Skiers and snowboarders rejoice when the snow starts to fall. However, big mountain skiers are the ones that truly rely on great conditions. Halfpipe riders, racers, and even the mogul skiers are able to compete and train with minimal manmade snow. Since the season is really just now coming to fruition, the big mountain competitors finally had their turn at the Sunlight Regional competition last Saturday. The skiers from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV) put down clean aggressive runs and landed numerous podium spots.

Big mountain events have been cancelled all over the state this season and last due to stubborn storm cycles, or lack there of. The International Free Skiers Association (IFSA) hosts most of the big mountain competitions across the state and country. With a bit of help from the Junior Events Tour of the Americas, or JETA, and IFSA, the regional competition brought kids from dozens of locations to come out and throw down. In total there were 101 skiers ranging in ages from 8 to 18. The local Vail skiers put down clean and technical runs at the competition and placed well.

The competition was a great event for new, as well as established, skiers to earn big points. “Being a regional comp, it’s a great way for kids new to the sport or competition to ease in. Those athletes who do well will accumulate points at regional and National level comps in hopes of qualifying for North American Championships in Revelstoke, BC,” said SSCV’s head big mountain coach Garrett Scahill.

The SSCV athletes impressed everyone at the event with how well they could ski. Since the SSCV athletes aren’t allowed to train out of bounds in places like East Vail, they are restricted to the smaller inbounds cliffs at Vail and Beaver Creek. With that in mind, teams from Crested Butte and Taos have a distinct geographical training advantage. Where topography is everything for big mountain skiers, it is a daunting task to go up against skiers from places like Crested Butte, or Jackson Hole. “We did an early season training trip to Silverton this year, but we mostly train on Vail Mountain,” said Scahill. “We spent most of the early season working on ski drills of all types. Once open, our training grounds include Prima Cornice, Rasputins Revenge, Steep and Deep, as well as some other secret stashes. Big mountain events are based mainly on a top to bottom run skied with good technique, fluidity, control and taking advantage of natural features to bump up your aggression and style points.”

The conditions were not optimal and the winning runs came from the skiers that skied fast and aggressively. “It was tough out there, not many big tricks were thrown due to the fact that the snow was chunky and a bit firm. The competitors only got one run so they really had to go for it and make it count. All of the kids from SSCV skied well on Saturday and we had numerous athletes on the podium,” said SSCV’s big mountain coach Nick Courtens.

SSCV’s Kevin Nichols and Jordan Glendining were the big winners of the day. Nichols skied a clean aggressive run and landed in first place for the boys 12-14. Just behind Nichols was teammates Philippe Verkin in second and Finn Andersson in fourth. Glendining had a great run despite the conditions and placed first among the girls 12-14. Linea Anderson placed third in the girls 12-14 category behind Glendining. “Kevin skied really strong. He went huge off the presented natural terrain and skied a great line,” said Courtens.

Among the older group, SSCV had clean runs and placed almost all of the athletes in top ten positions. Ragan Anthony had a great run and placed third among the 15-18 female class. Kevin Gillie placed fourth in the male 15-18 class followed by Gabe Suczynski in sixth, Jack Nichols in seventh, Erik Hilb in eighth, and Aidan Stege in ninth.

Although the snow pack is looking better than earlier this season, all of us mountain folk, and especially these athletes, continue to look on the horizon for the next big storm.

(Photo Credit- Ryan Bregante)

(Photo Credit- Ryan Bregante)