Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships Taos New Mexico

After the usual chaos of getting packed, classes covered, homework done, and tying four million loose ends together, 19 students and three coaches met at 5:45 A.M. Wednesday morning and we hit the road for Taos.

"That there is the best frozen cheeseburger I carry in the store"

Spring is in the air and roads were clear. After a few caffeine and junk food stops, we made it to the Sand Dunes, because our craving for a backcountry experience where you can ski down and hike back up without having to put skins on had gotten the best of us again. We loaded up our skis and boots on packs and began the trek up the tallest dune.

Thorn Warner and Adam Hobby on the summit ridge

Luke Lubchenko, anticipating some sweet sand freshies.

Brooke Lederer, one step at a time on the final ascent.

The sand was warmer this year and a bit slower, but that didn’t stop people from getting gnarly. We lapped a couple of runs of the top dune, skiing and then “skinning” back up without skins and then traversed over to a couple other steep sections on the way down.

Juan Pable Alcocer gets his first taste of San Luis Valley Sand. So good when it hits the lips.

Meghan Detering lets 'er rip.

Hayen Kennedy... Sand People genes run deep in his blood.

Liza Cochran contemplates the zen beauty of it all on the skin track back up.

Adam Hobby stretches it out on the slip face of the tallest dune.

Brooke Lederer, already putting her game face on for Taos.

Walking the earth...

Dillon Smith kickin' up some sand rooster tail.

We rolled into Taos around 5:30, checked into the Super 8, and the competitors headed up to the competitors meeting and registration up at the mountain. We rolled into the meeting at 6:30, in perfect timing to jump in the food line, and registration line just as the meeting was beginning.

Prelims this year would be held on Kachina Peak rather than the West Basin.

Lots of warnings in the safety briefing of firm conditions. The word from Jake and Amon, who had skied today, was that conditions were super hard and challenging. Taos hadn’t seen snow for a couple of weeks, and warm weather had taken their 120 inch base down to 75.

Liza Cochran stops after phase one of the hike up to Kachina Peak, about a 1 and 1/2 mile hike, not unlike Highlands Bowl.

Kelsey Bohanon's first big mountain comp... the monster hike, hard conditions, and intimidating venue seemed to spawn thoughts of "what the hell have I got my self into..." which were followed by wide eyed excitement after wreaking havoc on the women's Alpine field and moving into the semi finals in first place.

Luke Lubchenko enjoys the bluebird morning hike up to the summit of Kachina.

A south facing grassy traverse with the competition venue in the background.

The final ascent up to the starting zone on top of Kachina peak is reminiscent of Highlands Bowl.

Kelsey Lewis enjoys the by she earned with a 4th place finish last year as she gets to enjoy the spring conditions and chill in the finish during the prelims on day one.

Wind-scoured, bullet proof conditions make for some additional butterflies during the prelims. Brooke and Kelsey's decision to ski fast and clean lines sat well with the judges.

Brooke celebrates a solid, stand-up run, which would advance her to the semi finals in 2nd place.

Kelsey Bohanon moves with the wind in her first big mountain comp ever.

Deserving smiles in the finish seem to forshadow her advancement to the semi-finals in first place. CRMS Telemark women wrecked havoc on the alpine field today.

Noah Johns charges some monster air on the upper part of the course which gets the crowd fired up. Unfortunately the snow gave way under him on his landing, resulting in a head over heals tumble, which prevented him from advancing to the finals.

Luke Lubchenko, fresh from a 6th place finish in the men's division in Alpine Meadows California, on his way to a clean finish that would advance him to the semifinals.

The crowd goes wild as Sam Stevens shows Taos what clean Telemark skiing looks like.

Unfortunately Sam took a monster beater in the finish zone, preventing him from moving beyond the prelims, but we got it on camera, which makes it well worth the pain. Sam's skiing, in his final competition of his senior year, was a tribute to his movement and comitment over the last 4 years.

Nick Malik finishes a beautiful run. He took off out of the start like a bandit, laying down beautiful, monster GS turns. Nick's skiing has taken quantum leaps this year as a result of his relentless and passionate pursuit of snow and the Telemark turn.

Alumni Jake Sakson charges the bottom of the venue. Jake had a couple of unlucky crashes up high, but he was in good spirits at the bottom with a "that's the way it goes some times" attitude.

Hayden Kennedy: "The Peoles Run"
Above: Hayden launches into the stratosphere on the upper part of the venue.
The Judges were hard on Hayden's run, most likely because of the fact that he blew through the finish zone and out onto the public run, but Hayden skied the run of the day by threading the needle through a rock band that looked un-skiable from the finish zone. People were out of their seats and cheering and sputtering spittle encrusted statements about the fact that he was on Telemark skis.
Below: Hayden skis the unskiable.
Day 2:
8-10 inches of snow fall overnight, and Saturday looked like this:
...definate weather day. The competition was bumped to Sunday, and we skied absurd powder lines off the West Basin all morning. Not a soul, other than the CRMS Telemark Team, was out tracking up these lines, and we had fresh tracks on every shot we traversed to. It was a morning that will live long and large in the annals of Telemark Team powder days.

Most of the team packed up and made the trip back to CRMS that afternoon to get back for interim and a handful of people, including those who qualified, stayed for semi-finals and finals on Sunday. We made sure to pay proper tribute to the UFO Highway on the way home.

Brian Butcher, eyes peeled.

Gracyn Overstreet and Noah Johns with make extraterrestrial contact.

Extraplanetary love.

Peyton Heitzman in the zone.

Rift Valley sunset.

Trying to catch a bubble pop on film attempt 392

We met some good folks along the way.

Day 3: The Return of the Telemark Jedi
More pictures and story soon coming to theater near you.

2009 Results : Junior Women : Extreme Freeride Championship at Taos
Finish Bib First Name Last Name City ST
1 127 Chysanthe Demas

2 18 Brooke Lederer

3 92 Carmen Fregulia Graeagle CA
4 28 Kelsey Lewis Basalt CO

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