Tele’s rock Freeride, 1st to last
I performed terribly.It was Saturday, the first installment of the Powerade Colorado Freeride Series at Snowmass. Thankfully, I’ve come up with a ton of excuses for why I skied like crap. First of all, I was handed the not so fortunate position of running second-to-last in the field. The venue was not only beat up, but also set-up under afternoon clouds and waning sun. I’d also never skied the Burnside Cliffs, which was the venue for the contest. Another good excuse is that I’ve been injured or otherwise indisposed for most of the winter.But excuses are like … well, whatever.In reality, I was just out of my league.
I came to accept that fact as I watched the first 48 competitors effortlessly hop from cliff to cliff in hairy, scary, no-fall zones like genetically mutated mountain goats. But I wasn’t too bothered or intimidated, because most of those guys were alpine skiers; I telemark. Surely I couldn’t be expected to compete on the same level as someone with a fixed heel. Then bib No. 49 ran, and my whole world came crashing down. I was waiting for that number to be called, because I knew it belonged to Nick DeVore, an Aspen native and excellent telemarker. I’d never seen DeVore ski, but I’d heard about him, so I watched carefully from the deck of Gwyn’s High Alpine restaurant, which doubled as the event headquarters. When DeVore dropped into the Triple Jump area, which is basically a matrix of nasty cliffs laden with mandatory airs, I thought he’d taken a wrong turn. He dropped the first cliff – at least a 30-footer – and I expected him to blow up. Instead, he stuck it with ease. Then, without hesitation, he dropped another, and another, both with style and grace. Then, carrying speed into the apron off his last cliff, he made a couple quick turns through a bump field, making it look like a groomed catwalk, and topped off his run with a tight 360 off a boulder. He stuck it, of course. My jaw dropped.
The guy sitting next to me on the deck shook his head and chuckled. “That was sick.” I felt my stomach do a flip – the closest I’d get to performing a trick that day – and hoped that what I saw was actually a dream, or more appropriately, a nightmare. I had just seen the best skier of my life and he was a telemarker. I thought I was pretty good. I was wrong. I spoke with DeVore from his temporary home and workplace at the Peruvian Lodge in Alta, Utah, on Monday night, and it seems we have more in common than I thought. DeVore has also been banged up this season, having broken his collarbone less than two months ago. “It was basically the first time since I injured it that I jumped cliffs,” he said. Oh, and he also hadn’t spent much time in the Burn Cliffs prior to the event.
“I was just following people who skied in there before and they said the Triple Jump was the winning line,” he added. Thanks a lot, man. That robs me of two of my three primary excuses. Anyway, after I saw DeVore ski, I just wanted to go home. But I didn’t. Instead I took the longest lift ride of my life up Sheer Bliss nervously contemplating what line I was going to ski. My two inspection runs were basically worthless, since I had no idea where I was going, and I didn’t like either line. I decided to drop into Gluteus, which I had mistakenly been calling Glutumous all day. When the gatekeeper told me I was up, I slid through the trees, hit the ridge, and the bottom just fell out. There were cliffs everywhere, and what lines did exist were steep, bullet proof, and too narrow to throw a turn. My eyes darted in a thousand simultaneous directions in an attempt to figure out where I was, and more importantly, where I was headed. Looking a couple hundred feet ahead, instead of directly in front of me, I crossed my tips over a bump, got thrown in the back seat, and fell on my ass.Not a good way to start. It didn’t get much better from there, and I’ll spare you the details.
All I know is my run ended mighty quick, and without any drama. After four hours of waiting and mental preparation, my run was done in the blink of an eye. I was, for lack of a better word, devastated. But if there was any consolation to my day, it was that the judges were equally impressed with DeVore, and awarded him gold. The 19-year old who looks like he was born with tele skis strapped to his feet swept the field again on Sunday. “I was pretty surprised,” he said. “I mean, I planned on winning, I wanted to win, but, you know?” If you want to see a good show check out DeVore this weekend, he’ll be making another journey from Alta to compete in the Freeride Series finals and championships Friday and Saturday at Snowmass. By the way, I finished sixth (or something) from last. But hey, that’s better than dead last. Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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