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Freeski Tour '99

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Moats and Windle Win on Chainsaw Ridge
Canadian Freeskiing Championships
January 4-8, 2000

Day Three: Finals
Saturday morning the women's finals started in harsh winds at the top of Chainsaw Ridge. Gusts wreaked havoc on the crowd below, but as the day went on, the skies opened up, allowing both women and men a stab down this technical and exposed face.

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 and Windle
Winners Todd Windle, from Paihia, New Zealand, and Moats, from Olympic Valley, CA, USA, dominated a field of talented athletes.

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.

The men's results were a combined score from Friday's run in Diamond Bowl and Saturday's run on Chainsaw. Windle stepped it up a level from his solid 3rd place performance in the men's semi-finals. Aspen's Chris Davenport skied a highly technical, steep line, with air, speed and incredible style and grace to finish 2nd. Brian Swinson, who yesterday launched off Lobotomy Rock with a front flip, took 3rd in the finals.

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."

"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...."— Michel Beaudry, Head Judge

"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."

French Style
French Style
Yesterday's men's leader and reigning World Champion, Guerlain Chicherit, lost a ski landing the final big air in a sequence of drops, and he timed out trying to retrieve it. His friend and fellow Frenchman, Seb Michaud, who was 2nd going into today, nailed one of the most harrowing descents with deliberation and fluidity. But while throwing a signature backflip over the moraine, he missed the landing and blew out his knee.

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."

Gordy Peifer, Chris Davenport and Dave "Swany" Swanwick, guys who are at the top of their field here in North America, are pushing that level of bold technical skiing with incredible style. And if cartwheels had scored high, Swany would have racked in more points on Saturday for skiing out of them in a beautifully linked recovery.

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.

Former US Ski Team member Jim Moran, who finished third in last year's competition, was one of the judges in this year's event. "Well, I've got to be perfectly honest with you, yesterday was awesome, awesome skiing," Moran said. "Everyone who qualified, all 33 of them, skied incredibly and it really made me personally feel good because that course is the course that I won on last year. Basically, if these guys are skiing those lines, I think that the degree of difficulty and the level of competition here on the freeskiing tour is right there. I think it's pretty much the best in the world. It was great, and it was incredible to watch."

— Michelle Quigley, hucking stories for

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