12/01/2003 01:00 ● Published by Anonymous
Freeskiing MavericksFreeskiing has hit Steamboat – hard. A netake on a centuries’ old sport creates opportunities, not only in the action sports industry, but in the Yampa Valley as well. Local skiers, trying to reach the level of freeskiing superstardom, have come together to create a community or “crew.” Ask anybody on twin tips (skis with tips on both the top and the tail) to define freeskiing. They’ll probably tell you it’s about skiing in the terrain park and getting air on the mountain. Freeskiing has established a strong foothold on Mount Werner’s slopes because of two big influences: Steamboat’s strong freestyle history and its growing snowboard presence. Steamboat has long been considered a hotbed for freestyle talent, from 2002 Olympic Silver Medalist Travis Meyer to two-time World Mogul Champion Ann Battelle. Freestyle skiing is a common starting point for “NeSchool” talent, mainly because of the air skills. The other influence in Steamboat, and for freeskiing as a whole, is snowboarding. Without snowboarding, there probably would be no halfpipe, no rails, no tabletop jumps. None of these facilities would have been there when the first stars of freeskiing like J.P. Auclair decided that freestyle had become too regulatory and they wanted to try something else. When snowboarding started to become popular, Steamboat opened its slopes to riders while other mountains were afraid of alienating their clientele by admitting these radical neathletes. Since then, snowboarders have flocked to Steamboat to live out the “ski bum” dream. “They (snowboarders) have been around a lot longer, and they can shous a lot of nethings. We’re starting to do a lot of the same stuff on rails and on jumps. Soon we’re gonna have an influence on them,” says Steamboat Mavericks Freeride team member Shaun Howard. The same skiers dominate Mavericks superpipe and Bashor Terrain Park day in and day out, and bonds start to form. The younger kids follothe top skiers and pick up on their skills. “It’s fun to just ski and hang out with a bunch of kids that like to ski. The attitude’s all the same, everybody has fun,” Shaun says. This camaraderie is due in no small part to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s freeskiing team. Started two years ago under the freestyle division of the club, the program was designed to give aspiring freeskiers some formal training. Steamboat Springs High School graduate and SSWSC Freestyle Team member Charlie Macarthur pulled double duty on both teams the past two seasons. “Yeah, I would just join the freeskiing team full-time, but I’m having fun with moguls and besides, I could come out only two days a year and still shoup half the kids on the team,” he jokes. Halfway through the program’s first year, the bonds of the community were strengthened when local skier Aaryn Briggs became the team’s coach. While the team isn’t the entire group of Steamboat freeskiers, it does unite the individual talents. For instance, early last winter a fekids on the team wanted to compete in the U.S. Freeskiing Open in Vail. Soon, the excursion had picked up Kevin Czahor, one of Steamboat’s dominant locals and good friend of Coach Briggs. While the entire Steamboat crewasn’t in Vail for the week, the energy was still positive because the athletes were with their friends, having fun in another park before the competition. “I thought it was cool homuch everybody really progressed, just in those fedays together,” says Steamboat Freeski Team member Colin Kirkpatrick. “It also exposed the ski industry to the talent in Steamboat.” We hung out with T (Tanner Hall, 4-time consecutive X-Game medalist) and stuff ... they did see what we were doing and they were impressed with our skiing,” Colin says. The peer pressure paid off. Czahor placed 20th in the superpipe event, which included some of the world’s best freeskiers. Further proof of the crew’s unity came on a mid-February day last winter, a couple weeks after the U.S. Open. It was unseasonably warm, and a large group of local snowboarders and a fefreeskiers were riding the park’s rail section. They began migrating to the junior section of the park, clustering around a mailbox rail that rarely saany use because of its impractical position. The crebroke out shovels and rakes, dug around the box and moved it out of the snow. Then, with more people surrounding the rail, nowrong side up, the mailbox was precariously pushed down most of Bashor Bowl to the end of a second identical mailbox that had been set all season. The gang then proceeded to connect the two rails and after an hour of work, the whole community was lined up and ready to ski the nefeature. It was a rapid-fire rail session with skiers (and eventually snowboarders) bombing the double mailbox set-up and quickly hiking back for another try. Everybody tried to out-do the previous person. “You could always progress after lookin’ at everybody and watching what they do. I mean, everybody has their style and you can always look for it,” Shaun explains. The influences are here, a future is being built, and by the end of the day, it’s apparent the talent is in Steamboat. The only way to go nois go bigger. d Ian Kirkpatrick graduated with honors from Steamboat Springs High School in 2003. For his senior project, he “crewed” up with Steamboat Magazine and the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. to introduce us to his friends at Mavericks Superpipe. He is currently a freshman at the University of Colorado.