events like the Swatch Boardercross held earlier this year at Buttermilk and the X Games at Mount Snow, Vt., helped her to achieve that ranking.

AVSC snowboard director Ben Hall dubbed Simmons’ year “fantastic.”

“She now has the confidence to be on the podium each time she competes,” he said.

On the men’s side at the U.S. Open boardercross, locals Cooper Hall, Jason Smith and Christian Mosiman finished 13th, 14th and 15th, respectively, before heading off to the U.S. Snowboard Championships.

Heavy snow wreaked havoc on the course and caused a major power outage and postponed events. After the delay, Christian Mosiman finished 16th in the parallel giant slalom.

The boardercrossers were then faced with a dilemma: compete in Maine and possibly miss their upcoming European events, or skip the Sunday River event and be sure to make their flights to Italy that evening. In the end they chose to go to Europe, where the men will compete in the World Junior Championships in Italy. Simmons, the No. 4-ranked boardercrosser in the world, will compete next week in Laax, Switzerland, at the ISF Motorola Boardercross finale.

For Olympic hopeful Klug, the U.S. Snowboard Championships race in the parallel giant slalom – one of the two snowboard disciplines slated for the 2002 Olympics, along with halfpipe – pitted him against Anderson, this season’s overall World Cup snowboard champion, for the final two runs.

“Both [Anderson] and I have had two of the best seasons for North Americans, and yet we hadn’t raced head to head all season,” Klug said. “It was something I was looking forward to all season.

“The course was a challenge,” he continued. “It was bumpy and rutted for our finals runs, but I just kept a close line and pushed enough to win.”

The win caps off a spectacular comeback season for Klug, who underwent a liver transplant last July following a five-year-plus struggle with an incurable liver condition. Klug went on to win a World Cup giant slalom in Quebec in December and a World Cup parallel giant slalom in Italy, followed by two World Cup podiums in Japan in February.

“It was a special season,” Klug said, “considering what happened last summer with my new lease on life. So to end it on this note, it’s perfect.”

Klug plans to return to Aspen today. Upon arrival, he says he’ll probably sleep for a day or two, then take care of some errands, like trying to arrange delivery of a Ducati motorcycle he was awarded after a World Cup win in Italy.

“We’ve been on a whirlwind tour for the last seven months, so I’m going to take a break,” he said. “But I’m psyched to ride Ajax in the mornings and hit the skate park in the afternoons and just relax.”

Klug will hold a “Burton-Klug Freeride and Race Camp” on Aspen Mountain April 9-14, along with other top riders and coaches, including Ben Hall and Bleiler.

“Hopefully we’ll get some snow so we can enjoy a few more powder sessions before it’s over,” he said.

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