TELLURIDE – The Telluride Ski Resort’s mogul-dappled slopes have provided a launching pad for local freestyle-skiing luminaries have been catapulted into the sport’s big time.
But never before have so many high-level mogulists been set loose on Telluride’s world- renowned moguls at one time, as Telluride hosts its first-ever Federation Internationale du Ski North American Cup mogul competitions this week.
Top-of-the-line bump skiers from Canada, Australia, Germany, the U.S., and more flocked to the Hermit ski trail for Wednesday and Thursday’s NorAm competition this week, battling the bumps as well as their fellow competitors for a shot at the podium. Among them are four up-and-coming local freestyle stars: Thanks to strong performances at the U.S. Selection event held earlier this season in Steamboat Springs, Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club athletes Wade Parkinson, Troy Tully, Keaton McCargo and Kealey Zaumseil all earned coveted starts at this week’s event. They are among the only 100 athletes invited to this event, which entails a qualification round, a final round of 16, and a super final, with the four top athletes battling it out for podium spots each day.
This week’s event is the first mogul competition in the NorAm Cup’s four-event schedule, and provides a steppingstone to World Cup start lists.
According to former U.S. Ski Team member and current TSSC Freestyle Director Caleb Martin, the action on Hermit this week will be, in a word, unmatched.
“History has proven that the podium finishers at the NorAm Cup have the ability to make the top 16 at the World Cup, so the mogul action on Hermit will be really exciting this week,” Martin said, noting that not only does the NorAm event provide an opportunity for TSSC’s four local competitors to shine on home turf, it also showcases the next level in the freestyle pipeline to all of the team’s Devo and Competitive Series Rocky Mountain Division skiers.
Putting on an event of the NorAm’s caliber is no small task. Preparations began months ago, with Telluride Ski Resort’s snowmaking and grooming departments transforming Hermit into a top-notch mogul course. Competitive venues for mogul skiing have evolved alongside the sport in recent years, necessitating an increasingly structured design. Today’s mogul courses boast man- and machine-formed lines, with moguls measured to a precise degree and sculpted jumps with chopped landing pads. All of this allows for increased safety for the athletes, whose aerial maneuvers in the bumps have reached levels never before thought possible, said TSSC freestyle Press Manager Jenny Page.
Visiting coach Mick Berry, from the Park City Freestyle Team (a club that boasts a whopping 16 invited skiers competing in this week’s events) commended Telluride’s efforts in hosting its first-ever NorAm mogul competition.
“The crew has done an amazing job with the course,” he said, referring to the hundreds of man-hours local mogul aficionados like Harold Ehnbom, Kris Pepe, Hugh Sawyer and Nori Lupfer have put into pulling off this event. “It gives the world motivation to come here.”
TSSC’s Martin admits the event couldn’t have happened without strong support from the Ski Resort. “TSSC is really excited that TSG has stepped up to host our first FIS Freestyle event. Despite the lack of early season snow, the TSG snowmaking and grooming crew did a fantastic job providing a quality international venue,” he said of the Ski Resort’s efforts to step up to the challenge of hosting a high-caliber international mogul event.
TSSC freestyle skiers got the chance to check out the Hermit venue last weekend, when Telluride hosted the Rocky Mountain Divisional moguls competition, as well as a slopestyle contest in the Hoot Brown Terrain Park. Those events saw Telluride skiers snagging the podium in a number of divisions. Friday’s mogul comp saw Keaton McCargo finishing first overall for women, ahead of Kealey Zaumseil in fourth overall. In the age divisions, J4 Emma Spaulding took first ahead of teammates Skylar Nunn, Ava Jodlowski and Brianna Brown (in second through fourth respectively).
The men’s competition showcased Troy Tully and Wade Parkinson, who duked it out for second and third place overall, respectively. J3 age class competitors Morgan Osborne and Benni Solomon snagged the top spots in their division.
Day two of last weekend’s Divisional mogul contest was a near repeat of Day One for the women, with McCargo again winning it for the ladies while Zaumseil came up right behind her teammate in second overall. In the J4s, it was Nunn, Spaulding, then Brown in the top three spots.
Day two for the men found the guys falling behind their competition, with Telluride’s top three male finishers Parkinson, Tully, and Osborne finishing 15th, 18th, and 20th overall, respectively.
Sunday’s Slopestyle contest put Ian Mitchell on the podium at third overall, with Jake Burchmore at fourth overall. Age class competition found Jackson Tharp taking it for the M4s, ahead of teammate Cody Krueger who placed third in the age division. Flynn Krueger landed in first for the M5s, while teammates Eric Cummings, Rye Overly and William James came in fast succession behind him in second, fourth and fifth, respectively.