Big Mountain skiing is all about line choice, jumping huge cliffs, and staying in control. After a few feet of fresh snow it is much easier to send a 40-foot cliff. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV) big mountain skiers headed down to Taos this past weekend to compete in the JETA Regional competition, with the national competition happening the following two days. The competition could not have been timed more perfectly with a storm dropping nearly three feet of snow just before the event. Big results came out of the weekend with a podium sweep from the local athletes. On top of the main Taos event, other athletes traveled to Squaw for a different National event.
The JETA tour, which stands for Junior Events Tour of the Americas started last season and “began from demand for events catered toward junior big mountain skiers,” said JETA’s Athlete and Mountain Relations Manager Cat Iwanchuck. “In the first year, 2012, Colorado was shot for snow which led us to explore resorts outside of the rocky mountain region. Taos held the first JETA event, which allowed 83 athletes, ages 12-18, to compete. These athletes originated from Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.”
This year’s event went smoothly and had the added bonus of incredible snow. “The extreme terrain, highly technical lines, and multitude of rock features make Taos a great big mountain venue. We are excited to be back in Taos for 2013, and for many years to come,” said JETA’s Tour Director Nick Whittemore.
Most of the competitors at the Taos event had an opportunity to train and compete the previous weekend at the Sunlight competition. “This year, we have increased the number of events as well as disciplines and age categories, allowing juniors more opportunities to gain IFSA points towards championship events. Sunlight was the first opportunity in the Colorado region to allow 8-11 years to compete. We hope to allow more chances for these little guys to compete as well” said Iwanchuck. “The 2013 JETA events include two regionals, two nationals, and one championship. So far we have hosted competitions at Snowbird, Sunlight, and Taos this past weekend. The next and final stop of the series will be the championship in Revelstoke Canada.” All of the events that the SSCV big mountain team members attended last weekend were to establish IFSA points.
The local athletes from SSCV had a great weekend of competing on bigger lines in Taos. With the new snow, the “huck” factor was off the charts and big cliff drops came out of the weekend.
Great results came out of Friday’s one run regional competition. This regional competition was a rescheduled competition that was supposed to take place at Winter Park earlier in the season. In the 15-18 female age class Ragan Anthony skied well and placed fifth overall. The younger boys skied incredibly well in the largest age class at the event. Grifen Moller skied strong to a second place finish in the 12-14 male age class. Following Moller was Owen Salamunovich in third place and Finn Andersson in a tie for seventh place.
At the two-day Nationals event in Taos, huge well-skied runs from the Vail athletes were in abundance. Anthony improved on her results from regionals and placed fourth among the 15-18 year old girls. Gillie skied a smooth and aggressive line and ended in third for the 15-18 year old boys. Following Gillie was Aiden Stege in fifth place. Great results came from the younger, much larger, field. In the 12-14 year old girls category Jordan Glendining placed second. In the 12-14 year old boys class Kevin Nichols took the win again with a clean and very aggressive line on the steep Taos course. Standing on the podium with Nichols was Moller in second, and Anderson in third. Placing just inside the top ten for the boys 12-14 age class was SSCV’s Max Pierce.
“Everyone had a line choice that was unique to their ability, whether it was technical or fast, it catered to their style. Our skiers went into the competition with a strategy that suited their technique, which led the team to a successful outcome. Kevin had a fast clean run with huge drops, and a big 360 at the end of his run,” said SSCV big mountain coach Nick Courtens.
Meanwhile, deep in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, SSCV athletes competed in another difficult National’s big mountain competition. The older brother of Kevin Nichols, Jack, showed that skiing big and scary lines with smooth and aggressive skiing runs in the family. Nichols skied to a very respectable eighth place finish at the event.
As the snow is finally starting to materialize here in Vail, the qualified athletes will return home and begin the training process for the championships in Revelstoke.
Photo Credit: Julie Shipman