U.S. Freeskiing Open returns to Copper | AspenTimes.com

U.S. Freeskiing Open returns to Copper

Adam Boffey
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kyle Keating, a member of Team Summit, soars above the Tenmile Range while competing in the qualifying round of the men's slopestyle at last January's U.S. Freeskiing Open at Copper Mountain, Colo. (Mark Fox/Summit Daily file)

COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. ” The 11th annual U.S. Freeskiing Open got off to a snowy start Wednesday at Copper Moun­tain with two men’s slopestyle qualifying heats.

Conditions made things difficult for the some 170 athletes on hand, but that didn’t stop freeskiing’s up-and-comers from throwing down for a chance at Friday’s final round.

“It was a little sketchy today ” really hard to get speed for the jumps,” Heat 1 competitor Andrew Taylor said. “But that’s just because of the snow ” the course is really nice.”

“A lot of people were crashing,” event judge and former Winter X Games competitor Phil Belenger said. “And the scores were lower than average.”

It’s hard to complain about falling snow at a skiing comp, however, and regardless of the weather over the next four days, the event staff will be ready.

“We’re prepared for anything,” event director Jason Spencer said. “With all of our staff together, we’re pretty much bulletproof.”

Two more men’s qualifying slopestyle rounds will be held today, prior to Friday’s finals, which will feature 23 prequali­fied pros.

Superpipe competition will take place Saturday and Sun­day and the big air invitational is set for Saturday evening under the lights.

Spencer, who works for a company called Mountain Sports International, took a moment on Wednesday to explain the changes that have been made to the event’s format.

“We made the finals three runs to make it more competit­ive,” he said. “And we moved the slopestyle venue from ski­er’s right to skier’s left to allow for more daylight in case we run late. … And we moved the big-air competition to looker’s left from where it was. Last year it was beneath the pipe and it really killed the visuals from base area and the overall logis­tics [presented challenges].”

Some of the details may have been altered, but the U.S. Open remains one of the biggest, longest-running, and most­popular freeskiing competitions in North America.

For many amateurs hoping to become pros, its the high­light of the season.

“It’s the biggest event I’ve done, ” said 18-year-old Alex Mathers, who is one of seven athletes competing this week­end for Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine. “And I think it’s the biggest the team does for sure.”

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