US 3rd & 3rd in Lake Placid Freestyle Battle
by Paul Maraschiello

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I'll admit it, I had Freestyle frenzy. The week after the competition I attended in Deer Valley, I was again with all the international FIS Freestyle Teams at another aerial and mogul competition. This time it was at Lake Placid, New York. I flew into Albany and it was only 2 hours by car to this 2-time Olympic venue.



Accommodations
I really lucked out. I arranged to stay at Ledge Rock at Whiteface which is almost directly across the street from the access road at Lake Placid's Whiteface Ski Area. This motel was very nice and my room was really big. I had two queen-sized beds in my room, TV, fridge, and microwave. The room rates range from $99 - $159. They serve a great breakfast in the Adirondack Room which is the gathering place for the guests at this ski lodge. The owner is a really pleasant guy who will make your breakfast and fill you in on all you need to know about the Lake Placid area. If you want to be really close to the slopes, this motel is THE place to stay. You could easily walk to the ski shuttle from the motel, so you don't even need a car. For reservations, call (800) 336-4754. You'll like it there.



MacKenzie-intervale Jumping Complex
Unfortunately, it was overcast when I got up and as I drove to the Olympic Ski Jump venue. Then it began to rain. I watched the qualifying events in the rain and was happy to see they predicted sunshine for the following day. I met Ryan St. Onge's beautiful mother and found out that she and her husband were Killington people. They moved there after I left but we still had a few friends in common. The ski world sure is a small world.



They had scheduled the aerials for Saturday night but the wind kicked up. There was a great crowd that evening, but they kept postponing the start of the event because of the windy conditions. We partied and listened to the band but finally, they decided to postpone the event until the next afternoon.



The organizers decided to call the women's one-jump qualifying round the official competition. So, for the women it was Evelyn Leu from Switzerland that won the Gold with a score of 102.98, there was a tie for 2nd between Canadian Amber Peterson and Russian Anna Zukal both scoring 90.09 followed by Australian Alisa Camplin with 88.51.





Ice is Nice
The Nature Valley Freestyle Cup was the last pre-Olympic qualifying event before the Olympic Teams were announced. The sun came out on Sunday BUT the temperature had dropped (as it does every night in the mountains) and the snow set up hard as a rock.



I took a few runs in the morning and then headed to the mogul run to watch the qualifying competition. I had all I could do to just ski over to the venue and these mogul skiers were going to compete on this icy bump run. I got myself situated and watched competitors from all over the world dice it out in the bumps as if they were just skiing on fresh powder. Top bumpers were vying for the last time for places on their respective Olympic Freestyle Teams.



The air was electric at the start gate. I saw my old friend Bob Aldighieri Head Mogul Coach of the Canadian Freestyle World Cup Team, at the start gate. He was calming his skiers, scraping the snow off the bottom of their boots and giving them encouragement.



Donna Weinbercht, winner of the 1st woman's Olympic Gold Medal in Freestyle in Nagano, was announcing the event and I had a chance to chat with her a little about the "old days" at Killington. We have many friends in common and it was nice to see that she is still such a down-to-earth gal. She told me that she is working on a commercial, so I'll keep my eye out for her on TV.



The US Team only placed one person on the podium at Whiteface Mountain's mogul competition and it was Jillian Vogtli from my hometown. There are a few skiers from the Buffalo area, on the US Freestyle Team including Kelly Hilliman (my cousin Rick's niece) and I always enjoy it when they do well.



For the women, it was Kari Traa from Norway who took the Gold with 25.82, Canadian Jennifer Heil was 2nd with 25.30, Jillian Vogtli was 3rd with 24.60 and USA's Shelly Robertson was 4th with 23.90.



For the men, it was Dale Begg-Smith from Australia in 1st with 26.33, Finland's Sami Mustonen was 2nd with 25.56 and countryman Tapio Luusua was 3rd with 25.42. Michael Morse from the USA in 4th with 25.37.



I saw a lot of incredible runs with Cork 720s, Back Flips, D Spins, Front Flips, 720's, Off-axis 720's, Mute 720's , Zudnicks, Twisters, Daffies, Mule Kicks, Kosacks, and a lot of other tricks that were executed on the two mandatory jumps while these mogul maniacs made perfect turns at break-neck speed on the icy slope before and after each jump.



Aerials
The U.S. skiers landed another podium with defending World Cup champ Jeret "Speedy" Peterson placing third in aerials, despite losing a ski landing his "Hurricane" jump at the MacKenzie-intervale Jumping Complex at Lake Placid.



The men's aerials event had been pushed back to a 4 p.m. start at the MacKenzie-Intervale Jumping Complex on the outskirts of Lake Placid. It had been re-scheduled from Saturday night because of gusting and swirling winds, which created unsafe conditions.

When the competition ended, Canadian Ryan Blais was 1st for the men with 128.10 points and countryman Jeff Bean was 2nd with 124.34. Jeret Peterson was 3rd with 123.48 and Canadian Warren Shouldice tied with Cord Spero for 4th.


"Speedy" landed a quint-twisting-triple (five twists, three flips - the most difficult jump on the World Cup tour) then one of his skis popped off and he kept his balance and stayed upright and skied through the landing hill to the bottom. This guy had INCREDIBLE balance!!!

"I lost points on my landing, for sure," he said with a big grin, "but I think I should've gotten more points for landing on one ski, That's so much harder than (landing on) two skis."



Whiteface is a really great mountain. I only wish Mother Nature had been more cooperative so that I could have gotten in a little more skiing. Oh well, I'll just have to visit Lake Placid again and get in some turns.

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