MT. CRESTED BUTTE, CO February 28, 2004 (PR) - The 13th Annual U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championships concluded at Crested Butte Mountain today with fabulous performances on incredibly steep technical terrain. Click below for full results.
Crested Butte's Gary Hicks, 34, took the men's title and Laura Ogden, 25, from Tacoma, WA, led the charge for top honors in the women's competition. Competitors each skied two runs down the The Hourglass, a normally closed section in the Extreme Limits terrain of Crested Butte Mountain. They took routes down Snaggletooth Glades, and the newly christened "Bed, Bath and Beyond rocks that lined the skiers left of Hourglass, and "Catch and Release, which is a section of 57-degree rock outcroppings lining the skiers right top to bottom.
Hicks, who finished with a combined score of 128.1 (after his initial run yielded him a 42.5 out of a possible 50), had spectators renaming terrain after him after he cleared a huge gap at the top of the Rockgarden (now "Gary's Gap). He then doubled back to launch into the wider part of the gully below in his first run, easily getting the largest cheers from the crowd all day. Hundreds of spectators watched the competition under cloudy skies and intermittent heavy snow.
When asked at the finish how he got so creative with the two lines he took, Hicks said, "Money. Lots of money on the table (for winning the competition). I'm hoping to get some pay-off from so much torment.
"Gary put all the pieces together, which was great to see, said Kim Reichhelm, Crested Butte's ski ambassador and former world champion. "He attacked, skiing really fluidly, in between the big air and the big moves. Everyone is delighted for him because he's never quite managed to win this competition, and now he's achieved something that we all knew he was capable of.
Elijah Lee, 30, from Eagle Crest, AK, took second place with a 124.6 combined score, with Kiffor Berg, 27, out of Aspen, CO, taking third at 118.1. Defending champion Jack Hannan, 30, finished fourth with a combined final score of 118.1 in the men's final.
Ogden's score of 100.5 was nearly five points ahead of closest rival Carrie Jo Chernoff, 30, a local from Crested Butte, who put up a combined 96.8.
"Today's venue was much better suited for my type of skiing than Friday's. Up in Whistler, you just try to find the steeps and go fast and take some air, so this is what I like, Ogden, said of the finals in the Hourglass. "I love Crested Butte. It's gnarly out there and it brings out the best.
The Hourglass has been used only once in competition, during the 1997 event. Excellent snowfall this year has allowed the Crested Butte snow safety crew and patrol to control this area and be able to offer it for the event's spectacular final venue. This area in Crested Butte's Extreme Limits is a steep, rocky hourglass-shaped section nestled against a triangle of heavily wooded cliffs. The resort's "Extreme Limits Ski Guide identified it only as a "Closed Area between Spellbound/Phoenix Bowls and the Third Bowl. The section, with 1200 feet of vertical, ranges in pitch from 42 to 57 degrees, with trees, rocks and cliff bands, bisected by a narrow, ugly avalanche chute — both the steepest section, at more than 50 degrees, and the "easiest route down
This exciting event annually brings some of the top big mountain freeskiers from across the world to Crested Butte for adrenaline-charged action held on the resort's wildest terrain. This year's event saw a number of younger skiers make their mark in the popular juniors category, especially Dane Tudor-Olds from Rossland BC, who wowed the judges and the crowd with his phenomenal blast down the middle of the Hourglass. Four of the top eight juniors were from Crested Butte, underlining how local young skiers excel in this discipline. Competition was tough for these young aggressive "man-boys who skied like the "big boys in many of their runs. The junior women were also strong and impressive as they came down the steep Hourglass venue. The juniors category age group ranges from 14 - 17 year olds. There were a total of 28 junior competitors this year.
More than 180 competitors from France, Canada, and Sweden joined top talent from across the nation in a week of thrills and spills, which started with the exciting SAAB SALOMON Crossmax Skiercross on Wednesday.
Tabbed "Skiing's Greatest Prize by FREEZE Magazine, the 2004 Saab U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championships awarded the largest cash purse for a freeskiing competition — with the men's and women's champions each collecting $6500, second place $4000 each, third place $2500, fourth, $750 and fifth $500. Juniors and Masters divisions receive additional cash and prizes. Killer prizes go even deeper down the line and include products from Salomon, Boeri USA, Oakley, The Royal Shaft, DaKine, Polarmax and others.
Club Med, one of the event sponsors, is donating four trips, two to Sand Piper, Florida and two to Ixtapa, Mexico. The vacations will be presented to the male and female overall winners and, for the third year in a row, to the "competitors choice for male and female, determined by the competitors during the final awards banquet.