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Freeski Tour '99

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Peifer, Harrison Tied on Blackjack
Ashton Leads Women
Friday, January 28, 2000

The weatherman lied. Clear blue skies set the backdrop for powder runs down Blackjack for the semi-finals of the US Freeskiing Nationals in Snowbird, UT. Jennifer Ashton, from Whistler, BC, leads the women, and in the men's field local Gordy Peifer and Whistler's Hugo Harrison are tied for 1st going into the finals.

Clouds streamed through Little Cottonwood Canyon, but the semi-final venue remained for the most part clear, allowing organizers to wrap up the qualifiers in the morning, then run 21 women and 55 men in the semi-finals. Many of the early competitors enjoyed powder runs including Alta’s Linda Peterson. "I didn't even care about it," said Peterson. "It's deep — while I was up there was just saying, 'I don't care — I'm getting face shots right now!'" Peterson's parents are here watching her from Florida.

"She ripped it....She gets nervous up there, but she likes to show older people that they can still do this....."— Shane McConkey, on his mom's run

Jennifer Ashton flashed her run with no hesitation as she took air right off the top.

"We were all standing up there joking around, and I thought my run was actually pretty mellow," Ashton said. Behind her, Lee Anne Patterson, another Whistlerite, is in second so far, followed by Aleisha Cline from Sun Peaks, BC and Wasatch powder-run woman whose parents are here to cheer her on from Florida, Peterson. Glen McConkey, 57 and an inspiration to all the women, also made it into the semi-finals in a three-way tie with Rossland, BC's Kirsty Exner and Crested Butte's Susan Medville for 10th.

"It's scary at the top," Glen said. All the other girls were cheering for me and I just said, 'I want to see some rad skiing when I get to the bottom and watch you guys.'"

"She ripped it," said Shane McConkey of his mom. "She gets nervous up there, but she likes to show older people that they can still do this."

McConkey skied aggressively down the mountain, hitting an air in the middle of his run then a front flip at the bottom, but finished a surprising 20th place in the semi-finals.

Alison Gannett was back into the competitive scene with two knee rebuilds after crashing in the X Games a year ago. She brought her knee braces which she only wears during competition. She charged the run in typical Alison style, but a small fall at the bottom unfortunately cost her a place in Friday's finals.

Peifer and Harrison, tied for 1st so far in the men's field, are followed by Alyeska's Robbie Rollins, in 3rd and Chris Davenport in 4th. "It was fun," Peifer said of his run. "It's tiring up there though. A lot of the guys are going down off of those rocks and you hit some bumps up there now, but it's awesome."

Harrison thought organizers should open a different couloir for Friday's semi-finals, but he's got a line picked out on North Baldy, and he's psyched to be in Utah. "I like to come because I learn with all these other skiers here together."

Many of the athletes said that this venue was not extremely challenging, but it did give them a chance to show their skiing style to the judges in a semi-final round. Friday's finals on North Baldy will give skiers a chance to really go off.

As do most things in life, scoring high with the judges in a freeskiing competition involves a little bit of luck. For Whistler's Leif Zapf Gilje, he didn't have it when his ski busted as he landed his first air at the top of the run. In Whistler his binding broke, keeping him out of the finals there. He's ready for some action, and good thing Evolution is right down the street.

Charlotte Moats and Todd Windle, winners in the Whistler contest, are both out of the competition after crashing in the semi-finals. "Somebody's got to crash," said Moats, a freshman at Dartmouth who takes winter quarter off to ski. Windle has been skiing in Fernie since he won he Whistler. Of Friday's final venue, Windle said the snow coverage is thinner than it was last year. "That's a good thing," Windle added.

Michelle Quigley, watching the best of the best for

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