FREESTYLE CHAMPIONSHIPS AT DEER VALLEY

Top freestyle World Cup athletes from all over the world were competing for the gold. I ran into a few old friends from my Killington days, like Bob Aldighieri (former US Ski Team Member) who is now coaching for the Canadians and others that I have met at competitions over the years. It was a fabulous event on Superbowl weekend. The schedule called for moguls Friday, and aerials during the day and dual moguls at night on Saturday. This was one of the most exciting events I have ever attended.

Ever since Jonnie Moseley did the “dinner roll” in competition, moguls have taken a quantum leap. Now you see bumpers speeding down the mogul course, knees pumping like pistons, making perfect turn after perfect turn. When they hit the first jump, they go big, some throwing INVERTED aerials and OFF-AXIS spins. They hit the snow without missing a turn as they fly down the bump run and then they are at the second jump executing another BIG jump…and those are the girls!

I have been watching mogul competition for over 25 years and bump skiing has entered a new phase. Technical turns at high speed, combined with inverted aerial jumps have made the competition breath-taking. Just a few years ago, all a competitor had to do was throw a helicopter to receive high points for the jump. Now you are seeing back flips, 720s, 900s, Broncos, Mule Kicks, Zudniks, and more.

Conditions for the individual mogul contest were perfect. The moguls course was in fantastic shape and the sun was out for this spectacular event. I watched competitor after competitor ski down the course all throwing tricks that would have won an Olympic medal a few short years ago.

Deer Valley provided its guests with a sumptuous feast in the VIP tent and I met a lot of really great fans and competitors. Deer Valley is know for having some of the best ski area food in the country and this event was no exception.

THE MOGULS
Toby Dawson from Vail won the individual moguls for the men, Janne Lahtela (Finland) came in 2nd and defending World Cup champion Travis Cabral (South Lake Tahoe, CA) came in 3rd with Jeremy Bloom (Loveland, CO) 4th. Toby absolutely nailed a Heli-X off the top jump and a Cork-7 (an off-axis move with two spins), off the bottom jump to finish with 26.42 points for the third win of his career. The U.S. team led an overpowering display of strength Friday as U.S. men came in 1st, 3rd, 4th 5th & 7th

Before the Sprint World Cup, Dawson stood eighth in the World Cup standings. “It was one of those runs where you know where every single turn is gonna be placed. It was kinda like being on auto-pilot. It’s always nice to have that kind of run,” Dawson said. “We’ve gotten so much from the coaches – working with all of us individually, video analysis…they’re doing a great job for us.”

Travis Cabral was third for the third time in the last four World Cups as he defends his moguls title. Deer Valley is the sixth of 15 World Cup contests and he will be right up there battling for the gold in every competition.

Kari Traa of Norway was the women’s winner with 26.00 points. Hannah Kearney from Norwich, VT placing 2nd with 25.58, Jennifer Heil from Canada was 3rd with 25.27 and Margaret Marbler from Austria was 4th with 25.20. U.S. women had a fine showing coming in 2nd , 5th & 6th. Kari executed impeccable turns, speed and BIG jumps when she nailed this dramatic victory. She won the 2002 Olympic gold medal and the 2003 World Championships gold medal at Deer Valley and is REALLY HOT in the bumps. The women are now out performing the men of just a few years ago. One competitor told me that “the girls had problems spinning but flips are easier for them.”

“Don’t you just hate it when your girlfriend shows you up by doing a back flip in the bumps,” the editor.

AERIALS
The aerials competition was the front half of a day-night doubleheader at Deer Valley. Dmitri Dashinski (Belarus) corked an awesome jump (back, full, double full, full) to win 1st place (251.51 points) with Canadian, Steve Omischl 2nd (242.35), Olympic aerialist Jeret (Speedy) Peterson from Boise, ID, was 3rd (242.30) and Dmitry Arkhipov from Russia, was 4th (237.85). They held the finals on Saturday afternoon in bad weather that was marred by wind and poor visibility due to snow. Even though the weather made it difficult for the competitors, it still was an exciting event to behold.

World Cup leader Alisa Camplin (Australia) , 2002 Olympic gold medal winner won again for the second year in a row at Deer Valley with 189.20, Australia teammate, Lydia Ierodiaconou was 2nd with 183.63, Evelyne Leu (Switzerland) 3rd with 180.57, Liz Gardner (Australia) was 4th with 178.19.

All of the Aerialists were fantastic, combining tucks, layouts and twists. That included 180, 360, 540, 720 and 900 degree rotations on a vertical axis as well as off axis. If you have never seen these tricks, check out an aerial competition or tune them in on TV. It is a fabulous show. NBC will televise coverage from the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Grand National weekend Feb. 21 at 4 p.m. ET.

