Freerider’s delight at S’mass this weekend
“Is this gonna be a money shot, or am I hucking just ’cause I like to huck?”John Brennan, Snowmass Ski Area avalanche technician, was peering down at me from the top shelf of the Burnside Cliffs yesterday, preparing to drop some 20 feet into a line called Triple Jump.His question was a reasonable one – as a photographer, I’m more lucky than good. But the camera was focused and the lens cap – check – off. And I’d just negotiated the full, hairy extent of the high Rock Island traverse, for the first time, to get to my present, lofty perch.”Money shot. Totally,” I yelled back.Brennan waved, then started counting down. Shoving off the edge, he fell so far he dropped out of sight. While a rib of snow obstructed my view of him, I knew he’d thudded down solidly when a sizable slab sheered off his pillow-like landing zone and went cascading over another cliff. Watching the debris slide into trees, I hoped I didn’t see Brennan sliding along with it.A moment later, though, Brennan’s head and a raised right fist popped out over the rib.He may have let out a whoop or two.Brennan’s domain is the wild steeps of Snowmass, and this weekend it gets truly wild. And Brennan loves it.”It’s good conditions for what these athletes do, and a lot of them like to go off cliffs,” said Brennan, whose summertime chainsaw handiwork has opened up much of the Burnside Cliffs terrain.After snow and fog wiped out the first event of the Powerade Colorado Freeride Series last Saturday, the extreme-style skiing and snowboarding competition will try again this Saturday. While organizers would like to stage the contest in the Burnside area with conditions as good as they are, a forecast for snow Saturday means the Hanging Valley Wall – easier for judges to see in low visibility – will serve as the venue.Additionally, for the skiing public on Saturday, Burnside Cliffs area mandatory-air specials like Triple Jump, Gluteus and Stihletto will debut for the season.The Freeride Series field, limited to the first 100 skiers and/or snowboarders, men and/or women to sign up, will open competition runs beginning at 10:30 a.m.Local skiers Aaron Estrada, Kiffor Berg, Frank Shine, Jane Sommerville and Lindsey McIntire are registered to compete. Cliff Bennett of Ward will also be a skier to watch. Jesse Hall, a heavyweight in past series events, hadn’t registered as of Thursday afternoon but surely has a slot awaiting him should he show up.”We’ve only got a few spots left,” said Justin Erickson, Freeride Series event manager for the Aspen Skiing Co. “It’s for sure going to fill up.” (Call Erickson at 300-7031 to sign up.)Following the fog-out, the remaining series events and championship will be held the same weekend, March 11-13. The second and third series events will be Friday and Saturday, March 11-12, with the March 12 event serving as the qualifying day for the one-day series championship on Sunday, March 13.Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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