Walker tops at Young Gun Open | AspenTimes.com

Walker tops at Young Gun Open

Jon Maletz
Matt Walker poses with his trophies at the Young Gun Finals at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. (Courtesy cko@newschoolers.com)

Basalt’s Matt Walker is freeskiing’s newest young gun.The 17-year-old secured his place as one of the sport’s up-and-comers with a convincing win at the Siver Young Gun Open on Saturday, March 11, at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. “I didn’t expect that this would come this year,” Walker said Sunday. “Maybe in a few years.”Walker burst onto the scene with his win at a Siver Young Guns tour stop Jan. 7 at Copper Mountain. He bested a field of 100 skiers with amplitude, style and his unique double crouton grab (using both hands to hold the tip of one ski and the tail of the other). He and Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club teammate Whitney Wickes, who claimed the women’s title, earned sponsorships from the Siver Cartel clothing company, as well as Scott goggles, Level gloves and Line skis.

Walker earned money for his trip to Stratton with the win in Copper and a trip to May’s Orage Masters at California’s Mammoth Mountain, but much more was on the line Saturday. An overall title guaranteed the winner all-expense paid trips to next year’s Vermont Open, the U.S. Open and the World Skiing Invitational at Whistler, British Columbia. The winners from the tour’s four stops – Copper, Mount Seymour, British Columbia, Mount Avila, Quebec, and Stratton – squared off in a 30-minute jam session to determine the overall champion. As close to 100 spectators and a group of judges looked on, Walker impressed with his consistency. He laid down nine clean runs and was the only competitor to stay on his skis the entire time. While competitors Joe Schuster and Shea Flynn had trouble had trouble putting together clean runs, a battle for the title between Walker and John Strenio emerged. In the end, however, Walker was rewarded for his creativity. “Talent wasn’t a question at this comp, but I mixed up my runs and showed some diversity,” Walker said. “That’s why I won.”

The victory is just the latest highlight in what has been a surprising season even Walker admits he never could have predicted. Walker recorded his first qualification for slopestyle at the U.S. Open in Vail in January. It was his third time competing in freeskiing’s premier event.Walker contends his life hasn’t changed drastically – if you ignore the contract deals he’s signed or his hectic, cross-country travel schedule. A return trip to the East Coast to compete in the Vermont Open is on the schedule for Tuesday. As soon as he gets back, Walker is slated to take part in a photo shoot in Keystone for Level One Productions. Then there are trips to Whistler and Mammoth.For now, Walker is enjoying his free ride. And, in coming years, he hopes to “get his name out there,” with impressive performances on the sport’s biggest stages.

Others, however, have already started to take notice.”I go places now, and people know my name even though I’ve never met them,” Walker said. “That’s definitely because of Young Guns. Those little changes are nice.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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