Freeski Tour '99
Canadian Freeskiing Championships
January 4-8, 2000
Day Three: Finals
The wind blew hardest in the morning during the women's run. "It was so windy up there at the top," said women's winner, Charlotte Moats. "And at 120 lbs, the wind could blow me all over the place, so I didn't hesitate. I just pointed my skis at the start and kept going."
Moats came from 4th place in the semi-finals to win in Saturday's finals, followed by Whistler local, Jennifer Ashton in 2nd, and Squaw Valley's Jamie Burge, leader going into the finals, was 3rd. Last year's winner, Linda Peterson from Alta, UT, was 4th.
The energy among the women was so positive as they encouraged and congratulated each other all morning. The final results were a combined score from Thursday's run on The Bite and Saturday's run on the more challenging Chainsaw Ridge. After completing runs down the rock and cliff-scattered Chainsaw Ridge, Crested Butte's Mindy Strum lit a celebratory Cuban cigar and shared it with Sarah Newman, who was here all the way from Ashbutton, NZ.
Whistler local, Hugo Harrison, scored the highest points of the day in Saturday's finals. "Hugo is an amazing skier," said Michel Beaudry, head judge of the contest. "He is part of a new wave of skiers with a very high level of technical skill with a freeskier's mentality, but disciplined skier's style. Someone like Hugo can ski with incredible ability on a desperate line."
"Having judged 10 comps in the past, I really believe that this was the most competitive contest that I have had the pleasure to judge," Beaudry continued. "These 19-year-old guys would have been downhill racers 20 years ago, but now they're on the freeskiing circuit. We saw people on Diamond yesterday skiing lines that used to be at the pinnacle of the sport, now they're skiing it as a like a GS. It's such a jump in performance that it's incredible."
Beaudry said that many of the skiers pushed the limits of the judging criteria. "In the past there has really a split between big cliff-jumpers and technical skiers, so what I'm looking for is rewarding the guys who can do both."
With the exception of the final day, the French killed the competition this week. The French displayed a level of confidence, combined with aesthetic skiing, that separated them from the pack. The reasons are deeply rooted in French culture which is more inherently comfortable taking risks.
"Mountain culture is more evolved in France," Beaudry said. "Being good skier is respected in France. They are around ski culture all their life. In the Alps, you're going to be scared all the time. It has to do with geography and environment. When you're skiing in a place where there's a 2000-foot fall below you, you learn to either quit the sport or become calm with it and learn how to do it. That married with the culture makes for a really potent mix. They ski in big consequence terrain, and once you get comfortable in that, they come to North America and it looks easy."
For many skiers, this was their first time really skiing this season. For those who live in the mountains around Colorado including Swany, Davenport and last year's World Tour Champion Barb Peters, the big storms have been holding out. Some have chosen to follow the snow, such as Swany, who spent last week in snow-stoked Jackson Hole. Tina Fracola is also on the road, travelling for six months in the RV that she and her boyfriend just bought for $1500. After the competition, Tina will head east to interior British Columbia, then to Jackson Hole on her way to Snowbird for the US Nationals Freeskiing Championships. But the Colorado contingent hasn't given up on the San Juans and Colorado Rockies yet, hoping for big dumps before the mid-February Championships in Crested Butte.
Michelle Quigley, hucking stories for MountainZone.com