Wehrman wins freeskiing championship at Snowmass | AspenTimes.com

Wehrman wins freeskiing championship at Snowmass

Tim MutrieAspen Times Staff Writer

Launching off cliffs doesn’t come as easily as it once did for extreme skiing legend Rex Wehrman, but the experience of having done it countless times paid off for him Saturday.Wehrman, who spent four years living in a van at the Arapahoe Basin parking lot and now lives close by in Montezuma (population 50), located off the backside of A-Basin, put together three solid runs in the Evian Colorado Freeride Championship Friday and Saturday at Snowmass to capture the title in the men’s skiing division.On Friday, competitors made two runs in the Hanging Valley Wall before moving into the Cirque on Saturday for a final run in the Gowdy’s cliffs area. Wehrman entered Saturday in a tie for second place in the standings.”The guy who went right before me got hurt, so I was standing around for about 40 minutes,” Wehrman said Saturday, before the judges announced the winners. “And the line choice that I had, they kept calling up on the radio saying don’t go in there, and if you’re going to go in there, be really careful. I got freaked out up there, so I came down some easy stuff.”I got a wife and kid now so I’ve got a lot to lose,” he continued. “I just want to ski. I just want to make it. I’m 32 now, so experience pays off I guess.”Wehrman claimed the crown over Nick Alexander and Bill Whalley of Denver. Local TV personality Vince Lahey, who entered Saturday as the leader, finished fourth. (For results, see page 39.)As the last competitor to drop in on Saturday, Lahey selected a bold line in between Gowdy’s and a chute known as The Buckle, and flashed a few turns before launching a 30-foot cliff. The landing escaped him though, and over the handlebars he went.”If Vince would’ve stuck that landing, well, that was a sick line,” said Wehrman, who watched from below with about 100 fans who turned out for the event. “I liked the way he showed his strength by making turns down it, and not just straight-lining it, and that air was big.”Wehrman competed in two of the three Evian Colorado Freeride Series events earlier this winter, but he only collected his first win in the final Series event on Thursday in the Hanging Valley Wall.”At the Series event I won, I had to pull it all out like I would against anyone,” Wehrman said. “They made me ski as hard as I could, and I still didn’t win by much. Any of these guys could win, and I’m hoping we’ll see Vince at some of the bigger events. He impressed me.”Matthew Annetts won the men’s snowboarding division, while Rachel Baskfield took the women’s boarding title and Jamie Britt claimed the women’s skiing title.”Definitely the strongest field of skiers I’ve seen in three years of judging, especially the women,” said head judge E.B. Brownson. “Everyone took it to another level.”In freeskiing contests, competitors are judged primarily on the line they descend, as well as their fluidity and aggressiveness getting down through it. Variable snow conditions on Friday and Saturday, hardpack winter snow up top and soft spring snow in the bottom, made for challenging conditions that resulted in a few notable injuries.”All things considered, it’s been light carnage,” said Snowmass Ski Patroller John Brennan. “Some of these lines, I’ve thought maybe you could do it, but I wasn’t sure you could get up and walk away from it. But these guys made it look easy. It takes an incredible amount of athletic talent to ski out of a lot of this stuff, and they’ve been skiing every square inch of the terrain we’ve made available to them. It’s fun to watch.”For Lahey, who only competed in one extreme skiing event prior to this winter, it’s been a work in progress. In the three Series events, Lahey cracked the top-10 twice, finishing as high as sixth, and he entered the championships expecting a similar result.”I didn’t think I’d make it to the last day and I never thought I’d win, so when I won [Friday] I was surprised,” he said.As for his line choice Saturday that included a mandatory cliff drop, Lahey said, “I knew it was a gamble.”The only reason I did it was to win the contest,” he said. “It’s not a line I’ll ever do again. Up top, the only thing I was thinking about was the landing off that 30 foot cliff. Your variables are speed, the snow and your body position. If your body position isn’t exactly right, well, I guess I need to be more a student of the landings. They like the way I turn, I think, I’ve just got to learn how to land.”