Aspen skier is newest Young Gun |

Aspen skier is newest Young Gun

Nate Peterson
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” It’s the season Jacqui Edgerly will never forget, for many reasons. A winter packed so full of life-altering events, either tragic or exhilarating, with little gray between, that Edgerly said she’s still trying to sort it out.

What to make of six months in which she never felt more alive, experiencing her greatest personal triumphs on her skis … and yet also, reluctantly, got her first hard look at death, losing two friends to fatal falls in one week.

The conflicting emotions couldn’t have been more defined than on the morning of April 12 in sun-soaked Alyeska, Alaska. The day before at the World Freeskiing Championships, friend and fellow valley local John Nicoletta tumbled to his death after losing control on a steep headwall strewn with exposed rocks. The blow came just a week after Edgerly, while filming in the backcountry near Aspen Highlands, watched from above as another close friend, local snowboarder Wallace Westfeldt, disappeared off a cliff and fell to his death.

In Alaska, the morning after Nicoletta’s death, Edgerly and the other Aspen skiers at the contest banded together with the rest of the field and hiked to the summit of the peak that claimed their friend. Following a touching memorial, Edgerly decided to honor Nicoletta and Westfeldt the only other way that made sense to her at the time: By forging on and finishing out the contest.

“It was extremely tough,” Edgerly said of her decision. “But once I dropped into my line, I realized, this is what I wanted to do. Nothing made me happier than skiing for Johnny, as well as Wallace. I was devastated at the top. When I got to the bottom, I couldn’t have been happier. I just love skiing so much.”

Edgerly didn’t just ski for her friends, she put down her best line of the season to finish fourth. She considered that performance the fitting conclusion to her season, but learned last week that there was a coda.

After finishing fifth overall in the Subaru Freeskiing Series and sixth on the Mountain Sports International World Tour, representatives from MSI and The North Face named Edgerly, 19, the Young Gun overall winner for 2008.

The national award honors the best new talent in competitive big mountain freeskiing under the age of 21. Along with complimentary gear from The North Face, Edgerly also gets $2,000 to subsidize competition expenses next season.

“I had no idea, to be honest,” said Edgerly on Wednesday. “I just wasn’t really expecting anything. … It’s an encouraging award. It makes me want to get out there and ski harder and do the best I can.”

A valley native, Edgerly said she has always harbored dreams of skiing stardom. After graduating from Aspen High School a semester early, she first competed in the local Snowmass Freeride Series in 2006 and finished second among the women.

During the 2006-07 season, Edgerly moved to Snowbird, Utah, but only competed at the US. Freeskiing Series event there.

This past winter, after moving back to the Roaring Fork Valley, the Old Snowmass resident finally made the commitment to do the full freeskiing circuit. She called barnstorming across the U.S. with a troop of other locals one of the best experiences of her life.

“It’s kind of a traveling community with pretty much the same people at every event,” Edgerly said. “It just has a great energy and a great vibe. It’s all about picking out your line to ski and then skiing it safely.”

Edgerly ended up finishing fifth at the tour stops at Crested Butte and Squaw Valley, Calif., and 10th at the U.S. Freeskiing Nationals at Snowbird before her fourth-place showing in Alaska. She would have likely finished higher in the tour’s overall standings had she not twisted her knee and missed the Jackson Hole event in late November.

Nonetheless, Edgerly said she is determined to improve on her results next season after making a name for herself.

“I just want to do what I do in the summer, bike and train and climb, then go out and do it again,” Edgerly said. “Just ski and see whatever opportunities come up. I’ll probably end up doing the whole tour again.”

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