It is the time in the ski season for national competitions, and it is no exception for big mountain competitors. Athletes from across the west including Jackson Hole, Snowbird, and Taos, among others, headed down to Crested Butte this past weekend to compete in an IFSA national competition. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV) brought 12 athletes to the competition and 8 qualified for the finals. The team has been wining big events left and right this season and competitors from other teams are starting to take notice.
Last Friday was the qualifying event on Hawks Nest with the finals taking place on Stair Case the following day. “Stair Case is steep and gnarly. There is a 50-degree chute on the run with a tight choke in the middle. There were stumps that had to be avoided as well as small trees. It was pretty easy to avoid the chute and take an easier line, but those that skied the line scored high,” said SSCV’s big mountain coach Tim Luczkow.
One such athlete that skied the burly line was Erik Hilb. Hilb moved from 12th place going into the finals all the way up to second place. Hilb skied the choke of the chute with aggressive determination and balance earning him the highest line score of the event.
Kevin Nichols had a stand out performance yet again and won the 12-14-age class. Following Nichols was Grifen Moller in second place. The duo has been unstoppable this season and they are almost a guarantee for the IFSA championships in Revelstoke. “I imagine we will have 7-8 skiers headed to Revelstoke this year. The team has been doing unbelievably well this season. We are all really proud of everyone and how hard they have been skiing. The parents have been great this year as well. Sometimes it is difficult to see your 15 year old kid jumping off of a cliff or flying down a chute, but safety is really our number one concern and the level of calculated risk has been spot on this season,” said Luczkow.
Ragan Anthony barely missed the final cut for the 15-18 girls, but there are still a few more opportunities for her this season. Kevin Gillie had a great performance in the 15-18 year old age class where he went from 27th place all the way up to 14th in the finals. Aidan Stege had a standout performance where he skied consistently during both the qualifications and the finals ending in 11th overall. Gabe Suszynski skied well and made it to the finals even with a broken thumb and only one pole.
Although the new snow helped the skiing conditions, it also made for flat light and difficult visibility. Despite the weather, the skilled field, and the scary course, the SSCV athletes prevailed and showed their competition that Vail can put out just as good of skiers as Jackson Hole or anywhere else. On March 12th IFSA will announce their first wave of eligible athletes for the championships in Revelstoke.