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Masters of the Powder 8

Nate Peterson

It was in 1992, while volunteering as a stunt skier for the forgettable feature film “Aspen Extreme,” that local Bill Madsen last teamed up with a partner to make powder 8 turns.That is, until a few weeks ago when the opportunity to win a free heli skiing trip in Blue River, British Columbia, seduced Madsen and friend Scott Strickland to sign up for the National Powder 8 Championships, held at Highlands and Ajax on Thursday and Friday.On the backside of Aspen Mountain Friday, Madsen and Strickland won that trip – and the chance to win a Master’s world championship – with an elegant display of synchronized powder skiing.In the head-to-head final for the over-40 division, held on the east face of McFarlane Bowl, the local duo beat out defending world champions Tom Riggins and Tom Truss of Breckenridge.”Scott said a few weeks ago, ‘If I sign us up, do you want to do it?'” Madsen said Sunday. “We only practiced for two days before we did it – Saturday and Sunday of last week.”The road to the championship wasn’t all smooth turning.On Thursday, in the first day of competition at Highland Bowl, the pair had to adapt to the judging criteria to make it into Friday’s final round of four.”We thought we skied the bowl really well the first time, but our turns were too tight,” Madsen said. “The judges really like to see giant round turns. You’re leaving oranges tacked on top of each other. It took us a couple of runs for us to figure out exactly what the judges wanted.”Powder 8 judges also grade on synchronicity and speed in a head-to-head run, or “overall dynamic powder skiing,” as Madsen put it.”If you’re a ski racer growing up in Aspen, you do a lot of that,” he said. “You get to ski a lot of powder, and you’re used to racing head-to-head.”As for winning a national title in the masters division, that will take some getting used to, Madsen said.The crown grants the duo three days of free helicopter rides and free meals while in Blue River for the world championships, April 8-10, courtesy of world-renowned Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing.Madsen and Strickland have to pay for their plane ticket to Canada, but otherwise everything else is covered.”I guess sometimes they finish the competition in one day, depending on the weather, then you get the other two days to just ski powder,” Madsen said. “It’s one of the plushest helicopter operations in the world. Really nice lodges, really great meals. It’s not like you’re staying at the Super 8.””It’s the reason we signed up in the first place,” Madsen added. “I’ve never been, so I’m really looking forward to it.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com


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