Pipe dream for local freestyle skier | AspenTimes.com

Pipe dream for local freestyle skier

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ASPEN When he first dropped into the Copper Mountain pipe and prepared for a 540 with his signature high mute grab on the first hit, Aspen’s Charlie Lasser was a relative unknown.By the time he reached the bottom in the U.S. Freeskiing Open finals Jan. 21, Lasser’s competitors, among them some of freestyle skiing’s biggest names, took notice. When they found out the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club athlete was just 16 – the youngest in the field – some were even more awed.The development continued at last weekend’s Honda Ski Tour, where the young skier shared the Breckenridge pipe with the likes of Tanner Hall and Simon Dumont, yet still managed to garner a little attention of his own en route to an 11th-place finish.Much has changed in the four years since Lasser traded in his alpine racing skis for twin-tips. And now, the skier who won slopestyle gold at last year’s U.S. Junior Olympics, is continuing to build momentum. “I’m used to him being the unknown,” AVSC freestyle coach Geoff Stump said. “Guys are taking notice. Some of them came up and said, ‘Hey Stump, who’s the new guy from Aspen?'”Lasser is preparing to take a run at the pipe title at the upcoming Aspen/Snowmass Open, which kicks off Friday. Athletes from all over the country, all looking for that solid performance to help further their careers, will travel to Aspen. Lasser, who is fast becoming a known commodity, is expected to figure prominently, Stump said.

It’s a position Lasser has never experienced before.”He’s rolling into the competition as someone who is expected to make the finals,” Stump said. “He’s always been the long-shot horse in the back and now everyone goes ‘Who the heck is that? It’s nice in his progression that he gets to handle a different type of pressure.”The great thing about [the Aspen/Snowmass Open] is that it’s an open format, so you’ll get those kids who don’t get invited to ski tours who are having good years and want to prove to everybody that they are. There will be some talented kids here.”Stump has no doubt Lasser will handle everything in stride this weekend. After all, he’s no stranger to exposure. He currently has a two-minute segment airing on YouTube, and has been featured in multiple films with a band of local skiers who collectively call themselves “The A-Town Army.” He’s even slated to appear in an episode of the Gene Simmons reality show “Family Jewels,” which will air in April – it’s a long story, but he did receive a hefty sum for just one day’s work, Lasser said.On the slopes, Lasser has an uncanny knack for laying down some of his strongest runs under the most stressful of circumstances, Stump said. That’s the reason Stump lobbied to Honda Ski Tour organizers to have Lasser included in the field in Breckenridge. After countless e-mails, officials finally relented.

“In this sport, you see a lot of kids who have potential, but injuries and being able to perform in competition weeds out so many,” Stump. “Charlie is dedicated and likes the spotlight. Whether he likes the pressure or not, I’m not sure, but he’s able to handle it and thrive under it.”Lasser didn’t disappoint when he narrowly finished outside the top 10. In typical fashion, Lasser struggled landing his maneuvers during pipe warm-ups Feb. 4. Inclement weather that delayed the competition for nearly two days didn’t help matters. Still, Lasser remained collected. And, as his time to compete neared, Stump said he could see the fire return to Lasser’s eyes. Had it not been for a last-second miscalculation, Lasser may have crept into the top five, Stump said.”On my fourth hit I thought I was going to have room for a fifth, so I tried a 1080 and ran out of pipe,” Lasser said. “My ski blew off, but I was fine. It was a sketchy last-second decision, and I was a little disappointed I didn’t stomp it.”Lasser struggled with a busted binding on the eve of the U.S. Freeskiing Open, and crashed several times during morning warm-ups. He barely earned a finals berth, snagging the 12th and final spot after the qualifying round. In the final, he jumped four spots on the leaderboard and firmly planted himself in the top 10.”It was an amazing accomplishment for any athlete, let alone a 16-year-old,” said Stump, who has worked closely with Lasser for the past four winters. “He’s very consistent. He comes into pro meets and stands up runs in conditions when even the best pros can’t put down two runs.”

Lasser insists he feels no heightened pressure to compete in Aspen this weekend, nor do thoughts of a disappointing finish in the event last year continue to linger. Lasser took fourth during slopestyle qualifying, then hurt his knee during superpipe training and was forced to withdraw.”I don’t really feel like I’m expected to do much of anything,” he said. “All I hope is that I do well. It’d be cool to progress my career further. I’ll ski as hard as I can.”He plans on impressing the judges with a run filled with a wide variety of tricks, including a 900, an alley-oop flatspin 540, a switch 700 and a 1080. He’ll start off the run, as he most often does, with his now infamous 540 with a high mute grab – with skis crossed in the air, he grabs one ski in the middle and slides his hand out to the tip. The unique maneuver continually attracts the attention of judges and event announcers. Stump said he expects Lasser to, in typical fashion, make some noise and make a statement.”For him to get on the podium would be huge,” Stump said. “It would still be an amazing victory if he finished eighth again. But I don’t think Charlie is thinking about eighth.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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