Mullen takes third at Crested Butte freeskiing championships

Big storm opens the door for skiers to go off

Crested Butte Mountain Resort cat driver Caleb Mullen is gaining speed as the 2009-2010 freeskiing season progresses, closing this past weekend with a third place finish in the 19th Annual Subaru U.S. Freeskiing Championships February 17-21.
Mullen won the John Nicoletta Scholarship Award last year, earning $3,000 to help cover costs of the 2009-2010 tour.
He opened it in Chile back in September, continued on to Revelstoke, Canada in January and then returned home to compete last weekend on the home hill.
“I had some good runs—I just had some small complications,” says Mullen of his first two competitions. “I was feeling pretty good coming into Crested Butte. Then all of the snow came—Crested Butte was amazing.”
Never, at least not in recent history, have athletes been treated to such incredible conditions for the U.S. Freeskiing Championships in Crested Butte as this year.
It was chaos. It was historic. It was deep.
The event started out innocently enough with the juniors event and Masters day one competitions Wednesday and Thursday, February 17-18.
But on Friday the skies opened up with extreme prejudice, crushing the competition on Staircase with dumping snow and forcing the postponement of the event with 17 men and the Masters still yet to ski.
The snow kept coming, greeting the final 17 men and the entire Masters field with close to two feet of snow for their run on Staircase Saturday afternoon. (did the women ski on Saturday?)
By the end of Saturday, the Crested Butte contingent of Masters men had dominated the field with Gary “Hurricane” Hicks on top of the podium, Aaron Lypps in second place, Mike Preston taking third and Todd Robinson in fourth. Fifty skiers, 38 men and 12 women, advanced to the final day.
Sunday morning 50 skiers lined up for the finals in the Dead End Chutes/Body Bag area and what ensued was incredible. With two feet of fresh blanketing the venue and only a handful of tracks in the area, competitors shot the lock off on their runs.
“It was a good show,” says Mullen. “People were going off.”
Mullen was the fourth skier into the venue on the first run and skied a pillow line between Dead End Chutes and Body Bag to post a fourth-place finish and qualify for the Superfinal with 14 other men. He believes the conditions were some of the best he’s seen on the mountain ever.
“It was probably my best run ever at Crested Butte,” says Mullen. “It was just untouched.”
Mullen followed a similar line at the top of his Superfinal run but then veered off toward the bottom to boost a rock next to Cheeseburger Rock flying over a tree, landing in a chute and flying through to the finish.
“I decided to do a little different bottom section,” says Mullen.
The decision proved the difference as Mullen edged his way onto the podium finishing .03 points ahead of the fourth-place finisher.
“I wanted to podium,” says Mullen. “My wife’s pregnant and I kind of needed to earn some money.”
Jackson Hole skier Griffin Post took first place and Snowbird athlete Cliff Bennett finished in second.
For the women, the podium was dominated by out-of-town skiers, as Claudia Bouvier of Vail won, Kirkwood skier Hazel Birnbaum finished second and Jess McMillan of Jackson Hole took third place.
Crested Butte Mountain Sports team athlete Djemilah Birnie won the junior women’s class ages 12-14 and Mitch Gilman of Big Mountain, Montana won the men’s juniors for ages 12-14 years old. Vail athlete Lizzie Seibert won the women’s juniors ages 15-17 and Miles Honens of Squaw Valley took the men’s juniors division ages 15-17 years old title.
Mullen will now head to Aspen this weekend for a Freeride World Tour qualifier event before returning to the freeskier series for the North American Freeskiing Championships in Kirkwood, California March 3-7 and the tour finals in Snowbird, Utah, March 16-21.

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