Freeski Tour '99
World Extreme Skiing Championships
April 6, 2000
Wheatley, a heli-ski guide who hails from Salt Lake City, Utah, pioneered a sketchy traverse across a fluted, 50-degree face that opened into an isolated powder field. Despite cliffs with consequence and a tugging slough, Wheatley arced uninterrupted along the ledge. Exiting with speed out of a cramped chute, Wheatley then straight-lined to the finish and into the winner's circle. On the second of the four men's runs that defined the competition, Wheatley upped the ante by sticking a double-jump with authority along his previous route.
"I knew it was going to be a workout going through those flutes," Wheatley said after his runs down Double Edge, a knifey 5300-foot peak that helps define a snow-laden valley called, The White Room. "I kept hoping all this snow was going to stay there. I kept punching my hand into it saying, 'Stay there, stay there.'"
Wheatley collected 178.30 points for his four-run attack, while runner-up Todd Windle of New Zealand carved 173.40 points out of the 1400 feet of vertical that comprised the run. Jon Johnson of Crested Butte ripped 156.70 points out of the steeps, while Chris Anthony, an accomplished Vail skier who has competed in previous WESC events, logged some graceful air time to land in fourth overall with 142.80 points. Valdez local Jesse Tol earned 85.90 points after sitting out the final run with an injured knee.
"I just tried to keep the turns going," Binning said after her first of three runs on Double Edge. Earlier in the week, the women were also able to sneak a competition run in at a different venue during a brief break in the weather. "It was quite steep coming into those flutes, and I felt like the time was ticking, so I just kept pushing myself. I was really happy with my run."
Binning's three-run happiness added up to 116.20 points, while runner-up Kirsty Exner of Red Mountain, Canada, tore through the powder for 105.10 points. IFSA tour champion Linda Peterson of Alta, Utah, made quick work of Double Edge's powder en route to third place by earning 104.40 points over three runs, while Sarah Newman of New Zealand finished fourth with 90.10 points. Tahoe City shredder Katie Writer rounded out the women with a score of 73.30.
Fickle weather patterns that plague the expansive Prince William Sound region of Alaska tossed a monkey wrench or two into the well-laid plans of Dean Cummings, WESC president, owner of Valdez H2O Heli Adventures and a 10-year veteran of Chugach Range descents. But after days of patience, Cummings earned a gift from Mother Nature in the form of a pair of blue-sky days. Sunscreen and smiles were the order of the day for judges and spectators once the weather relented.
"With all this hard work, we knew something had to give," Cummings said.
John Woodbury, MountainZone.com Correspondent