FREESTYLE TEAMS FIGHT IT OUT AT DEER VALLEY
by Paul Maraschiello

with photos by Paul Maraschiello and Andrea Thornton

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Athletes for 28 countries were scheduled to compete in the air and in the bumps at Deer Valley's 2006 Freestyle FIS World Cup. Many of them were trying to nail down a spot on their respective Olympic Freestyle Teams. I was really looking forward to seeing this pre-Olympic event. I knew that the competition would be intense and was really up for seeing some great skiing and looked forward to getting in some great skiing myself at this world-class ski resort.



I arrived at the airport and it was just starting to snow a bit. "No sweat," I thought. The 45-minute drive from the Salt Lack City Airport to Park City would be easy. I picked up my rental car and hit the road. As I left the city and headed east, the snow began to pick up. In no time at all, I was in the middle of a full-blown snow storm (spelled BLIZZARD). I gritted my teeth and drove to Park City in the white deluge, following the tracks of a semi that was in front of me all the way there.



Accommodations with FREE ski/snowboard packages!
It was really snowing by the time I got to Park City and located my condo. I was staying at the Red Pines Condominiums, just off the access road to the Canyons. It turned out to be a really nice one-bedroom condo with a large living room and kitchen area. There was a big-screen TV, hardwood floors and everything you would need for a stay at a ski area. I was really surprised when I found out that they give you a new ski or snowboard package for FREE if you stayed there! You can get a free package valued at over $500 to take keep with your winter reservation. Rates start at just $139 a night. A $500 ski or snowboard package practically pays for the reservation. They offer all-mountain skis that area great for beginner to intermediate level skiers. They offer K2 Escape 3500 Skis, Atomic Series 3 or Series 4 Skis Head 3.7 The package includes skis, integrated bindings and poles.



You can stay here and ski any of the ski resorts in the area including Park City, The Canyons, Deer Valley or drive a half hour and ski Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, or Brighton. What you save on buying skis will pay for your accommodations. To get the FREE skis or snowboard (OOPS, I mean book the condo) just call (800)787-5177.

Bumping Between Runs
The storm dumped eight inches of new snow on the ground, so the skiing was great! With a little powder covering the 70+ inches of show they already had on the ground, I was delighted to do a little cruising down sone of my favorite trails at Deer Valley. From time to time, I stopped at the mogul and aerial venues to check out the competition, but it was a real struggle. All I really wanted to do was ski!



The bump run at Deer Valley is on the longest and one of the steepest courses on the World Cup tour. I saw many great runs with back flips, D spins, 720's, off-axis 720's, Cork 720.s, Zudnicks, Twisters, Daffies, Mule Kicks, Kosacks, and other tricks that were executed on the two mandatory jumps. I couldn't help but think about how much the sport had progressed since I was introduced to Freestyle at Killington many years ago. Toby Dawson, Travis Cabral and Michelle Roark led four U.S. men and four U.S. women out of the qualifying round at Deer Valley into finals. I saw skier after skier fly down this steep mogul run throwing tricks that were unheard of just a few years ago.

Doubleheader Jumps & Bumps
On Friday, there was a doubleheader with aerials during the day and moguls at night under the lights. For the men, it was aerialist, Ryan St. Onge in 1st with 243.59 and Olympic silver medalist Joe Pack finished 2nd in this World Cup aerial event. Dmitri Dashinski from Belarus finished 3rd with a 240.93 and Canadian, Ryan Blais was 4th with 240.32.

Stein Eriksen was there and I had a chance to chat with him. He presented the medals to the women and looks good for an Olympian from the 50's.

All morning, there were bumpers practicing right next to aerialists who were doing their thing to qualify for the finals. After lunch, they held the finals. St. Onge was AMAZING, completing two quad-twisting triples (four twists, three flips) - a full, double-full, full and a double-full, full, full. His winning score was with Pack, who threw a full, double-full, full and a triple-twisting, triple (three twists, three somersaults), a double-full, full at 241.49. All the other competitors were pretty amazing too. Defending World Cup champion Jeret "Speedy" Peterson crashed on his final landing while attempting a five-twisting, triple-flip full, triple-full, full and came in 11th. My mother would NEVER let me do that trick! HA, HA, HA!


For the women aerialists, Australian, Lydia Ierodiaconou took 1st place with a 196.51, Manuela Mueller from Switzerland was 2nd with 185.76, Nina Li, China was 3rd with 183.65 and Xinxin Guo, also from China was 4th with 182.38.

Lydia Ierodiaconou has made a remarkable comeback from her knee reconstruction by winning at Deer Valley. Her last competition was the World Championships in March 2005. She injured her knee in water jump training in June, and had her reconstruction later that month. She only had 15 days of on-snow training before the event. She led the field after the first jump with a triple twisting double somersault, then landed her second triple twisting double to win.



"I was really just treating today like training," Ierodiaconou said. "I was just concentrating on nice takeoffs and it was just autopilot really." "I wasn't nervous, and was just thinking I've done all this before. It hasn't really hit me yet that I've won, but it's good to back. It's really good to be back. And the knee has come up well. There's a bit of bruising from the knee brace, and I need to get that altered, but otherwise it's good."



The Australian's have some really good-looking gals on the team and their fans aren't too bad looking ether.



Night Mogul Madness
Toby Dawson and Michelle Roark BOTH came in 1st in the World Cup moguls contest, nailing down births on the US Olympic Team. This made three victories by Americans in four events at the Chevrolet Freestyle International at Deer Valley.
My new snowboard writer, Dave Wall and his friend, photographer Andrea, braved the cold and took some really great photos.

