Kick Aspen Big Air gaining a name with X Games talent | AspenTimes.com

Kick Aspen Big Air gaining a name with X Games talent

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

#32 flies over Aspen during the Big Air competition on Ajax Saturday afternoon April 6, 2002. Paul Conrad photo.

The Kick Aspen Big Air Invitational, though only in its second year, is a tough contest to break into.

With X Games vets like Chad Otterstrom and Steele Spence headlining the event, a certain choosiness among judges is understandable.

However, a few last-minute injuries scrambled the lineup just before the event’s Saturday afternoon start at the base of Aspen Mountain.

“It’s tough to get into,” said Zac Fishkin, a 19-year-old CU student and skier from Massachusetts. “It was easier this year – a lot of kids got hurt.

“But I got a spot before that happened,” he was quick to add.

Fishkin, placed on a waiting list for last year’s competition, proved he was worth the wait during his appearance in the 2002 Big Air. The young free skier took second place in the competition, an honor he wasn’t aware of after his third and last trick of the day.

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“I don’t know. I think I did pretty well – I landed when I wanted to – but Steel’s doing some amazing tricks,” Fishkin said. “There’s some good competition.”

Saturday’s competition kicked off with a crowd-pleaser for the 6,000-plus spectators who gathered for the event. Matthew Peterson, a snowboarder who would eventually take first place in the contest, finished a flawless “frontside 5” to start the day. He was followed by 31 other competitors – 16 skiers, 16 snowboarders – all seeking $20,000 in cash and prizes. After their initial jump from the kicker built on the Little Nell, each athlete was allowed as many tricks as they could fit into a full hour of competition.

Though Spence logged the first fall of the day, French skier and first-time competitor Julian Tuscher became a fan favorite after two or three spectacular crashes in a row.

“I was going too big for my ‘rodeo 5,’ and the landing is really steep,” Tuscher said. “It wasn’t a very, very good day.”

It was a less than stellar day for many competitors. Some blamed icy slope conditions, others recent injuries. But many of those expected to finish in the top six – Spence, a slopestyler who won over Aspen crowds during January’s X Games, and last year’s top KickAspen snowboarder, Lance Pittman, for instance – didn’t make it to the competition’s podium. Among the skiers, Peter Olenick finished first, followed by Fishkin and Blake Davidson in second and third place. For snowboarders, Matthew Peterson took top honors, while Chris Crossland and Chris Coulter snagged second- and third-place trophies for their efforts.

But for some athletes, like Aspen’s Drew Fuller, the event was about meeting traveling pros and showing off for a hometown crowd. After four jumps, including a near “cab-10” that ended just a bit short, Fuller said he was just happy to have been able to compete on a mountain that, just over a year ago, held tight to a snowboarder ban that barred him and his friends from the slopes.

“I’m just a local kid who’s been trying to get in the last few years, and I’m 18 now, so they let me in,” he said. “It’s just a chance to have a lot of fun.”