FREESTYLE WORLD CUP AT DEER VALLEY
by Paul Maraschiello
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I landed at Salt Lake City, picked up a car and headed to Park City to cover one of the most exciting events in skiing at Deer Valley. As I headed over the mountains, it began to snow and it snowed harder and harder as I drove toward my destination. I was staying at the Zermatt Resort & Spa in Midway, just 15 miles from Park City's Deer Valley. By the time I reached Rt. 40, the snow storm had grown into a blizzard and traffic (3 cars) slowed down to 25 MPH. Luckily, I was familiar with Midway and the directions I had were very clear and easy to follow. I made it to my destination without getting stuck and was pleasantly surprised by my accommodations.
This hotel, resort and conference center is a miniature Swiss village. I was staying at the Hotel der Baer, a four-story Swiss chalet with 226 guest rooms in the Zermatt Resort. My room was VERY large and beautifully decorated. In addition, the Zermatt has 126 condominiums and guests enjoy shopping and fine dining at Zermatt's Baer Plaza that includes the Zermatt Shoppe, offering European gifts and Zermatt merchandise; Backerei and Eis is a European bakery and the Adventure Haus, Zermatt's on-site adventure concierge provides sports rentals, sales and dozens of expert-guided adventure experiences. The Zermatt features two restaurants: Schneitter's, a more formal dining approach in service, atmosphere and menu, and Matty's Bistro, a casual dining experience and bar.
The Matterhorn Conference Center offers more than 28,000 square feet of conference space, including 23 meeting rooms and five hospitality suites. The business center provides a complete range of services to support the needs of business travelers, meeting planners, presenters and participants. The spa features an indoor/outdoor heated pool, wellness center, and a full range of European-inspired spa treatments and services. Pamper yourself and reserve a room or suite at the Zermatt when you plan to ski at Deer Valley or Park City. Call: 866-ZERMATT and tell them the Ski Bum News sent you.
The Aerials competition was held Friday on the White Owl ski run with qualifications during the day and the finals in the evening, under the lights. Aerialists launch 50 feet into the air after skiing down the run at high-speed into the air where they execute twists and flips and then land. Quad triples; lay, lay, tucks; and other "whorly, twirly" tricks. I was hoping to see Dmitri Dashinski, from Belarus complete the amazing trick (with 5 revolutions) that got him a Gold Medal in the last Olympics. I was also excited to see the many other top aerial athletes I've gotten to know over the years including Ryan St. Onge, Emily Cook, Dylan Ferguson and many others from all over the world.
After watching the qualifying aerials and taking a few runs on some of my favorite Deer Valley slopes, I enjoyed dinner in the VIP tent and prepared to witness the competition under the lights. I wasn't as cold as it had been last year and a great crowd turned out to witness these daredevils do their stuff under the flood lights. The fans weren't disappointed, the event was SPECTACULAR.
Twelve competitors made the finals for the Women's Aerials and flipped their way into the record books. On the Podium was Nina Li (China) who took the Gold with a double full, double full for a 199.16, Jacqui Cooper (Australia) was 2nd executing a massive triple twisting triple somersault for a 194.87. Shuang Cheng (China) was 3rd scoring188.75 with her back full, double full. Emily Cook was just edged off the podium and took 4th with a 171.53.
For the men, it was Stanislav Kravchuk (Ukraine) with a double full, double full, full who scored 226.85 points for a 1st place win, Vladimir Lebedev (Russia) was 2nd, executing a back lay, double full, full for 223.21 points. Renato Ulrich (Switzerland) was 3rd with 222.23 points. Dylan Ferguson was the only US aerialist to make the finals. St. Onge crashed and burned in the qualifying round after grandstanding the crowd and even his maroon hair didn't help.
I suggested when I saw him after the event that he should dye his hair orange then he could be billed as Ryan St. Orange! He and his dad both laughed. I found out that he and his family had lived at Killington and we have a few friends in common. The ski world is a small world, indeed.
After the competition, the band, Hell's Bells entertained the crowd that had braved the cold night air to see this great aerial event and enjoy the fireworks.
