On two days that could not have been more different, the 14th annual U.S. Telemark Extreme Freeskiing Championships were held in Crested Butte on Friday and Saturday. There were 62 skiers competing in six divisions, with cash prizes and gear given out to the winners. The vibe of the event was playful and fun, and impressive skiing was on display both days.
Thursday had been warm and sunny, and the runs had been somewhat hard and bony. Starting early Friday morning however, the snow hit, and by the time all the competitors made their way to the Headwall for inspection runs, over eight inches had fallen, covering up many of the rocky areas and making the landings softer. Snow continued to fall all through day, making visibility difficult; at one point, there was a nearly two-hour weather hold, since the judges couldn't see the runs through the blinding snow.
"The snow we got was huge," said Mark Robbins of Crested Butte. "The conditions Thursday for inspecting were just scary. I knew I could ski it safely, but I wasn't super excited about skiing."
The order of the day was junior women, junior men, master women, master men, adult women, and adult men. Most of the competitors opted for the high scoring lines down Angle Gully, a steep, rock-filled chute in the middle of the Headwall. As the skiers waited their turn, they would cheer each skier who started his or her run. The community was very supportive of each other, all while trying to get a high score. When I launched my second run down Angle Gully, competing in the master women division, it was heartening to hear other skiers call support from the top, and sweet to get congratulations at the bottom from others who had finished.
Due to the weather, the adult men did not get two runs the first day, but all the other divisions did. At the end of the day, defending junior women champion Klara Wohlers of Crested Butte had an overwhelming lead over second place competitor Riley Ebel of Vail. In junior boys, Jordan Goldstein of Vail held a narrow lead over Luke Cutler of Leadville. In master men, Mark Thompson of Breckenridge put together two solid runs to take a lead over Mike Preston of Crested Butte. Defending champion Mackenzie Mailly of Crested Butte held a narrow lead over Sydney Fuller of Crested Butte in the adult women's division, with both far ahead of the pack. Robbins, who was returning to competition after breaking his femur in an alpine comp in 2008, led the adult men, with Will Cardamone of Basalt, Conor Davis of Ketchum, ID, and Seaton and Colin MacMillan of Crested Butte close behind.
Day two dawned with -14 temps under perfect bluebird skies. As the sun rose, the slopes warmed up into the 20s, making for excellent skiing. The Crested Butte Ski Patrol had roped off the finals area Friday, so the lines on the Sock-It-To-Me Ridge had a good layer of snow on top of the hard and sometimes icy crust underneath.
"We were all hoping the snow would do the same thing for today's venue, but it really didn't; you had that sun crust underneath," said Robbins.
The men started first, getting in their second run, after which the field was whittled to 21 skiers. The juniors and masters divisions each only got one run on the finals day. Klara Wohlers turned in another solid run to take the junior women crown, with Ebel finishing second and Cynthia Edgerton of Vail finishing third. In junior men, Cutler ripped a technical line to best Goldstein, with Crested Butte's Grant Johnson finishing third. In master men, Thompson continued his strong skiing, with Preston finishing second and Kent Fasiang of Carson City, NV placing third.
Adult men and women each had two more runs. Fuller skied an incredibly strong run on her first of the day. Mailly had a strong start, landing the mandatory air out of Little Hourglass, but fell while checking her speed, and Fuller took the lead.
"She's just such a good skier, really hard to beat," said Fuller of Mailly. "I knew I had to go into Hourglass to keep my position and try to win. My goal was just to go down and get the landing. I figured more snow into the landing would just save my ass (laughs)."
In adult men, Seaton MacMillan got the highest score of the third run, but it wasn't enough to move ahead of Cardamone and Robbins. Another cut was made, with the men whittled to 11 skiers and the women to five for the Super Finals.
"I came into this competition with no expectations, just about having fun, fun to be back in the competitive realm," said Robbins, who coaches Wohlers and Johnson. "The brain was a clean slate. At the top of the venue, I knew I didn't want to fall, wanted to have fun, and wanted to be safe. Staying on your feet is key to that. It felt awesome to be right up there in it. I wasn't getting too hung up on trying to hold onto first. I just wanted to ski well."
The Super Finals saw big air launched by several competitors, but no change in the standings, as Fuller turned in another excellent run to take the women's title; Mailly finished second, and Vail's Lucy Sackbauer finished third, holding off a strong charge from Kate Hourihan of Alta. Robbins took the men's division, with Cardamone finishing second, Seaton MacMillan third, and Colin MacMillan fourth, and Davis fifth.
Prize money for the competitions was good, with the winners taking home $1,200 and the runner-ups $900. All the top five finishers in each division took home some cash. You can view the full results at Telemark Skier.
Footage shot by the event videographer on Day 1
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Footage shot by the event videographer on Day 2
Here's footage I shot from the base, which gives you a feel of what the event is like live.