Winds, cold, snow fail to stop the show
by Than Acuff
Crested Butte Mountain Resort continues to be the host of the longest running freeskiing event in the nation, once known as the U.S. Extremes, and this year was another showcase of skiing and riding talent as CBMR hosted the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association (IFSA) 2-star and 4-star events Thursday through Saturday, February 7-9.
The three days of competition opened with an IFSA 2-Star qualifier event on the Headwall. Athletes, staff and the Crested Butte professional ski patrol were hammered by cold temps, winds and flat light on the day as they looked to get athletes through the venue.
An injury in the middle of Angle Chute forced the ski patrol into action for some high-angle work and an extended delay in the competition. Meanwhile, Mother Nature continued to batter the event and with such a large field, the first day carried over into a second day on Friday to get through the competitors.
Once that concluded, everyone moved to the Staircase/Slot Rocks area on Saturday, February 9 for the IFSA 4-star event, a slight uptick in level on the IFSA circuit.
The field was jam-packed and the format came down to one run per athlete, leaving no chance for error.
“We had more than a hundred men and women competing on Saturday, which is a big field,” says judge Ben Blackwood. “Personally, I loved the multi-day events and miss the excitement of the Super Final, but it was still a great competition.”
Athletes were met with flat light and a mix of firm and soft conditions on the fabled venue with some opting to drop out of the competition rather than test their mettle in the steep and tree-lined venue with its fair share of rocks and exposure.
“Even though the Staircase/Slot Rocks venue has been used many times, there were a handful of athletes who seemed to be a little intimidated,” says Blackwood. “A couple even pulled themselves out of the competition, which was surprising.”
Once the snow settled, and the occasional chop from the “broccoli patch” came to a stop at the bottom of the venue, the local women did the most to defend their home hill, with four of the top five women skiers hailing from the Gunnison Valley.
Emma Patterson is a former Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team athlete and coach turned Flylow Gear/ Salomon athlete and rolled into Crested Butte Friday night, missing the inspection day. Nevertheless, she was more than familiar with the venue and kept her plan simple.
“Because I competed and coached for the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team, I knew the area and I just wanted to have a fun run, take one good air and ski it out,” says Patterson.
Patterson’s plan played out as she led the way, edging out the win by less than a point. Western Colorado University Mountain Sports Team athlete Addy Jacobsen was right behind her in second place. Alex Riedman worked her way through the upper part of the Staircase and into Slot Rocks for some classic stop and pop drops to come in third and Kele Thorsen finished right behind her in fourth. Mark Mikos was the top local man, coming in fourth.
“I was the last to go so I didn’t see the other runs,” says Patterson. “I didn’t expect it to be the best run of the day but I was happy with it. The win felt good.”
“The spectrum of skiing and riding seemed a little wider than in recent years,” adds Blackwood. “We saw some amazing riding. The top athletes were as impressive as ever. The difference between being on or off the podium can be very minor, but I can tell you that those who made the podium certainly deserved it.”
The IFSA circuit will return to Crested Butte March 8-10 with a Junior National 3-star event.