Jen Hudak eyes U.S. championship |

Jen Hudak eyes U.S. championship

Aspen Times Staff Report
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jen Hudak grabs her skis during the women's ski superpipe in the January 2007 Win­ter X Games at Buttermilk in Aspen. Hudak took third. (Aspen Times file)

PARK CITY, Utah ” After finally downing rival Sarah Burke in a World Cup halfpipe, Jen Hudak enters Friday’s superpipe contest at the U.S. Freestyle Championships in Park City, Utah, brimming with confidence.

It’s been a season unlike any other for the 21-year-old Hudak, a native of Con­necticut who honed her skills on the freestyle team at Vermont’s Okemo Mountain School under coach Elana Chase before heading west upon gradua­tion to train in Park City.

Hudak, who will be gunning for her third straight U.S. championship Friday, still works with Chase ” now a coach at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club ” while living in Park City.

This season, Hudak claimed podium spots in all three World Cup halfpipe events she entered, including a win in the season finale in Valmalenco, Italy. There was also a bronze medal performance at the Winter X Games in January where Burke defended her 2007 title.

“Winning in Italy was huge for me,” Hudak said in a USSA news release. “It was my first World Cup win and was also my first time beating Sarah Burke. She is an amazing skier, someone who I have looked up to for a long time, and to finally be on the podium above her was an incredible feeling. It just shows that con­sistency really matters in this game ” believing in yourself and never losing faith in yourself are tools for continued suc­cess.”

Hudak is also enjoying the burgeoning fame that comes with being a star in the rapidly growing sport of skier superpipe. Her photos have appeared in numerous magazines, and her website lists seven sponsors ” everything from goggles and skis to energy drinks and ski wax.

Burke and Hudak squared off in three World Cups this season, the first at Janu­ary’s season opener in Les Contamines, France, where Burke and Hudak went 1-2. A month later in Inawashiro, Japan ” the site of next season’s Freestyle World Ski Championships ” Hudak landed her alley-oop 540, but still finished second to Burke.

Burke came into the World Cup Finals at Valmalenco, Italy, undefeated in all of her competitions this season. Hudak, mean­while, had picked up a win of her own in at the prestigious Nippon Open in Joetsu Kokusai, Japan ” independent of the World Cup ” just after Inawashiro.

“Sarah and I were both coming off really good results,” said Hudak. “I definitely caught her on a bad day ” she wasn’t skiing her best. But I managed to ski consistently well, landing every run that day.”

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association added skier halfpipe to its U.S. Championship program two years ago at Killington Mountain Resort in Vermont. Hudak has won the previous two titles and will look to defend her title in what is now her hometown.

“Nationals are in Park City this year, which is really exciting being my home town and home resort,” she said. “I have a lot of friends around Utah who have never had the opportunity to see me compete, so I will be thrilled to have them all there cheering me on.”

While she’s dominated the last two years, she knows she has to perform to win.

“I have played it fairly conservative the past few years to secure my spot on top,” she said. “But that hasn’t been my style this year. It has been my mission to impress.”