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February 8, 2007
TAOS SKI VALLEY, NM – A favorable southern flow keeps pounding the resort with snow and conditions are arguably the best in the country for the second annual event. “Things are on track,” says Chief of Race Tom Winter. “Conditions on The Ridge and at other venues are looking really good. We’re hoping to add some new zones to this year’s comp. Who knows, maybe we’ll even have a super-final off the top of Kachina Peak.” It is said that in Taos, gravity is a state of mind, hospitality is a way of life, and pure skiing is everything! Expect a talented regional contingent to battle it out with a field of top extreme skiers from across the nation in the Second Annual Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships slated for February 28 thru March 3, hosted by Taos Ski Valley. “In only its second year, this event is poised to become a staple on the big mountain circuit,” wrote Tom Winters in Freeskier Magazine (Dec 2005). The five-day freeride competition for skiers is an International Free Skiing Association (IFSA) sanctioned event. Top competitors will jockey for prizes including a cash purse of $10,000, equipment and product prizes in each of the divisions (male, female, and junior skiers) and athletes will get points towards the overall North American standings. “We’re proud to be working with Jim Jack and the rest of the IFSA,” says Winter. “It’s a top-notch organization and one which all skiers should support.” Entries will be limited to 150 competitors and the event is expected to draw top international riders, as well as competitors from across the Rocky Mountain region and the Western United States.
If you have yet to register for the Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships at Taos, now is the time to do so, space is limited. Qualifying will consist of two runs, with the field being progressively cut each day. Venues will be determined by the TSV ski patrol, Chief of Race and event staff and are subject to change depending upon snow and weather conditions. There will be five judges for the event. Judging will adhere to the standards created by the IFSA. Athletes are judged in five specific categories: Line – the steepness, exposure, snow conditions and number of obstacles in the path chosen by the skier; Control – a fall is the ultimate loss of control and greatly affects a skier’s score; Fluidity – constant direction toward a goal. This category includes continuity, pace, speed and smooth transitions; Form/Technique – style and technical ability, this category is the most subjective and is the athlete’s opportunity to impress the judges with style and skiing beauty. The final category is aggressiveness/attack – which focuses on the energy with which a skier attempts a chosen line.
Winning is tough; just a few bobbles can cost you valuable points in the judges’ eyes. Competing against a pedigree of top-notch athletes in a venue representing some of the best double-diamond terrain in the country, littered with tight lines, multiple cliff drops and gnarly rocks bearing names like Zdarsky Spine and Mickey’s Nose. “There were lines being skied that have never been skied before on this mountain. That’s what big-mountain comps are all about,” said Alejandro Blake, TSV Special Events Coordinator. “Taos has that reputation as being a steep mountain and is always rated one of the top 10 in the country. It was a natural to host the event here, since most of the other mountains hosting are mentioned in the same breath with Taos.” The venues for this event, Kachina Peak’s famous steep cliff bands and the notorious West Basin Ridge, will showcase Taos’ toughest terrain. “The competitors consider themselves professional athletes and there is a lot of conditioning that goes into it. They approach the sport very seriously, and they should, because it can be a very dangerous sport if you’re not in the right frame of mind or in good condition,” Blake said. “The reputation the event earned two seasons ago has de it one of the staples of the IFSA. Check out photos of the 2005 event at http://www.skitaos.org/freeride/photos.php.
Recap of the 2005 Salomon Extreme Freeride Championship
The Place: The combination of intimate alpine ambiance, Southwestern culture, a high base elevation, sunny southern latitude and exceptionally dry snow distinguishes Taos as one of the truly great ski destinations in North America. Located in northern New Mexico, Taos Ski Valley is only fourteen miles from the Town of Taos, a community rich in Native American and Spanish culture. With its many wonderful museums, galleries, shops, and famous Taos Pueblo, you will easily see why people have been living in the Taos area for over a thousand years.
The Competition: “The Competition started after talking to a couple of freeriders who came to TSV for a photo shoot with Freeskier Magazine, I expressed an interest in hosting the event, which was the first step in making it happen,” said Alejandro Blake, Taos Ski Valley’s Special Events Director. “What makes our competition unique is our mountain is ski only and the athletes come for a ski only event which offers skiers who consider themselves to be true to pure skiing an exceptional opportunity. The sense of camaraderie here is different than anywhere else and was evident in our 2005 event. The competitors find it to be a much warmer mountain on a personal level and find it more comfortable. Even the trophy is unique and adds to the event; at what other event do you actually get a martini in a pouron for a trophy to drink from when you win the competition? “These events and the resorts on the circuit try to support each other and the athletes that are on a tour not pulling skiers from one place to another. We try to work in concert (what does this mean?) with the other resorts holding big mountain comps,” comments Alejandro Blake.
Highlights of 2005: Last year’s competition was the first of its kind held in New Mexico. Over 120 competitors from all over the Rocky Mountain region, West Coast, Alaska and Japan competed. Due to fog, snow and low visibility, only 19 athletes were able to complete their runs before the event was put on hold the first day. “The one thing we can’t control is the weather,” said Chief of Race Tom Winter. The “huck fest” commenced in earnest with Utah-based skier Lara Ogden’s huge air off a cliff at the bottom of Taos’ West Basin. She stomped the landing but then ran into trouble as she straightlined the bottom half of the run. After that the field was open and other competitors started dropping 40-50 foot cliffs in the Game Birds area. Then the ante was upped and skiers started dropping 80-foot cliffs in the Heavy Timber area. A 100-foot cliff, which had never been negotiated before, was launched by Kifor Berg of Aspen, Colorado. The cliff has now been dubbed Kifor’s Dive. Many of the cliff drops were amazing and rallied the crowd gathered at the base of West Basin, but none brought the crowd to its feet more than the winner of the “Parillo Loco” (Sick Bird) award: Yuzuru Handa of Japan launched off an 80-foot cliff in the Heavy Timber area and pulled a full front flip. He stuck the landing and skied to a crazy crowd where he was mobbed by his brother and friend who also competed in the championship. Craig Gabiel from Markleeville, California, was crowned the men’s New Mexico Extreme Skiing Champion and Lynsey Dyer from Sun Valley, Idaho, took the top spot for the women. “It’s tough,” said 2005 Head Judge Rex Wehrman. “You see an athlete have an outstanding run, one that would have put him or her into first place one day, but make a mistake on the next day and someone can steal victory away. You have to be at the top of your game everyday.”
Mark your calendar & come enjoy the uniqueness of Taos. Then check our web-site for great deals at http://www.skitaos.org/freeride and updates on the calendar of events. You can build your full Taos vacation including air, transfers, lodging, lift tickets, lessons, and rentals through Southern Rockies Reservations at 866-250-7313. To register as a competitor go to http://www.skitaos.org/freeride/.
an build your full Taos vacation including air, transfers, lodging, lift tickets, lessons, and rentals through Southern Rockies Reservations at 866-250-7313. To register as a competitor go to http://www.skitaos.org/freeride/.