by Paul Maraschiello


Stratton Mountain was the host for The Vermont Freeskiing Open. This event consisted of two events, Slopestyle and Superpipe, with $5,000 first place prizes, $3,000 second place and $1,000 for third place for each event. There was also a $1,000 prize for the Best Trick for each event and trophies for all places. In addition, there was a Big Air Demonstration on Saturday afternoon, that took place in the Suntanner Park in front of the main base lodge.

On Saturday, top skiers practiced Slopestyle in the morning and the finals were in the afternoon where Canadians Charles Garnier took 1st place and David Crichton 2nd, and Cory Vanular came in 4th place. Tanner Rrainville from the USA placed 3rd.

This event was awesome. Skiers were hitting the table-top and coming off for the first big jump. Some took off switch and others landed switch. I saw skiers throwing 900s, 720s, Rodeos, Cork Spins, Daffies, Grabs, Kosaks, Iron Crosses, Mule Kicks, Heli-Xs, Mute Grabs, Tip Grabs, Back Flips and various combinations on the jumps. These super athletes hit the ground and then headed for the rail where they did their thing again. The next jump saw more of the same sick hits, flips, off-axis spins and Helis at every jump all the way down the course. These dudes were sick, sick, sick and did a really good job impressing the fans.

At 3:30pm the Big Air Exhibition, featured the Dynastar Team, and other invited athletes but I swear, after watching the Slopestyle, the big air was tame. Those people who missed the VT Open Slopestyle and Superpipe competition missed some great trick skiing and fabulous sick tricks in the air.

Everyone was kept in suspense until the Awards in Grizzly's at 5 p.m. All the competitors showed up and enjoyed the blues tunes belted out by Sandra Wright and her band. At the appointed time, the winners were called to the stage and presented with there prized. The bar was packed by partying skiers and everyone was having a really good time. I met a few old ski bums and enjoyed the company of a few new lady friends.

1797 INN
I headed back to my room at the 1797 Inn after the awards. This charming Bed & Breakfast is located in West Wardsboro on Rt. 100, only a few miles from Stratton, Mt. Snow and Haystack and just a little further from Magic and Bromley. The rooms here are really delightful with hand-sewn quilts, antiques and other lovely touches. The omelette I had for breakfast was delicious and they also offered a choice of cereals and muffins that looked tempting. Their rates start at $80 (double occupancy) and this place is very homey. They are now closed for the season but you can book reservations for summer, fall foliage or next ski season by calling (802) 896-9797.

On Sunday, I got in a little skiing before the Superpipe practice began. Stratton is a lot bigger than I remembered. After doing a little cruising and making a few bump runs, I went to watch these incredible athletes do sick stunts in the pipe and was really amazed.

Cory Vanular (Can) went BIG and nailed his tricks on his second run and took 1st place, also on the podium was David Crichton (Can) who placed 2nd, Colby West (USA) 3rd, and Matt Philippi (USA) 4th. For the girls, it was cute little Ashley Saba 1st, Allison Lee 2nd, and Tory Hayssen 3rd. The young ladies had a small field of competitors but showed a lot of heart.

I watched this Superpipe event from several vantage points and it was really great. All the skiers were throwing huge amplitude. Some went really big, zooming out of the Superpipe by almost 20 feet. These sick puppies were doing Rodeos, Cork Spins, Iron Crosses, Mule Kicks, Heli-Xs, Flips, 720s, 900s, Mute Grabs, Tail Grabs, Zudnicks and landing Switch. They threw combos and really went for it. The Superpipe was a real crowd-pleaser and a lot of the skiers crashed and burned. There were a couple of injuries but with most of the competitors, all that was really hurt was their ego. This new breed of skier has brought new life to the sport of skiing and I'm hoping to see this become an Olympic event. It all started when skiers began following their snowboarding friends into the pipe and said, "heck, I can do that."

I ran into Dan Zook and Micah Mc Kinney and a few other friends that I had made when I was covering similar events, including a little 11-year-old boy from Stowe. I can't imagine how good this kid is going to be when he's an old veteran of 17. His mom was very supportive and they both seemed very into his competing. I wonder what he told her to let him get involved in this exciting sport. My mother won't let ME do it.