Monday, August 10, 2020

Local freeheelers tear Targhee a new one

CBMST throws down

by Than Acuff

As has been the case for several of the past years, the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team (CBMST) telemark athletes headed up to Wyoming to compete in the Freeheel Life Cup telemark freeskiing competition at Grand Targhee March 1-3. And, as has been the case for several of the past years, they were treated to powder conditions and stepped up on the podium.

“It just always kind of happens that somehow it snows when we’re there,” says CBMST telemark coach Mark Robbins.

It hasn’t been the best year for the team to prepare for competitions on steep terrain, but that didn’t slow Robbins and his crew down, as they always make the best of the situation.

“It’s not our first low snow year,” says Robbins. “While these low snow years tend to be challenging on an emotional aspect, they’re great for skills.”

Robbins made a point of getting his team into rooty and rocky situations, into the moguls as well as some sessions in the terrain parks.

The team did get their first taste of competition this season at the beginning of February at a one-day event in Breckenridge but each athlete struggled to put two solid runs together to post any notable results.

“All of the kids who went had one really strong run and one where they fell,” says Robbins.

Down but not out, the team rebounded for the competition at Grand Targhee as they were treated to powder throughout the three days of competition. The only downside to snow was uncertainty about how the event would play out as weather tends to force organizers to cancel rounds last-minute.

“I just tell them to ski every run as if it would be the only one they get scored on,” explains Robbins. “It’s always that balance, to leave no regrets but to stay on your feet.”

The CBMST telemark skiers did have one advantage going in. For the first time, event organizers decided to switch judging criteria to align with the IFSA (International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association). It just so happens, a lot of the telemark athletes also compete at IFSA events.

“Telemark has been a little more lenient on control issues but there’s an extra push to see clean skiing this year, which is great because our kids are already in the IFSA mindset,” says Robbins.

Robbins took five athletes to compete, four of whom are on the CBMST team, two in the 12-14 year old age group and three in the 15-17 year old class. In addition, Robbins jumped into the competition fray in the adult class.

The younger athletes, Matthew Alagna and Luca Loperfido, are still getting used to the competition circuit as it was Alagna’s second comp ever and Loperfido’s first. Alagna posted the highest score of the day for his age in his first run Thursday but fell on his second run to miss the cut for the finals. Loperfido laid down two solid runs but missed the cut as well.

“So they got to go ski powder with the dads the rest of the weekend,” says Robbins.

Luke Shull, Dane De Frates and Dylan Alagna all competed among the 15-17 year olds. They each had strong showings in the qualifier day with just one run to prove their worth as the weather moved in. Shull posted a sixth-place finish, De Frates finished the day in third and Dylan posted a second-place result to all make it to the finals among stout competition.

“The top four were split up by half of a point so the level and consistency in that group was really strong,” says Robbins. “That also meant they were all within striking distance in the finals.”

Friday was the qualifier day among the adults and Robbins proved he is more than just a coach as he laid down back-to-back solid runs in the midst of a growing storm to finish the day in second and punch his ticket to the finals.

The storm raged on, leaving a foot of new snow on the finals venue Saturday that sent skiers through a variety of cliff bands and rocky outcroppings.

“There aren’t any real no-fall zones but definitely plenty of high consequence lines,” explains Robbins.

Shull had everything going for him through the top and middle of his run but fell prey to unforeseeable forces to struggle at the bottom of the venue finishing the event in 12th place.

“He stomped all of his airs but the snow snakes claimed him,” says Robbins.

De Frates came into the finals in third place but laid down the top scoring line of the finals to catapult him on top of the podium for the win.

“He hit four airs and had the highest line score of the day, including the adults,” says Robbins.

Dylan wasn’t so fortunate. As he made his way through the mess and mayhem of the venue, he suffered a slight bobble and was penalized accordingly, leaving him to finish the weekend in fifth place.

Coach Robbins took the same advice he gave his kids to push the envelope but stay on your feet and held on to his second-place spot for the weekend.

“I skied as I always do,” says Robbins. “I skied the same line I told the kids to ski, just not as well, but good enough for second.”

The event wraps up the season for most of the telemark athletes. A couple will continue to compete on the IFSA tour and they will all throw themselves into the Al Johnson race on Sunday, March 18.

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