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Snowbird, Utah — Amid a flurry of whiteouts, high winds, and avalanches, the Ninth Annual Subaru U. S. Freeskiing Nationals first tour stop wrapped up last weekend in Snowbird, Utah. The four-day event showcased over a hundred competitors hitting steep, cliff-loaded terrain for a $12,500 purse. Participants were given two runs per day and judged on degree of difficulty, control, technique, fluidity, and aggressiveness. The series concluded on Saturday with local Nick Greener being crowned the men’s champion and Whistler, B.C., resident Laura Ogden emerging as the women’s champion.
Before Thursday’s qualifying round, a 400-foot wide, eight-foot deep avalanche closed Little Cottonwood Canyon up to Snowbird, preventing more than half of the skiers from getting to the mountain. The few competitors, who had stayed overnight at the resort, began the qualifying races, and the road eventually re-opened in time for the remainder of Thursday’s participants.
While high winds and dense fog periodically closed lifts throughout the day, participants hiked 45 minutes to the top of Regulator Bowl to continue the qualifying round. Due to the inclement weather, some skiers had no time to scout their line, so many competitors were essentially skiing the course for the first time, hoping their chosen line was enough to impress the judges.
Friday’s semi-finals narrowed the field down to 49, but they were little indication of how the race would unfold. Coming out of Friday’s semi-finals, Frenchmen Adrien Coirier of Les Arcs was in 19th place, only to finish Saturday in second place. Coirier said the key was choosing lines where no one had skied and the snow was still fresh. In the women’s field, local Libby Bitner was in seventh place after her semi-finals run and finished third overall.
The well-respected Sickbird award, presented to skiers who push their limits with aggressive skiing, was awarded to local Stacy Cash and Whistler, B.C.’s Christian Boucher. They came into the final day with impressive scores, but going big on cliffs proved too much, and both blew up on landings.
The U. S. Freeskiing tour’s next stop is March 2-5 in Telluride, Colorado, then Jackson Hole, Wyoming, eventually culminating with the Freeskiing World Tour Finals on March 29-April 2 in Kirkwood, California.