DUAL MOGULS
Janne Lahtela of Finland took the gold in the men’s dual moguls with Jeremy Bloom from Loveland, CO, finishing 2nd Saturday night in the final event. Toby Dawson took 3rd with local star, Nate Roberts from Park City in 4th. The U.S. men filled six of the top eight places. GO USA!

Kari Traa (Norway) took her second gold medal with Sara Kjellin (Sweden) 2nd, Margaret Marbler (Austria) 3rd, and Jennifer Heil (Canada) came in 4th, Hannah Kearney (Norwich, VT) was the top U.S. women in 5th place.

Over 4,000 fans watched the U.S. pack the podium under the lights.

THE SKIING AT DEER VALLEY
I was able to get in a lot of skiing while I covered the competition and the skiing was GREAT. Deer Valley is a big resort with five mountains, 88 runs, 19 lifts, and over 800 acres of skiable terrain. While I was there, I tried to ski as many of the trails as I could. The vertical at Deer Valley is 3,000′ with the highest summit at 9,570′. I spent most of my time doing high-speed cruising and skiing bumps. I made respectable bump runs down Big Stick, Know You Don’t on Bald Eagle Mt. My favorite cruising was down Rattler and under the Wasatch Express Chair. Legal Tender, Keno and Nabob were also in great shape for cruising at high speed. Evidently, I wasn’t doing too bad because I was noticed by some of the local hotshots. It was great weather for giant slalom tuns and I was feeling really good. A little gal from Australia in rental department took good care of me and set me up with a great pair of Rossignol Viper STX with lifter plates that rally held well on the groomed hard-pack. Even late in the day, when the trails got a little skied off, these skis did everything I asked them to do.

I did a few bumps on Peerless, a black diamond off the Sultan Chair and made numerous other runs down other trails that I can’t even remember. I took a few easy runs on Flagstaff Mt. And even ventured over to Empire Canyon to test my skill on Orion, Buckeye and Conviction.

Deer Valley is my favorite ski area in Park City and it has great views. It has a lot of very steep runs that will test the skill of skiers from advanced intermediate to ski god. There are gentle slopes for beginners, solid blue runs for intermediates and everything an expert skier could desire. It has more trails than I have been able to explore in my two visits and a number of slopes that force me to ski them again and again and again. If you like long, broad, steep groomed slopes, Deer Valley is ideal. They have all the bumps a mogul maniac could want and they really cater to their guests. They seem to have something for everybody, except snowboarders…NO SNOWBOARDS ALLOWED. They have treed skiing, bowls, bumps, groomed slopes and even a Skier Cross course. They have a free ski-check so you don’t have to lug your skis to the car after a hard day on the slopes.

All the staff that I met were friendly, including one ski instructor who introduced himself as a some-time contributor to the Ski Bum News. Movie stars and ski legends like Stein Ericksen can be seen on the slopes. The mansions that dot Bald Eagle Mt. Are pretty impressive and make me wish that I was born rich instead of handsome.

FOOD & BEER
The best ski area food I have ever had was enjoyed at Deer Valley. They really do things right. I often had lunch in the Silver Lake Lodge and the cuisine was excellent. The salad bar was extensive and the other food stations were very tempting. You can get a gourmet meal for a reasonable price in any of the base lodges. One visitor from Australia commented that he got a delicious $25 Italian meal for only $15. It sure beats the high-priced burgers that are the fare at most U.S. ski areas.

One day, after skiing, we tempted our aprè ski pallets with roasted garlic and brie, washed down with a local beer. It was just the thing after a hard day of skiing, especially since my lady friend had injured her knee. I had the pleasure of doing some fine dining in the evenings and can recommend the Prime, located at the foot of Main St. in Park City. I had one of the best rib-eye steaks I have ever tasted there. For a little drink after skiing or in the evening, I found that downing a few beers at the No Name Saloon with the locals was a lot of fun. The place is noisy and usually packed. Pints and steins of beer are served along with pub fare that includes their signature dish, buffalo burgers. If you like local color, this is the place to be.

LIVING LIKE A KING
While I was skiing at Deer Valley, I stayed at the Kastle Inn in Midway, just 10 minutes from the gondola at Deer Valley. This mediaeval B&B looks like it’s out of a story book with its two tall turrets and only has 6 guest rooms. They really treat their guests like royalty there. The breakfasts were sumptuous and the view from the windows was spectacular. My host and hostess were charming and I can highly recommend this inn, especially if you enjoy a mediaeval theme. Prices ranging from $119 to $159 per night, depending on the season and my spacious room came with queen-sized bed, private bath, refrigerator, TV/VCR, phone and inside/outside entrance. For reservations call (435) 657-1250. Royalty, knights, ladies, wenches and naves are welcome, along with ski bums, of course.