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We arrived late monday night in Crested Butte, CO for the 18th US Extremes freeskiing competition, the first stop on the Freeskiing World Tour.  This place is pretty special.  A tight community that beams with pride about its super steep terrain and often brutal conditions.  The rocks are sharp, the temperatures are cold, and the crowds are rowdy.  Needless to day, It’s great to be back in CB.  Thanks to Tyson Bolduc‘s cousin Sean Norton, I again had a bed a place to call home for the week.

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The World Tour event can’t begin until a lot of skiers have been weeded out by the qualifier process on an area known as the Headwall. Headwall is a fun but limited venue, most prominently featuring the “Angle Gully” where most skiers will pick their way through some rocks in order to gain a high line score. Ask any local and they will proclaim that you “just have to” ski the gully to score well. Naturally, I thumbed my nose at those folks and greased a 30 second line down the right side, took both of my airs deep and qualified just fine without the gully.

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Dead End chutes and Bodybag

Mixing skiers who qualified on thursday with those who were pre-qualified from last year, day one of World Tour competition venues included Crested Butte’s Dead-End chutes, Body Bag, Staircase, and Slot Rocks. I chose a hairy line down Dead-End and ended up getting slightly lost. I skied what was under my feet which happened to be a lot of rowdy pillows and technical airs. That run put me into finals on Saturday.

Finals were held on the Big Hourglass and Bermuda Triangle zones, areas which have only been opened from permanent closure 4 times in 18 years. I was lucky enough to ski this area last year in finals and I couldn’t wait for another chance. Steep doesn’t really do it justice. Skiing becomes more of a controlled fall when one enters the more difficult parts of the venue. With only an inspection from the bottom, I chose a very rowdy line down the center of the Bermuda Triangle. I went too fast, and ended up only 10 feet right of the entrance that I wanted. I found myself on a fin of rock with no exit but to air off to a tiny pillow that only held one ski, and then off a blind cliff. I almost pulled it off, but when one of my skis dove under the snow, I tumbled and took myself out of the chase for the podium.

 

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Hourglass from the top

The level of competition was unbelievable as every competitor upped the ante with each run. Cliff Bennett blew the doors off of everyone with his comeback from 6 points down to win, and Pip Hunt impressed her home-town crowd with a 2nd place finish that could have easily been 1st.  Watching someone who has worked as hard as Pip has be gratified by a long-awaited podium in front of friends and family is pretty satisfying.  I am glad I got to see it.  I am always so happy to be arrive in Crested Butte, and a bit sad to leave.  Great people, great skiing, and a feeling that some places don’t change no matter how long you leave them re-enforce the fact that it certainly isn’t my last time in in CB.

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The rowdiest town around

 

 

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