AVSC’s ‘ripper factory’ cranking out freeskiers
Freeskiing debuts at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February. That alone may surprise some spectators who just assume that skiers competing in the halfpipe and terrain park have long been eligible for Olympic medals.
The Winter X Games has certainly shined a spotlight on freeskiing, and now a steady stream of athletes who came up through AVSC programs may find their sport receiving even more attention because of its Olympic inclusion.
According to Eric Knight, AVSC’s Freestyle/Freeride Program director, Aspen was called “the ripper factory” by a competitor who is impressed by the deep and talented fields that the club continues to produce.
Its roots hearken back to the late 1990s when Steele Spence, Travis Redd and current Olympic team hopeful Matt Walker were pushing the freeskiing boundaries.
Formerly a standout moguls skier (he competed in the junior worlds), Spence switched his emphasis to slopestyle after high school; he’s been instrumental in freeskiing’s development — from its organization to its equipment to its rules process — ever since.
Pipes and parks were officially added to AVSC’s program roster beginning in 2001 and the next generation of standouts, including Charlie Lasser and Andrew Wickes, continued to cement the club’s reputation in the freeskiing world.
Prior to the 2012-13 season, AVSC purchased a giant airbag and a super trampoline, both tools designed to provide better close-to-home training for athletes who want to hone their skills before taking them to snow.
X Games multi-medalist and AVSC coach Peter Olenick will be able to lead athletes by example, just as he’s done with sister Meg Olenick, U.S. Freeskiing Slopestyle Pro Team member and a legitimate contender for an Olympic team spot.
Last week, Torin Yater-Wallace, 18, was named to the U.S. Freeskiing Halfpipe Pro Team while his teammate, 19-year-old Alex Ferreira, earned a spot on the U.S. Freeskiing Halfpipe Rookie Team.
Ferreira finished fourth over the weekend at the North Face Park and Pipe Open at Copper Mountain.
Also part of that Copper Mountain field, an even younger “next” generation: Joey Lang, Keenan McIntyre and Gage Carr, three of the latest up-and-comers who are continuing to solidify AVSC’s reputation as “the ripper factory.”
That freeskiing is “coming into the mainstream as a legitimate Olympic sport is so exciting,” Knight said.
Two of the young guns, Lang and McIntyre, along with freestyle/freeride head coach Lynn Merriam, are featured on the GrassRoots program “Weekly with Walt,” today at 7 p.m. It airs on Channel 12 upvalley and Channel 82 below Catherine’s Store.
The AVSC-Adaptive Team is currently competing at Copper Mountain in the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing Nor-Am Cup.
It’s been a solid start to the season for a number of the team members as they try to punch their ticket to the Sochi Paralympics in March.
In the first super-G race, Laurie Stephens struck gold in women’s sitting while Melanie Schwartz finished fourth in women’s standing. In men’s sitting, Tyler Walker finished with a silver in the first super-G. In the Dec. 8 super-G, Stephens repeated her winning ways.
Giant slalom races Dec. 9 saw Stephens in second; in the men’s race, Tyler Walker won and Chris Devlin-Young finished fifth.
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Cory Parker once roamed the halls of Aspen High School as a student, graduating in 2008 as one of the best basketball players in program history. For the past five seasons, since returning home, he’s helped rebuild AHS basketball as an assistant coach alongside Alex Schrempf.