Americans Skiers on a Hot Streak Toward Heavenly
This World Cup is ideal for spectators, with both the mogul and aerial venues adjacent to Heavenly ski resort's California base lodge. Lower Gunbarrel run sports one of the best, and steepest, mogul courses on the tour. And with Lake Tahoe just down the hill, the aerialists get to enjoy one of the best ski views on earth (just before hurtling themselves into a quad-twisting-triple).
The timing of this event couldn't be better for Heavenly. Fresh snow arrived in the Sierra this past week with more in the forecast. Heavenly, of course, is hoping for more powder and sunshine for the NBC television cameras. But despite the lack of snow in the Sierra this early season, Heavenly boasts the largest snowmaking capability on the West Coast and, thanks to relentlessly cold temperatures, has covered all the freestyle venues in deep white. Both the aerial and mogul competitions are shaping up as classic battles between reigning stars and the early season up-and-comers. Aerialists include American contenders Joe Pack and 1998 Olympic Champion Eric Bergoust. Pack, from Park City, UT, won the Deer Valley World Cup event earlier this month with the third highest score in freestyle history. Britt Swartley, from Blue Bell, PA, won bronze for the men at Deer Valley while Bergoust sat it out with a sprained ankle.
In the mogul competition, 1999 women's World Cup Champion Ann Battelle, from Steamboat Springs, CO, grabbed this season's point lead with second place at Deer Valley. But watch out for Norwegian Kari Traa, the winner of every dual and singles event this season before she blew to 12th at Deer Valley. A local favorite is North Tahoe's Shannon Bahrke, now in her second World Cup season and hot off a fourth place in Deer Valley (her rookie year she nabbed a second place finish in Japan).
This World Cup stop will also be a homecoming for U.S. Ski Team members Brooke Ballachey, Travis Ramos and Travis Cabral (all from South Lake Tahoe) and Shelly Robertson, from Reno, NV. Cabral, National Champion last spring at age 15, is the current shooting star for the U.S. men. He took 15th place in his first World Cup contest at Deer Valley.
You can be sure that if Cabral, Moseley, Bahrke or any of the other Americans break into the medals, Saturday night's going to go off in South Lake Tahoe.
Saturday, Jan. 22: Mogul day. Qualifying from 11am-2pm, finals from 2pm-4pm. The aerialists will also be training next to the bump run during the day.
Sunday, Jan. 23: Aerials. "B" seed competitors from 9am-11am, "A" Seed from 1pm-3pm, awards ceremony to follow.
Chaco Mohler, MountainZone.com Correspondent