Aspen freestylers shine in home opener
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s freestyle ski team wasted no time showing its strength at home in the first USSA slopestyle and halfpipe event of the season Jan. 5-6 at Buttermilk.
Despite heavy snowfall and low visibility, AVSC skiers Jen Hudak and Shanny Cohen finished 1-2 respectively in both of Sunday’s women’s halfpipe events.
AVSC skiers Walter Wood and Taylor Seaton each picked up a win in the two men’s halfpipe contests Sunday and David VanAtta won the first slopestyle competition on Saturday.
Cohen, an AVSC newcomer, finished second in both slopestyle competitions on Saturday on the women’s side and Whitney Wickes had two fourth-place finishes in her first competition back from injury.
“Whitney had two excellent runs and it was great to have her back out there,” AVSC coach Geoff Stump said.
David VanAtta took control of the first slopestyle event on Saturday by wowing the judges with a switch backflip on a jump right in front of the judges’ stand.
“It was totally impressive jump and a great win,” said Eric “Doughboy” Knight, AVSC’s freestyle director “Watch out for Dave,” Stump added. “He showed he really belongs in these high level competitions and he’s the only athlete out there who didn’t repeat any of his tricks. He mixed up every run and might be one of the most versatile athletes on the team. He has the potential to surprise a lot of people.”
Fifteen-year-old Walter Wood finished third in both slopestyle events and made a huge jump in the overall standings based on his consistency.
“We knew about Walter’s potential and he’s really coming into his own this season,” Stump said. “He showed the judges a nice switch-up on the rail, a clean 540 and he finished with a corked  with a mute grab and stomped the landing. Last year he probably would have overdone it, but this was the perfect kind of run for the conditions.”
Wood’s consistency throughout the weekend moved his ranking up from 41st to fourth place in the country in slopestyle as a first-year J2 skier. Local disabled skier Sam Ferguson took sixth place in the morning and Kelly Selby also cracked the top10 and took seventh place in the afternoon on Saturday.
The snow that made Saturday afternoon’s slopestyle a challenge kept coming on Sunday.
“It was dumping snow out there and I was impressed with how our athletes adjusted to the conditions of the halfpipe,” Knight said. “Both Jen and Shanny performed great despite the slowness of the pipe on Sunday. Jen’s tuning up for the X Games and she threw two big 540s and stomped her landings. Shanny joined us from Sun Valley this season … She kept her head and didn’t try to do too much out there.”
The breakthrough performances of the weekend came from two younger members of the team: 12 year-old Torin Yater-Wallace and 13 year-old Alex Ferriera. Yater-Wallace took eighth place on Sunday morning, then showed the halfpipe judges a beautiful flair to move up to fourth in the afternoon.
“Torin’s flair is one of his best tricks and despite his age, he’s a very smart skier and mature in competition,” Stump said.
First-year J3 skier Ferriera finished 14th in slopestyle on Saturday, but first for his age class.
“Both of these guys are making huge strides,” Knight said. “They’re such a young crew with incredible talent ” they’re really pushing our top guys and beating some of them. It’s an exciting glimpse of things to come.”
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