Morello takes his first freeskiing telemark title

Strong showing from freeheelers

Telemark skiers from Norway to Alaska descended upon Crested Butte this past weekend for a dynamic rendition of the 12th Anniversary U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Telemark Championships.


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The recipe of two sunny, bluebird days, two hair-raising venues and 78 extreme skiers concocted an electrifying brew of freeheeling action. With the best tele skiers in the world attempting to fiercely muscle their way to the top of the podium, the competition was as steep as the terrain. In the end, Ben Morello of Crested Butte and Megan Michaelson of Boulder powered their way through to reign as the 2008 champions.
Day One began on a stimulating venue including Sock it to Me Ridge with its tight and narrow pillow drops through boulder choked cliffs; the ominous Little Hourglass with its puckering choke and mandatory air; and the smooth chute of Cesspool.
Seaton MacMillan of Crested Butte charged his way into the first-place finish of the day with a pillow popping Sock it to Me–Little Hourglass combination and 34.8 points. Close on his heels, Ben Morello, also of Crested Butte, smoothed into second place with a silky execution of the same, garnering 34.6 points and leaving a narrow margin from leader MacMillan. Jason Layh of Tahoe City, Calif. rose to the top three with Morello, also with 34.6 points.
Megan Michaelson left no doubt as to who would be leading the women, as her fast, non-stop and velvety performance in Little Hourglass gave her a stunning 4.4 lead over her nearest competitor and a 32.2 finish for the day. Descending all the way from the north country of Alaska, Anchorage local Paige Brady demonstrated a solid big mountain prowess on Little Hourglass boosting her to second place with 27.8 points. Rather Hosch of Gunnison finished the day in third with 25.4 points.
For the Master Men, local favorite Mark Phwah of Crested Butte led the day charging fast out of the gate of Sock it to Me Ridge to smoothly turn his way into the choke of Little Hourglass. Showcasing the beauty of the telemark turn, Phwah finished with 27.8 points. Keeping Phwah on his toes was the 2007 U.S. Extreme Telemark Champion Launce Gouw of Salt Lake City skiing in second only 1.2 points behind and a 26.6 second-place finish. Rick Pratt of Denver also scoring 26.6 points, rounded out the top three for the Master Men.
Kjell Ellefson of Vail breezed through Sock it to Me Ridge with the finesse to earn him 33.4 points and a first-place finish for the day. Luke Lubchenco of Glenwood Springs and Rob Wear of Edwards, Colo. both devoured the vertical venue with enthusiasm, granting them 32.0 and 29.2 points respectively.
Competition veteran and young gun Francesca Pavillard-Cain of Crested Butte shot out of Little Hourglass for the Junior Women, landing her in a 28.8 point finish and first for the day. Trailing 2.8 point was Kelsey Lewis of Basalt for second. Riley Ebel of Eagle, Colo. came in third with 20.0 points.
Ramping up the terrain and the expectations, Day Two of the competition dawned on Dead End Chutes, Body Bag, Staircase and Slot Rocks. Offering up its share of throaty, boulder-ridden chutes and precipitous cliffs, the venue demanded that athletes not only negotiate the most vertical and technical terrain, but to do it with knee-bending style and fluidity. The field was cut to 53 competitors for the Finals. The Men’s and Women’s division completed a Super Finals with a rousing list of the most elite top 16 competitors.
Ben Morello took his second place from Friday to stand on top of the podium by day’s end of the Super Finals.
A long-time competitor in the U.S. Extreme Telemark Championships, Morello amped it up today with 38.4 and 38.2 points in his two runs. His Super Finals performance showcased a unique line choice down a previously untouched ridgeline in between Dead End Chutes and Body Bag, garnering him 111.2 total finishing points and the title of 2008 Champion.
Seaton MacMillan also hung it out on the sharp end with creative drops down the narrow Dead End Chutes giving him 32.8 and 35.2 points for his two runs and a total second-place finish of 102.8. J.T. Robinson of Fruit Heights, Utah wowed the crowd with a Lincoln loop rolling him into a third-place finish and a cumulative 102.0 points. Robinson also aired himself into winning the coveted Sick Bird Award for the most ridiculous, jaw-dropping feat of the day.
For the Women, Megan Michaelson easily held onto her lead from Friday, blowing away her competition with a shocking 15.6 lead over the next closest woman. Her energetic runs highlighted storming the steeps of Dead End Chutes with no hesitation. Page Brady kept her second-place finish from Friday to polish off a second overall for the women with 80.2 points total. Smiling the whole way, Louise Sanseau of Wilson, Wyo. bumped her way from sixth place on Day One to a third-place finish and 78.4 points.
Mark Phwah bounced with both exhilaration and buttery smoothness down Dead End Chutes, securing his Master’s Championship title with a 5.2 lead over second-place Launce Gouw. His solid turning technique and title fervor gave Phwah a final score of 56.8 points. Launce Gouw, billy-goating down Body Bag, completed the competition with 51.6 points. Bill Lerch of Salt Lake City bumped Rick Pratt out of third place with a narrow following of 51.2 points.
The future of the sport looks bright with Junior divisions ramping it up and proving they could compete even as adults. Kjell Ellefson continued to astound the crowd with enormous air and a clean landing in Dead End Chutes, scoring him 31.4 points and first place for the Junior Men. Showing that age does not equate fear, Luke Lubchenco and Rob Wear also both aired out of Dead End Chutes. Ellefson took the title with a cumulative 64.8 points. Lubchenco narrowly finished second with 56.6 points, and Wear in third with 54.4 points.
Francesca Pavillard-Cain, multiple first-place podium finisher for the Junior Women in the U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championships, showed she could also do it with her heel free. Pavillard-Cain swept the competition for the freeheeling Junior Women with a total of 56.4 points. Kelsey Lewis finished with 42.8 points and second place with Riley Ebel coming in third with 20.0 points.
“Everyone’s pushing that edge a little more and a little more,” concludes head judge Ross Matlock, “From the bottom end, everyone’s stepping it up.”

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