FREESKIING AT SNOWBIRD
by Paul Maraschiello

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We came to Snowbird to cover the Freeskiing event that was being was being held that week. My assistant had arranged for us to ski with Jay Shortsleeve, the Assistant Director of the Ski School the morning of our first day at this world-class ski area. Jay was a former Vermonter who had been at Snowbird for over 20 years. He was the perfect person to show us around. As you can see, my assistant (in the blue) was psyched to be at Snowbird.



We rode up the tram and Jay started us off down a steep mogul field that began at the top of the mountain. I thanked him for choosing a bump run for our warm-up run of the day and then we began to explore the mountain with an expert who knew the mountain like the back of his hand. Jay led us down trails that we later found out were to be used at the venue for the Freeskiing Big Mountain competition.



Skiercross
After exploring the mountain with Jay, we tied up with some of our friends and they led us around the mountain. We took a couple of runs with them and then headed over the Skiercross venue at in Gad Valley. We arrived just in time to witness a spectacular crash. In this event, four skiers abreast leave the starting gate together. Pushing and elbowing is so common that I often refer to it as a "Chinese Downhill", a la the classic ski movie "Hotdog". On the second heat, the competitors took off over a berm and one of the skiers completely lost it. He flew 90 feet, starting to go sideways in the air and then crashed. All of this happened directly in front of us.



The Ski Patrol immediately came to his assistance and he was taken down the mountain in a sled. Afterwards, I learned that he was not seriously injured. The course crew knocked the berm down a little and the event resumed.



Heat after heat, groups of four skiers battled down the course, even jumping over a car that was parked on the course. Some of the top Skiercross athletes in the world were there to compete for the $17,000 in prize money. Many have recently competed in the X-games. Thirty-two men and seven women were competing. There were 10 heats for the men with Eric Archer from Vail came in 1st, Kyle Sul taking 2nd, and Tyler Shepard placing 3rd. For the women, it was Canadian Anik Demers in 1st, Brett Buckles in 2nd, and Sas Faric from Slovinia came in 3rd.



Big Mountain Event
The Big Mountain Event was extreme skiing at its best down steep terrain. The event was judged on speed, line and air. The aim seemed to be to take a direct line down the fall line, making good turns and incorporate big air into your run. The natural obstacles found on the mountain were used as jumps and these crazy daredevils jumped off 40 foot cornices and large out-croppings of rocks, much to the delight of the enthusiastic spectators.



The next three days focused on Big Mountain Freeskiing. Unlike ski racing, where skiers race through gates, Big Mountain Freeskiing allows competitors to use any of the natural terrain features the chose between the start and a finish area. Competitors' runs included skiing off cliffs, and down steep, expert terrain at speeds of up to almost 50 MPH. We saw a number of spectacular crashes and huge hucking.



Freeskiing has five judges that evaluate the competitor on five categories: Line Choice, Control, Fluidity, Technique, and Aggression. There are 10 possible points in each category. Average total of 50 points was possible per run.

More than 130 men and 50 women made up the field of international extreme skiers who were competing for the $10,000 in prize money. Over the next two days, the field of competitors was whittled down to 12 women and 36 men. Spectators were wowed by hair-raising run after run with some athletes diving right down the fall line and only deviating to take air off those cliffs and cornices in their line. Others took a less direct route so they could incorporate more extreme jumps in their run. I witnessed some sick, sick air and some of the biggest giant slalom turns I have ever seen.



For the men, it was Snowbird local, Ben Wheeler took 1st place and clinched his win with 86.5 points, Frenchman Thomas Diet came in 2nd with a three-run score of 81.4. Jack Hanna from Crested Butte was 3rd with a score of 81 and Park City's Brant Moles was 4th with a 79.4.



For the women, Jackson Hole's Kit Deslaurier held onto her lead and won the event with a score of 75.2. Argentina's Huere Darquier (in the pink) was 2nd with 72 points. Carrie Chernoff from Crested Butte was 3rd with a score of 62.8. Jessica Baker, also from Jackson Hole placed 4th. It turns out that the winner of the women's event trains with my old roommate, Ernst Forst in Jackson Hole. This Kit and husband were delighted by her win at Snowbird.



Firm snow conditions on North Baldy couldn't keep the skiers from attempting and landing, 20 to 50-foot backflips and other BIG jumps just as large. Among those who didn't fare well Saturday were the Greener brothers, both Snowbird locals. Rick Greener needed the aid of the ski patrol to remove a small tree that punctured his upper left thigh and left him hung-up near the top of the course. His Brother brought the crowd to their feet after skiing the bottom half of the course on one ski after he lost a ski in the mid-section.



The overall titles were awarded to the top Skiercross and Big Mountain finishers Asia Jenkins of Aspen, Colorado and local Cliff Bennett.

Skiing at Snowbird
Snowbird is just next door to Alta and shares the legendary snow found in Little Cottonwood Canyon. We were able to get in a lot of excellent skiing down some of the most challenging terrain in America. Snowbird is a kick-ass ski area for experts and they allow snowboarders, so we were able to ski with our friend Scot who rides. Most of the terrain is very steep and Scot and his friends took us to some of their favorite trails. For the most part, this is a mountain for advanced intermediates, experts and ski gods. It's a big mountain and has a lot of really difficult slopes.
There are 2,500 skiable acres, 10 chair lifts and an aerial tram. They boast 85 trails and most of them are tough with 35% advanced/expert, 38% intermediate, and 27% beginner. There is a 2,900 ft. vertical with green trails off seven of the lifts. The average snowfall is 500" and the ski season is usually 200 days long. The longest run is Chips Run (2.5 miles) and it was off this run that the Big Mountain venues were found.



Accommodations
We had the pleasure of staying at the Anton Boxrud B&B in the heart of Salt Lake City, a half block from the Governor's Mansion. This B&B is a classic Victorian house resplendent with rich woodwork, beautiful fireplace, filled with antiques and art work. The sumptuous breakfast was one of the fanciest I have ever eaten. Jane and her husband were very friendly and our rooms were nice. I stayed in the only single room and shared a bath. The room was clean and nice. My assistant got the Montana Room with brass bed and cowboy motif and a full bath with jetted tub. The prices at this lovely B&B are very reasonable, ranging from $69 to $140. All rates include a full gourmet home made breakfast, covered private off street parking, hot tub out back under a gazebo, snacks and beverages and daily maid service. There is 12% Tax on each room. The B&B is smoke free. There is an office for the guests that has fax, phone, copier and a plug in for your modem. There are two fireplaces, one in the front living room and the second in the guest office. A large TV with VCR and DVD is in the middle living room with a large selection of films available for guest use. There is a very friendly Scotch Terrier that loves to be petted. For reservations call: (800) 524-5511.

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