Spence finds powder, trophies in Australia | AspenTimes.com

Spence finds powder, trophies in Australia

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

America's Steele Spence flys high during the Big Air event at the Rip Curl Freeski Pro sking competintion at Mt Hotham , Australia, Monday, Aug. 5, 2002. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

Aspen might be weathering one of the worst droughts in recent memory, but one local skier has managed to find some powder – and a few trophies to boot.

Local freestyler Steele Spence, 19, made waves at the second annual Rip Curl Freeski Pro competition this week in Mount Hotham, Australia, by claiming the event’s top title.

Spence topped defending Rip Curl champ Chris Ebben of Canada and a few dozen of Australia’s superior skiers in all three of the competition’s divisions – big air, slopestyle and halfpipe – and will leave Mount Hotham this weekend with the event’s $2,500 grand prize.

Spence got off to a relatively slow start on Monday at the resort’s Sportwool Terrain Park when he managed only a second-place finish in the Rip Curl Big Air. However, Spence took over the park on Tuesday afternoon with a first-place victory in the competition’s slopestyle division.

The Rip Curl halfpipe competition was delayed for nearly two days due to high winds, but Mount Hotham received record-breaking snowfall during the event’s brief hiatus.

The halfpipe event picked up Thursday with an “epic performance” – according to the Rip Curl Web site – by Spence. The Aspenite pulled off a series of aerial 540 spins, as well as a lengthy rail slide, to pick up the highest score of the day: eight points out of a possible 10.

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“I tried to go big and smooth and it paid off,” Spence told Rip Curl reporters after his final run of the day. “I’m stoked – it was a great day.”

Spence became the highest-ranked American in the Rip Curl competition with the halfpipe victory. Makoto Kondo of Japan took second place overall, followed by Andrea Berchtold of New South Wales in third and Canadian Christian Sirianni in fourth.