The 2016 Freestyle World Cup at Deer Valley, UT began with a tribute to Stein Eriksen, the “Father of Freestyle” who passed away on December 27, 2015. The tribute took place before the day’s aerials competition and was attended by many of his friends and former Olympians.

I had the pleasure of knowing Stein and dined with him several times in the VIP tent at Deer Valley during this event over the past years. He was an inspiration to the world of skiing and will be missed by all of us that knew him.

On this trip, I had the pleasure of staying at a charming B&B in Salt Lake City called the Ellerbeck Mansion. This Victorian mansion provides vintage comfort in the heart of SLC at a very reasonable price. My large room was on the 1st floor and I had my own fireplace and big-screen TV. The room was called Christmas Wishes and I slept in a king-size antique, hand-carved walnut sleigh bed. The room was furnished with Victorian furniture and was lit by a crystal chandelier. I had a private bath and the entire setting made me feel like a wealthy gentleman from days gone by.

There was a complementary continental breakfast with the option of a hot breakfast at an additional cost. I had the pleasure of meeting the other guests while eating breakfast. One couple was on their honeymoon. The newlyweds found the establishment to be very romantic.

My room was off the parlor, which looked like the set of a Victorian movie. The two-story Ellerbeck Mansion was built in 1892 and provides easy access to the sights of Salt Lake City and access to the highway that leads to ski country. This inexpensive mansion offers accommodations from $99 to $154 per night. I’ve stayed at many ski lodges and hotels in ski country and this place is a real bargain. For those of you who like to combine elegance with thrift. Let me recommend the Ellerbeck Mansion. You can call them at (801) 699-0480 to make a reservation. When you do, tell them you read about them in the Ski Bum News.

The opening event of the Deer Valley Visa Freestyle International World Cup week took place on Thursday morning, with Yu Yang and Qi Guangpu making an impressive start for the Chinese team by taking top honors in the ladies’ and men’s aerials competitions. This event showcased the best aerialists and mogul skiers in the world and was areplacement for the Lake Placid World Cup that was canceled in early January. Thursday’s event was the first of two aerials competitions scheduled for Deer Valley. With moguls competition scheduled for Thursday evening.

Top athletes like Qi, Olivier Rochon (CAN), and Oleksandr Abremenko (UKR) were joined in the final by 17-year-old Christopher Lillis (USA). The top three qualifiers saved their best jumps for last. Abremenko, Rochon, and Qi went one after the other and each jump was better than the last until Qi stomped a near-perfect double-full, full, full, to score a 127.15 and take first. Canada’s Olivier Rochon placed second and Abremenko took third place.  Mild temperatures and clear skies made viewing the daytime competition a real pleasure.

It was the second win of the season for Qi, who won the opening event of the season in Beijing. It was For Rochon’s first World Cup podium in over three years.

The Ladies’ competition saw World Cup leader Ashley Caldwell (USA) complete the only triple jump, landing a solid full, full, full, to lead the way into finals.

The ladies’ finals saw female aerialists landing some impressive jumps. Samantha Wells (AUS) landed a double full, full, and Alexandra Orlova (RUS) stomped a full, full. Yu landed a full, full in near-perfect fashion.

Ashley Caldwell again attempted a triple but was not able to stick her landing.

Yu’s near-perfect jump gave her the first win in over three years. Samantha Wells came in second and Alexandria Orlova was third. This was the first World Cup podiums for Alexandria and Samantha.

Despite her 11th-place finish at deer Valley, Caldwell held on to the yellow World Cup leader’s bib.

Thursday night saw a moguls competition with Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe claiming victory topping the podium, and snatching the yellow World Cup leader’s bib away from her sister Chloe who placed third in the ladies’ competition. Yulia Galysheva (KAZ) was second in this dynamic mogul-mashing event.

Justine had a small bobble on her top jump but was able to get it together and ski the crucial middle section of the course cleanly and aggressively, and then re finished her run with a well-executed back flip to claim her first win of the season. Justine scored a 77.80 that was just enough to edge Yula Galysheva (KAZ) who threw her crowd-pleasing truck-driver front flip for her final trick and scored 77.75 with Chloe finishing in third place with a 77.11 making this one of the tightest women’s podium results ever seen.

The men’s event saw Matt Graham (AUS) put down one of the best runs of his career to win the event and edge out Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) who came in second and Ludwig Fjallstrom (SWE) came in third for his first career World Cup podium

The crowd was treated to an evening of the best skiers in the world racing down the course. Each skier had to make two mandatory jump a we saw front flips, D-spins, back flips, Helis and Truck Drivers to name just a few.

On Friday the second aerials competition of the weekend was held under the lights with a huge Deer Valley crowd gathered for an incredible aerial show.

On the podium for the women, Zhang took the Gold with a double full, full, that earned her 99.40 Scott came in second with a double full, full jump that earned her a 97.29, and Caldwell threw the toughest jump of the night for the ladies – a full, full, full that earned her the third place spot on the podium with a 96.76 in spite of dragging a hand.

On the podium for the men’s Aerials was Petr Medulich was the standout of the superfinal, performing a spotless double full, full, full, earning him a score of 128.05 and his first World Cup victory. Second place went to Oleksandr Abramenko (UKR) who earned a 124.39. Naoya Tabara (JPN), threw a incredible double full, full, full, that earn him a score of 123.53 and his first World Cup podium in over four years.

The aerial event is always spectacular. Each round of jumps narrowed the field with the large crowd of spectators seeing jumpers from all over the world executing fantastic jumps as they flipped and twisted in the air.

In front of one of the largest gathering of fans one of the most entertaining dual moguls competitions in recent memory took place on Saturday night in Deer Valley.

Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) and Anthony Benna (FRA) closed out the Visa Freestyle International with dual moguls victories.

On the podium for the Women, Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) garnered the Gold, Yulia Galysheva (KAZ) took the Silver and Jaelin Kauf, a rookie on the US Team won the Bronze.

The Ladies’ semifinals came down to a dual between Yulia Galysheva (KAZ) vs. US World Cup points leader Mikaela Matthews, and another pitting Justine against US rookie Jaelin Kauf. This round resulted in Justine battling Yulia for first place.

In the small final, 19-year-old Kauf demonstrated poise, speed, and technique. She almost beat Dufour-Lapointe in the semi-finals, and edged out her more experienced teammate Matthews to claim her first World Cup podium. This was only just her fourth World Cup event.

In the men’s event ended with a truly international podium with Frenchman, Anthony Benna winning the Gold, Finland’s Jimi Salonen taking home the Silver, and Kazakstan’s Dmitriy Reiherd garnering the Bronze.

The biggest upset of the evening was in the quarter finals when 21-year-old Jimi Salonen beat World Cup leader Mikael Kingsbury in a fiercely fought battle.

Kingsbury was able to beat Jimi across the line after the Canadian fell behind early in the course, but Salonen’s excellent jumps and perfect turns of the Finn demonstratedthe momentum to power his way to the big final.

After besting Kingsbury, Salonen knocked off Dmitriy Reiherd (KAZ). He was one of two Kazakhstani skiers to make it to the semifinal heat. Reiherd’s countryman Pavel Kolmakov lost in his semifinal matchup against Kreischberg. The 2015 moguls World Champion Anthony Benna, set up the all-Kazakhstani small final that pitting Salonen against Benna in the last heat of the evening. Fireworks completed each evening as the spectators headed down the mountain to their cars.

If you’ve never attended a World Cup Freestyle Event, put Deer Valley on your calendar for next year. You’re guaranteed to have some excellent skiing along with a competition that you will not forget.