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March 24, 2006

Despite avalanches, blizzards, and variable snowpack, the U.S. Freeskiing Tour rolls on. Midway through the season-with completed tour stops in Snowbird, Utah, and Telluride, Colorado-the competition for lead in the overall points standings remains tight. The final two big mountain competitions at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Kirkwood, California, will continue providing breathtaking 40-foot hucks and aggressive 55-degree lines, as the winners try to separate from the pack. Check out the videos and slideshow below.

"The 2006 Subaru Freeskiing Series-with sold-out events at Snowbird, Utah, and Telluride, Colorado-has been a huge success so far," said Keith Carlsen, Director of Marketing for Mountain Sports International, organizer of the Freeskiing Series. "At Snowbird, we enjoyed bottomless powder and World Tour athletes pushed the sport beyond everyone's expectations, including a 150-foot front flip by Julian Carr and overall big, fast skiing. This is truly a testament to the caliber of athletes competing in today's freeskiing competitions."

Last weekend's Subaru Telluride Freekskiing Open was the first time the event has taken place at the resort. The competition took place in the lower section of Palmyara Peak, an area off-limits to the public. The run featured cornices, chutes, cliffs, and wide-open couloirs, offering the competitors a chance to ski on a little bit of everything. Although the conditions were less than desirable, the skiers persevered through pure ice and sugar-snow-over-rocks for what proved to be another exciting weekend of big mountain action.

On the women's side, a combined score of 127.4 from two semi-finals runs and two finals runs gave Crested Butte's Carrie Jo Chernoff top spot on the podium. Telluride local Galena Gleason and Lynne Kennen of Alpine Meadows, California, duked it out for second place, with Gleason grabbing the necessary points on her last run of the day to secure the second spot on the podium.

In the men's division, Snowbird, Utah's Cliff Bennett overcame a fourth place spot in the semi-finals to finish first overall. The men's podium rounded out with Fred Mooney of Winter Park, Colorado, in second and Walter Willey of Salt Lake City, Utah, taking third.

Other notable performances came from Drew Tabke of Alta, Utah, who delivered the highest-scored single run, and Sickbird Award winner Chris Tatsuno of Sun Valley, Idaho, whose aggressive and sometimes risky approach made him the distinct winner, demonstrated with a clean 20-foot huck straightlined into another 15-footer.

"The skiing in general is being taken to another level," said Carlsen. "Gone are the days of top skiers slowly picking their way down, billy-goating lines. Skier now rip fluid, top-to-bottom, non-stop runs with massive airs thrown in the mix. We're also starting to see a strong presence of progressive skiing with switch takeoffs and landings and myriad other tricks."

The previous weekend, the grandfather of freeskiing competitions, the 15th Annual U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Competition, took place at Crested Butte, Colorado. Separate from the U.S. Freeskiing Series, this was an action-packed and adrenaline-charged event, offering the largest cash purse of any freeskiing competition, awarding both the men and women first place finishers $6,500.

This event was also held in a place not skied all year: The steep technical terrain of Hourglass in the Phoenix Bowl, a proving ground for local and national competitors alike. In the men's division, Griffin Post of Denver, Colorado, took home a first place victory with a huck-filled run of 10- to 15-footers to end the day. Ryan Sutton of Gunnison, Colorado, grabbed second and Jesse Hall of Niwot, Colorado, finished third. In the women's division, Whistler, British Columbia's Jennifer Ashton--the only non-Colorado resident to land a podium spot-ran away with first, while local Wendy Fisher, who won laast year's event despite being three-months pregnant, held off Chernoff for second place.

This weekend will bring the third stop of the U.S. Freeskiing Tour to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the Jackson Hole Freeskiing Open. The inaugural race at this world-renown mountain famous for its extreme terrain and narrow chutes, it will pose great challenges for all participants, as they tear through the Casper Bowl for a total cash purse of $7,500.

The current points standings have Cliff Bennett and Nick Greener tied for first with 25 points apiece. And tied for third are Adrian Coirer and Fred Mooney, both with 20. In the women's division, Lynne Kennen is running away with a lead of 36 points and both Carrie Jo Chernoff and Laura Ogden tied for a distant second with 25 points. With such a tight race heading into challenging terrain, any mistake will be costly and discernible skiers will prevail, before heading to Kirkwood, California, for the final stop of both the U.S. Freeskiing Tour and the World Tour on March 29 - April 2.

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