Aspen ski instructors win Powder 8 title in Jackson
The Aspen Times
Who are the best powder-8 skiers this year?
Two Aspen/Snowmass ski instructors, that’s who.
Thomas Roennau and Jim Schanzenbaker of the Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen Snowmass won the prestigious Grand National Powder 8s recently at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The duo won for the second consecutive year after taking the title in Aspen in 2015.
“It’s very special to win,” said Roennau, a native of Denmark who has been an Aspen instructor for three season. “The terrain is so extreme.”
The competition is held in Cody Bowl at Jackson Hole, a reknowned powder bowl.
“We work well together,” Roennau said, “I’m really good at keeping the fall line and repeating the turn again and again and again.”
Roennau skis lead.
“(Jim Schanzenbaker) is a strong skier … the best follower,” Roennau said after setting the pace while partner Schanzenbaker completes the perfect powder 8.
Roennau, a ski instructor since 1992 when he first started in the trade in Europe, said his partner is extraordinary at matching his turns … in sync.
They practice skiing alike.
He said he skis on a Head ski, 115 under foot.
His partner goes with a slightly narrower ski under foot, 110.
“He needs to react; he needs to (respond),” Roennau said.
He said their rounder, linked turns proved to top the 22-team field for the Grand National Powder 8 finals.
A qualifier had been held in January to determine the final lineup.
Roennau said conditions were cold and windy for the finals. All of the competitors and officials were outfitted with full avalanche gear, including beacons and probe poles.
“There were a lot of strong skiers,” he said. “That makes it more interesting and challenging.”
He said there is an incredible camaraderie among the powder-8 skiers.
The win was extra special this year at the 50th annual competition, he said.
His partner has resurrected the powder-8 event after its last run in Wyoming, bringing it to Aspen.
But for the 50th event, Roennau said Schanzenbaker wanted the event to go back home to Jackson Hole.
Second place this year went to Nick Herrin of Big Sky, Montana, and Troy Nedved of Crested Butte.
Chris Denny and Halsey Hewson of Jackson Hole finished third.
Two Telluride skiers, Steve Cieciuch and Willi Glanzing, finished fourth in the 2016 event.
Roennau, 45, started skiing as a 14-year-old with his family.
He graduated to big mountains in France rapidly.
He decided he wanted a career as a ski instructor and embarked on his international journey at age 22.
He said he eventually decided Aspen was his destination.
“I chose Aspen as a workplace instead of Europe because of what Aspen offers — winter and summer,” he said, adding that there is a proliferation of high-level skiers here, including teaching examiners from all over the world.
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