USASA Nationals is proving ground for Winter X Games
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. – It’s dubbed the “largest snowboard event in the world” and the whopping field of more than 1,100 riders at this year’s USASA Nationals at Copper Mountain easily supported that claim.
But there were also plenty of skiers in attendance at nationals during the second half of its 11-day run, reflecting how an organization formed 25 years ago to support snowboarding has wholly embraced freeskiing, too.
“We added it in 2004 when they had no home for freeskiing,” USASA’s Jason Toutolmin said. “Our original intent was to give them a temporary home and whoever steps up to form a sister organization” would take it over.
But whether it was the economy or an unstated reason, events including skiercross, halfpipe and slopestyle have remained under the organization’s umbrella and offered proving grounds for Winter X Games ski stars, including Aspen’s Torin Yater-Wallace.
“It’s really cool to see kids at X Games and say, ‘They were at nationals last year,’ ” Toutolmin said.
About 32 percent of United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association members are skiers, Toutolmin said, which correlates with the number of ski entrants (515) in the just-completed nationals.
Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club fielded large teams throughout the snowboard and ski segments of the competition.
Events, open to age groups ranging from Ruggie (7 and under) to Methuselah (60 and over), ran concurrently throughout the day and continued each evening until about 9 p.m. with a rail jam.
The most elite group, open class, offered prize money to winners and had the strictest qualifying criteria within the 30 regional series.
Past years have seen the likes of Shaun White and Danny Kass compete in the pipe, while the 2013 nationals included some X Games athletes and U.S. Team members. So it was elite company that AVSC team athletes have been keeping since nationals kicked off for its long run beginning March 30.
“I am very proud of all our kids. They had great attitudes throughout the week and can walk away proud of their performances,” said Tyler Lindsay, AVSC Snowboard Program Director. Eight AVSC snowboarders accounted for 12 total medals.
They included Gwyneth Tefft (girls 14-15), the new national champion in slopestyle, who also finished fourth in halfpipe and 14th in boardercross.
“It was a very big deal for Gwyneth to win slopestyle. She’s been working toward that for a long time,” Lindsay said.
Other medalists included Ayla Angelo (women 23-29), who was first in halfpipe and slopestyle and 10th in the Rail Jam, and Daylynn Sanchez (Ruggie girls 7 and Under), the national champion in boardercross, who also finished in the top 10 in every event she entered.
AVSC’s Jack Warble (Grommet boys 8-9) finished second overall in his age group based upon his win in giant slalom, second place in slalom, fourth in boardercross, 10th in slopestyle and 12th in halfpipe.
Christian DeOliveira (Breaker boys 12-13) was second in slalom and giant slalom and 16th in boardercross; Elise Headley (women’s jam 18-22) was the slopestyle winner for her age class.
Among adult competitors with Aspen-area ties, Rodney Smith (Legend men 40-49) and Chris Brockman (Kahuna men 50-59) were both winners in the halfpipe.
Beyond podium finishers there were also plenty of personal bests by AVSC members, including Chase DeMeulenaere’s sixth in slopestyle and Robert Pettit, who finished 12th in men’s open class halfpipe finals.
Three AVSC men, Madison Bailey, DeMeulenaere and Pettit, qualified for the rail jam event in the open class.
AVSC had two medalists in the 2013 USASA Ski Nationals, which concluded April 9.
Will Masters (Skier boys 16-18) was the slopestyle winner for his age class while Wilson Maytham (skier boys 9 and under) finished third in the slopestyle event.
On Monday, a day of wild spring weather, AVSC skiers contented with all types of snow conditions during their turn in the halfpipe.
“It’s really fun. This is like a junior X Games to us,” said 12-year-old Charlie Campisi. Nearby, Ari Diamond-Topelson, 11, was making new acquaintances and chatting up old friends in the start area.
“Kids from all over the country are here,” said Diamond-Topelson, who said he was planning to throw an alley-oop 360 and a 540 in the halfpipe in order to be competitive in his new, and tougher, age class.
The duo was coached that day by Charlie Lasser, himself a former competitor who said next season he may enter one of the USASA events held in Aspen/Snowmass.
During this week, however, the coaches had their hands full from morning, for warm-ups and early events, until the rail jam concluded in the dark.
Snowboarders competed in slalom, giant slalom, halfpipe, boardercross, slopestyle and rails while the skiers’ programs were filled with the pipe, skiercross, slopestyle and rail jam events.
The coaches move from venue to venue with the same group throughout the competition.
“I had six kids (to oversee) on the busiest day,” said Jason Cook, AVSC snowboard coach.
They also oversee waxing, which can prove challenging with the moody spring weather.
“One day in particular started out nice and sunny. Then we got this crazy, random snow squall,” Cook said. “It makes waxing quite difficult.”
But the event ran smoothly, said Cook, who added that he is looking forward to future nationals.
AVSC definitely has good prospects that are quite young right now.”
For complete snowboard and ski results, go to usasa.org.
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