Young AVSC skiers shine at regional big mountain competition in Snowmass
What Johnny Rossman wanted to point out more than anything else is how much freeriding has blossomed in recent years. It certainly remains a niche scene in skiing, behind that of Alpine and more traditional freestyle competitions like halfpipe and slopestyle, but big mountain skiing is certainly on an uptick here in the Rockies.
“It’s like the return of freeride. We have not really had a great presence in Aspen for quite some time,” Rossman said. “With us having success on the national level, other clubs are intrigued and want to come and check out what we got going on.”
Rossman coaches the big mountain skiers through the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and spent a handful of years competing on the Freeride World Tour, the sport’s pinnacle. He’s seen the ebbs and flows and can’t help but feel ecstatic for where the AVSC freeride program is today.
This past Sunday, the Colorado Junior Freeride tour made its return to the area. The regional competition had been held at Aspen Highlands more often than not in recent years, but moved over to Snowmass and the Cirque Headwall and its gnarly cliffs this year. Actually, it was held in Snowmass last year, as well, but that competition was canceled due to heavy snowfall.
This year’s competition was about picture perfect and included some impressive performances by AVSC athletes.
“It’s a huge deal,” Rossman said. “We had a really awesome weekend. It was great for the whole valley. We had a big showing from some other ski clubs as well, which was really nice.”
Aspen’s Max Bass stole the show, winning the male 15-18 category behind his casual 360 over a 70-foot cliff, according to Rossman. Bass is one of the top-ranked skiers in the Rocky Mountain region this season and is knocking on the door of bigger competitions in coming years. His goal is to reach the FWT.
Rossman said freeriding competitions have changed a lot since his days — which wasn’t but a handful of years ago — but all-around skiers like Bass have a chance to shine in today’s big mountain world.
“That was more of a pretty serious environment. It was kind of a go big or go home type of thing,” Rossman said of the FWT when he competed. “There has been a change in mentality of just jumping off the biggest cliffs to now skiing very technical terrain, big airs, landing and incorporating tricks.”
Aspen’s Isaac Wilder Musselman finished second behind Bass in Sunday’s competition. AVSC swept the top three spots in the female 15-18 category, led by Annika Nichols. Chloe Ferraro was second and Selby Hall was third.
In the 12-14 age division, AVSC rising star Sheldon Sims took the boys’ crown, followed in second by Bodhi Yang and in third by Nate Thomas for another Aspen podium sweep. AVSC skier Hanna Lamm was second on the girls’ side, with Maia Cullwick coming in third. Gabrielle Leonardo, who competes as an independent athlete, won the contest.
Next up, the AVSC freeriders head to Snowbird in Utah this week and then they have a final regional in Breckenridge before going to Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington for the IFSA North American Junior Freeride Championships beginning April 7. The season finale is by invite only, but Rossman said the Aspen club is sitting quite nicely to have at least a handful get the nod to compete.
“It’s been on all categories and genders, which is really sweet,” Rossman said of AVSC’s big mountain success. “Right now we have like 10 kids who are ranked near the top in North America. We’ve never had that before.”
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More trails will open for the season on Sunday for mountain bikers in Aspen, Snowmass Village and Glenwood Springs.