Extremes veterans get to work
CRESTED BUTTE Body armor cocooning their spines, the men and women who have forged a lifestyle around chasing glory at the U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championships took center stage for the first time Thursday.The venue was spiny and jutting and, in places, just plain ugly, but it’d been years since Sock-it-to-Me had hosted a day of competition at the Extremes, so the veterans made their opportunity count.The goal was not to win, at least not on this sunny day. With just one run and more to lose than to gain, you only wanted to ski well enough to make the cut. Which, in a nutshell, meant, “Don’t fall.”Most of the field fulfilled such a goal, and the ones who didn’t went down blazing. When the day was done, the men’s leaderboard looked a lot like last year, with 19-year-old Vermont native Lars Chickering-Ayers, a softspoken coiled spring who now spends his winters in Alta, Utah, topping the standings.Chickering-Ayers came agonizingly close to a career-making victory last year at this event, leading for the first three rounds before crashing and, as they say, throwing a shoe in the super finals to end up 12th.
Thursday, he completed a run that he called a six on a scale of one to 10, but it was still good enough for 32.8 points and the day’s top score.”Just a fast run, solid little course,” he said after beelining off the mandatory huck zone in Little Hourglass. “Should be enough to get me through, hopefully.”Crested Butte local Jeremy Wagner was second (32.4), thanks to an ambitious line that featured a 10-foot pillow drop onto leftover powder where everyone else was launching onto hardpack.”If you can find fresh, you know it’s gonna be good,” said Wagner, 30, who has finished in the top 10 in the Telemark Extremes.Wagner was followed by another freeheeler, Utah’s Dylan Crossman, the defending champion in the Telemark Extremes. Crossman soared off the Little Hourglass cliff and then, traveling about 2.6 million miles per hour, made about half a turn the rest of the way down to qualify third with 31.2 points.
The women’s qualifying round also featured its share of local flavor, as Gunnison’s Hannah Whitney easily topped the leaderboard thanks to an air as large as those thrown by the men. Her 30.8-point score was higher than all but four of the men, and was 5.6 points better than that of women’s runner-up Phillipa Hunt, a Crested Butte native who now lives in Salt Lake City.This could be the beginning of a redemption performance for Whitney, who qualified in her Extremes debut last year but fell on Bodybag the next day and was eliminated.”The line I took was way more covered yesterday,” Whitney said after her run. “It’s like shark teeth coming up at that drop. You gotta just go for it.”Pete Bowers, the 1996 Extremes champion who is obviously still in top shape, was the top masters (over-40) qualifier on Thursday, laying down a strong opening run that was awarded 29.2 points by the five-judge panel. Contrary to the other divisions, all masters competitors – including the lone female, Crested Buttician Kelly Walter – qualified to compete in today’s main event.The subsequent rounds are slated to run through Saturday, but competitors who have been here before know they shouldn’t expect anything less than what they faced Thursday.
“This is about as easy as it gets,” said Jackson Hole resident Tanner Flanagan, 22, a Summit High School graduate and former Team Summit racer who qualified 23rd. “One little air; it’s gonna get harder the next two days – a lot harder.”Ashley Carruth of Carbondale took fifth in the women’s field (21.6), which was cut from nine competitors to seven; she was joined on the list of qualifiers by Vail ski patroller Mark Filippini (11th), Basalt’s Adam Moszynski (T-17th), Scott McBrayer of Carbondale (29th) and Vail freestyle ski coach Garrett Scahill (T-33rd).The men’s field was cut from 66 to 34.In the juniors competition, Tyler Ceccanti of Washington maintained his lead from the previous day, while defending girls champ Francesca Pavillard-Cain jumped up to No. 1 with Breckenridge’s Colby Adams nipping at her heels in second.Vail’s Ian Lockhart is fifth in the boys standings, while Aspenites Ian Lowell and Brandon Clabaugh are sitting in seventh and eighth, respectively.For complete Extremes coverage, go to http://www.aspentimes.com/extremes.
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