Michelle won the women's event under the lights with 26.32 points, edging out defending World Cup champion Jennifer Heil of Canada who scored a 25.96. Sara Kjellin (SWE) was 3rd with 25.96 and Shannon Bahrke (USA) was 4th.

In the men's contest, Dawson wowed the crowd of around 7,000 with a flawless run compiling 27.34 points. In 2nd was Janne Lahtela of Finland, who won the 2002 Olympic title on this course. He scored a 26.48 with Australian Dale Begg-Smith coming in 3rd with a 26.33. I saw a lot of Raichle boots among the bumpers and aerialists. I ski them and have never seen so many of these rare Swiss boots.

All the skiing was amazing. I saw skier after skier popping D Spins, Off-axis 720s, Back Flips, Helis with and without Mute Grabs, Broncos (a 180 with a big spread followed be another 180) and other tricks I can't even name. Before, after and in between the two mandatory jumps, the skiers were making the fastest turns in the bumps that I've ever seen. Almost all the women did Back Flips, Iron Crosses and other aerial stunts. I'd kill to be able to ski that well. I'd have to take lessons for 100 years to even approach the skill demonstrated by these bumpers.



Deer Valley is steepest on the World Cup circuit and it was great to see so many top competitors stomp the course. They're SOOOO GOOD!!! Skiers flew through the bumps as they raced against the clock. The Freestyle competitors are judged on turns (50%), air (25%) and speed (25%). The 7,000 spectators saw the knees of the skiers bounce up and down in unison with ankles right together, as the bumpers skied down the fall line at speeds that boggle the mind . . . while they threw BIG tricks on the two mandatory jumps. (Maybe I should give up skiing and take up knitting)

The men's event was a cliff-hanger. It looked like the USA would be SOL until Toby Dawson made the last run down the course at the end of the Friday the 13th evening competitions. He clinched his Olympic berth with an awesome run. He delighted the crowd when he crossed the finish line and turned around, skiing backwards into the fence and flipped over it and dumped himself at the feet of the judges' stand.



It was Toby Dawson, 1st with 27.34, Janne Lahtela from Finland 2nd with 26.48, Dale Begg-Smith, an Australian with 26.33 came in 3rd , Canada's Alexandre Bilodeau was 4th with 26.23 and Americans Travis Cabral was 5th with 26.08. Park City's Nate Roberts was 6th with a 25.98. All these guys skied really great, as far as I'm concerned!

For the women, it was USA's Michelle Roark in 1st with 26.32, Canadian Jennifer Heil was 2nd with a score of 25.96, Sara Kjellin from Sweden was 3rd and scored 24.04 and USA's Shannon Bahrke came in 4th with 23.69.

Roark' top jump was a backflip and her bottom jump was a Bronco that cinched the meet and landed her a spot on the US Olympic Team. She said it was "hard to express" her feelings about achieving part of her Olympic dream. "I've wanted to do it since I was five, and it's been a really, really bumpy road." She has had six knee surgeries. "I stuck with it for the ultimate goal. I can say it now . . . I'm going to Olympics."



Moguls Head Coach Donnie St. Pierre was pleased with his two newest Olympians, who join defending World Cup champion Jeremy Bloom and world champ Hannah Kearney on the Olympic Team. He called them "seasoned warriors" and said he didn't give anyone a specific pep talk as the final run began; "If I have to say anything at the start, we haven't done our work. We just try to stay out of their way," he said.



My old friend Bobbie Aldighieri Head Mogul Coach of the Canadian Freestyle World Cup Team was also very proud. He's a former member of the US Freestyle Team who is now coaching the Canadian Freestyle Team. All his work paid off with a 4th place in the men's and a 2nd and 5th place for the women. It's always good to see an old friend from Killington succeed.

Entertainment was provided by Everclear and they delighted the crowd.



Howling Wind Almost Ends 2nd Aerial Meet
They had scheduled a 2nd FIS aerial competition for Saturday night. They had Big Head Todd & the Monsters playing for the crowd but then Mother Nature made her presence felt. After a great day of practice, the weather got into the act. It got cold and the wind began to kick up. We kept seeing aerialists crash and they contemplated canceling the event. Luckily, the wind calmed down a little and the men's event went on as scheduled. High-flying skiers did quad triples and other tricks I can't even describe. They were flippin and twirling off a 60 ft. kicker and it was a fantastic show under the lights.



The US Aerialist Team didn't do as well as they did the day before and there wasn't an American on the podium. Dmitri Dashinski from Belarus was 1st this time, with 130.53 points, Warren Shouldice from Canada was 2nd with 128.54, Kyle Nisen, another Canadian was 3rd with 127.88, Ales Valenta from the Czech Republic was 4th (126.55), Ryan Blais, Canada, was 5th (120.36) with Joe Pack Joe Pack 6th with 119.25. We got a lot of really great photos of skiers soaring high above the enthusiastic but chilly crowd. With the weather-whipped for this World Cup aerial meet, the competition was limited to one round for men and women as the Chevrolet Freestyle International concluded under the lights at Deer Valley resort.

Earlier, Xinxin Guo of China led the women's qualifying round with 98.82 and Canadian Veronika Bauer was runner-up at 93.76. When the winds arrived and darkness fell, organizers declared the women's one round as official and the gals didn't fly in the wind that evening. Alla Tsuper from Belarus came in 3rd (92.29), Nina Li also from China was 4th (91.12), Nadiya Didenko, Ukraine, 5th (90.40) and American Emily Cook was 6th with 89.61. (I caught this picture of her applying sun screen to protect her skin form the Utah sun)

This is a great venue and if you ever have a chance to attend, you will not be disappointed. Don't forget to bring your sun screen.

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