March 25, 2002--After a one-year hiatus, the World Extreme Skiing Championship (WESC)--the benchmark freeskiing competition against which all others are measured--will return to the Chugach Mountains outside of Valdez, Alaska April 10-15 to crown the 2001-2002 World Champion of big-mountain freeskiing.
For two weeks in April, the normally sleepy port town of Valdez -best known as the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaskan pipeline -will turn into the center of the freeskiing universe as national big-mountain champions and media from around the world come together to take part in what historically has been the most intense and closely-contested big-mountain freeskiing competition of the year.
Competitors qualify to participate in WESC based upon their results in the season's top 15 international freeskiing competitions, including the national championships of Russia, Bulgaria, France, Japan, New Zealand and Canada. The event is a melding of cultures, languages and skiing styles underscored by one common denominator - the competitor's desire and ability to ski the biggest, steepest mountains in the world with aplomb and grace.
And Alaska has mountains. Jutting straight out of the Prince William Sound, the Chugach Mountains receive an average of more than 600 inches of snow annually -more snow than any other location in the world. Additionally, the unique content of the maritime snowpack allows the snow to adhere to mountain faces it would otherwise slide off of-as steep as 70 degrees and more. Thus, the Chugach Mountains provide the perfect steep-and-deep conditions that a big-mountain World Championship demands. Competitors will charge down these steep, exposed faces inundated with cliffs, crevasses, snow sluffs and other hidden natural obstacles for more than 3,000 vertical feet. Their leg-burning, hair-raising runs are scored by a panel of celebrity judges based on five factors:aggressiveness, form/technique, fluidity, line choice and control.
Exact locations of the three-day competition are kept secret until the morning of each event, when competitors are bussed from WESC's Valdez headquarters to a landing zone on Thompson Pass. Helicopters then ferry the competitors to the peak of the day's anointed mountain.
For the first time in the event's history, WESC will award cash prizes to the top four finishers in the male and female categories, a move which is sure to attract the sport's biggest names. Prize money will be the same for men and women
For more event information and results during the competition, click here.