Tabke nabs Freeskiing title |

Tabke nabs Freeskiing title

by Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff

Don’t mention the word, "tie," to Park City’s Drew Tabke. After last weekend, he’s not a big fan.

On Sunday at the Subaru U.S. Freeskiing Nationals held at Snowbird Ski Resort, Tabke nabbed a shared first-place finish with France’s Aurelien Ducroz. The event was originally slated to end on Saturday, but changing weather forced the race to be extended a day.

"It was really weird," lamented Tabke.

Weird indeed.

After a day of delayed runs, Tabke finally made it to the starting line. He started down the hill only to find he couldn’t see a thing. He yelled to the starter, who radioed to the judges. Soon Tabke could hear the loudspeaker telling him to wait until he could see. After finally completing a successful run, the fog retuned and the final two top-ranking competitors were told they would compete on Sunday.

"I couldn’t even speak for 10 minutes," Tabke said. "I was in shock and knew I had to ski again."

The next day both Ducroz and Tabke laid down winning runs, forcing a tie that even replaying film couldn’t break.

"It was another shock," Tabke said. "I was excited to be on top, but I had to share this podium and cup. It was a weird ending to a weird day."

Last year’s World Champion Guerlain Chicherit took third.

The win puts Tabke on top in Freeskiing Tour points, a marked move up from his 12th place finish in the world last season.

Tabke says that some of his success this season my actually have something to do with the lack of snow. In February, he was ready to embark on the season with tickets and bags packed for two World Tour stops in Europe. A lack of snow cancelled the trip with just a day to go and Tabke found himself with a few more weeks to practice. He says that extra time has made all of the difference.

"I had an extra month before the season kicked off," Tabke said.

The other big factor for Tabke is experience. In his fourth year of competing on the national and world freeskiing circuit, he has learned how to handle things professionally.

"You can be a good skier, but the competitions, you have to learn the scoring systems, what the judges like to see," Tabke said.

Tabke is one of very few freeskiers that combines tricks with air and jumps on his runs, which he is finding to be a favorite of the judges. At Snowbird, he completed a 360-dregree turn on his first run, a back flip on his second and both on the last run.

He has also found that the nerves and tension of competing are finally starting to dissipate. Although an event usually only consists of three runs, Tabke says dealing with the in-between time is something to which every athlete has to adjust.

"It’s just really draining to go through the process of waiting and watching," Tabke said. "Each competition, I get better at not letting the stress of competition wear me out."

Tabke practices on the trails of Snowbird every day during the winter, which also helped to keep his nerves under control. Added to that was the advantage of an ample hometown cheering section. Snowmobiles and a toboggan had to be called in to transport his non-skiing girlfriend and roommate with a broken leg, but Tabke said he was amazed at the amount of support he had on the mountain.

Tabke still felt a bit of disappointment in having to share his first-place win. He said that after the end he wasn’t even sure how to celebrate.

"I still feel like I haven’t won, which I guess I have, but I haven’t," Tabke said.

He’ll have another chance to try and boost himself to the top this weekend at the Subaru Jackson Hole Freeskiing Open. He is competing there with life-long Park City friend David Wintzer and the Park City contingent should represent well.

"Its cool to come from Park City and end up on a bigger stage, but still have that small town feeling," Tabke said.

Tabke then heads to a competition in Kirkwood, Calif. And wraps up the year in Tignes, France. He envisions winning the World Tour by beating Chicherit, who is a Tignes native.

"It’s sweet to beat that guy, because he’s an amazing skier," Tabke said.

That’s "beat," not "tie."

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