I was up early the next day and headed to Deer Valley to cover the events and get in a little skiing. I was excited to see the 1st World Cup Ski Cross conducted in the USA. This event always reminds me of the "Chinese Downhill" depicted in the cult ski film "Hotdog". Competitors line up four abreast and charge down a course filled with jumps, rollers and hairpin turns. Pushing and shoving is allowed but unlike the movie, weapons are NOT allowed. Crashes often occur and add to the excitement. The two top qualifiers went on to challenge the winners of other heats as the field is narrowed down to the final four competitors from a field of 32 skiers.
I took a couple of runs before the start of the Ski Cross finals. I situated myself near the starting gate and got some good shots of the competitors taking air and zooming around the turns. The course was set up on the Solid Muldoon ski run. The previous day in the qualifying race, Michael Schmid, Switzerland, 1:05.94 finished 1st, Casey Puckett, Aspen, CO was 2nd with 1:05.96, Davey Barr from Canada was 3rd. Tomas Kraus (Czech Republic) was 4th.
There were five heats with the field going from 32 to16 to 8 and finally 4 men fighting it out for the Gold. Michael Schmid (Switzerland) came in 1st with a time of 1:05.94, Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO) was 2nd with 1:05.96, Davey Barr (Canada) was 3rd with1:06.03and Tomas Kraus (Czech Republic) was 4th with a time of 1:06.07.
For the women, it was Ophelie David (France) in 1st place with a time of 1:10.99, countrywoman Meryl Boulangeat was 2nd with 1:11.31, Sasa Faric (Slovenia) 3rd with 1:11.34 and Emilie Serain (Switzerland) was 4th from a field of 23 women.
After the race, I had a chance to eat lunch with Daron Rahlves, Casey Puckett, Jake Fiala and a few U.S. Ski Team folks. It was interesting to hear them discuss the race and course and suggestions to make this event even more interesting next year. Rahlves felt that a meeting of Team Captains should be held to discuss improvements for next year. He suggested that next year's course should include a few more places where passing could be done.
After lunch, I watched the qualification runs in between cruising down some of my favorite trails at Deer Valley. I had a chance to do some high-speed runs before and ski a few bump runs. At one point, I found myself at the top of the Dual Mogul course. I looked down and was taken aback by how steep it was. At first, I thought I'd take a run down the course but I chickened out and traversed over to the Ski Cross course and skied down slowly and under control.
I had a good day on the snow and I was stoked to watch the best bumpers in the world compete mano-a-mano in the Dual Moguls. I was not disappointed. The skiing was great! I saw skier after skier battle it out down this steep course. Turn for turn, this is the most exciting event in skiing, in my opinion. Skiers going head-to-head down the hill as fast as humanly possible with two mandatory jumps blows my mind.
Everyone was going inverted. Front Flips, Back Flips, Iron Cross Flips, D-spins (720 off axis), Mute Grab Flips, Broncos, 720s, 1080s, and tricks that I can't even describe were happening in the bumps. Skiers came down the mountain at breakneck speed, hit the jumps and never missed a turn. There were a few spectacular crashes, with one skier crashing after a jump, flipping over on the ground and he continued to ski to the finish line in excellent form and it only cost him a few hundredths of a second. Talk about a linked recovery!
For the Men, it was Vincent Marquis (Canada) who won the event with a great performance in the bumps. USA's Landon Gardner (Missoula, MT) was 2nd and Alexandre Bilodeau (Canada) was 3rd with Pat Deneen (Cle Elum, WA) just missing the podium with a 4th place finish. These skiers were fantastic!
For the Women, it was USA's Shelly Robertson from Reno who took the Gold after going really big with a double- twister-spread. Margarita Marbler (Austria) was 2nd and Kristi Richards (Canada) was 3rd. Nikola Sudova of the Czech Republic placed 4th.
After the moguls, the crowd was entertained by fireworks and the music of De La Soul. The onlookers included Olympic Gold Medal Winners Donna Weinbrecht, Stein Eriksen and many other notables.
This event always turns out to be a really fun event and well worth the trip. Deer Valley is one of the best ski areas in America and I always enjoy covering events and skiing there. Put this world-class ski area on your short list and make a few turns on me. Remember, snowboarders are not allowed, so leave your "shredder" friends at home.
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