February 24, 2007
Aspen/Snowmass, CO,(THST Press Release)—The first day of The Honda Ski Tour (THST) Aspen/Snowmass, CO, kicked off yesterday drawing crowds in the thousands along with big-name bands, parties and the world's best ski cross and halfpipe ski competitors. Ski cross athletes delivered entertainment and excitement for spectators as both the qualifying round and the finals took place under nearly perfect racing conditions. Ski Cross World Champion Tomas Kraus won the qualifier but Stanley Hayer, who has twice finished second to Aspen local Casey Puckett, took top honors in yesterday's finals, pushing him past Puckett in overall points standings.
THST is North America's new elite, four-stop mountain festival and skiing competition that features the world's best halfpipe and ski cross skiers competing for a total of $500,000, the biggest purse in skiing. Cumulative points will determine the overall winners of THST ski cross and halfpipe and both will receive a Honda Element.
Ski cross competition involves four skiers racing head-to-head through a motocross-style course featuring jumps, banked turns, waves and modified terrain features. Yesterday's individual ski cross time trial qualified the fastest 14 athletes who automatically advanced to the elimination rounds.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently approved the addition of ski cross for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), the national governing body for Olympic skiing, is officially calendaring THST 2007 as a sanctioned USSA ski cross event.
THST ski cross Course Builder Corley Howard outdid himself yet again, creating a course which was both unforgiving, yet had incredible passing opportunities scattered throughout the entire length of the rhythmic minute long course. Throughout the day the international field of athletes were overheard saying that this was the best ski cross course they had ever raced. [pagebreak]"This course is fantastic, said FIS representative and Technical Delegate Tom Winters. "It's one of the best I've ever seen in the world, in fact it is at the top rung of the top 1% in the world, and so are the skiers on this course. FIS can learn a lot from The Ski Tour, but at the same time The Ski Tour can learn from FIS.
Legendary U.S. Ski Team member and one of the front runners of THST ski cross, Daron Rahlves was injured in a training run Thursday and was unable to race yesterday. An unfortunate day for Rahlves was a fortunate day for other racers such as Davey Barr of Whistler, BC, who, for the first time, made the THST consolation-round, got the hole-shot and finished sixth overall just behind Lars Lewen of Sweden. Zach Crist of Sun Valley, ID, crashed in the consolation-round finishing seventh while Jake Fiala of Frisco, CO, was injured in the semi-final round but finished eighth overall.
Casey Puckett, who seemed to be on an unstoppable winning streak since taking the first two THST ski cross titles and his second X Games gold medal in 2007, found himself fighting his way through his heats yesterday, missing the hole shot during his first heat and struggling to advance to the finals.
The finals played out like hand-to-hand combat as four of the sport's biggest names battled it out for the glory of being crowned The Honda Ski Tour Aspen/Snowmass ski cross champion. Ski cross World Champion Tomas Kraus of the Czech Republic launched out of the start gate first, just ahead of Stanley Hayer of Canada/Czech Republic and Enak Gavaggio of France. Local favorite Casey Puckett, who didn't have a great start, made some tactical moves but crashed leaving the others to battle it out for the top three spots. Kraus stayed in front for the majority of the final race attempting to fend off Hayer who was continuously on his heels and eventually passed him a third of the way down the course. Hayer held his top spot thru the finish, winning him aa check worth $25,000. Kraus finished just behind, walking away with $15,000, Gavaggio, who also finished third at THST Breckenridge, CO, took home another $7,500 check and Puckett added $5,000 to his bank account.
"I always finish second, said THST Aspen/Snowmass ski cross winner Stanley Hayer. "Tomas (Kraus) made a mistake in the upper rhythm section of the course, the same mistake I made in the semis, and you stop when you do that. He went really wide and skated, and normally I go really tight to him so this time I went three meters away from him, easily passing him and I just held on to it from there. [pagebreak]With just one stop remaining on the 2007 THST roster, Hayer now leads the THST overall point's standings with 260 points, just 10 points ahead of Puckett with 250. Enak Gavaggio sits in third with 149 and Lars Lewen in fourth with 134 and Tomas Kraus rounds out the top five with 125 points. The Honda Ski Tour finals will take place at Squaw Valley USA, CA, March 8-11, 2007.
"I had a great win streak going, said fourth place finisher Casey Puckett. "I think I'm just not feeling at the top of my game right now, I'm a little burned out. Hopefully I can pull it together for the final event of The Ski Tour. I think it'll be pretty exciting having Stan and I almost tied going into it. We'll have to see who advances the furthest.
The BaseCamp Music Experience (BCME) kicked off in downtown Aspen last night with George Clinton and his entourage of funky characters headlining The Belly Up bar playing classic hits like "Give Up The Funk and "One Nation Under a Groove featuring shirtless dancers, a band member dressed in a diaper, and Clinton himself sporting a jumpsuit. The sold-out crowd was left wondering which member of the P-Funk All-stars would lead the next solo. Once Clinton and his crew wrapped up their show, Top 40 artist Elan and DJ Dylan rocked The Belly Up until 2:00am.
Over at the Crocs Lounge in The Sky Hotel, DJ Logic prepared the overflowing crowd for DJ duo Tommy Lee of Motley Crue and DJ Aero. The energy inside The Sky Hotel quickly ignited once the beats began to blast through the speakers. They played into the early morning hours capping off the first night of BCME action at The Honda Ski Tour, Aspen/Snowmass.
The Honda Ski Tour, Aspen/Snowmass on-hill competition continues today with the skier halfpipe qualifying heats and finals. Tonight the BaseCamp Music Experience headlines Sean Paul, Swollen Members, Gomez and more. Tickets are still available at the ticket window at the base of the gondola at Aspen Mountain from 10am-6pm today, or at The Belly Up Bar, online at www.ticketweb.com or www.theskitour.com or by calling 866-468-7621. Don't miss a second of the action!