Park City athletes take four of six podium spots at Freestyle and Freeskiing Junior National Big Air competition
Sunday marked the end of the Junior Freestyle/Freeskiing Championships, which represented the culmination of six disciplines of skiing, hosted by Park City Ski and Snowboard.
On Saturday, after the big air junior nationals at the Utah Olympic Park, PCSS Special Projects Manager Walt Evans and Volunteer Coordinator Katherine Hughes took a moment to talk about the logistics of hosting the massive event.
It started with the aerials junior national competition on Tuesday at Park City Mountain Resort, then the junior national halfpipe competition on Wednesday, the moguls junior nationals on Thursday and Friday along with the slopestyle finals, big air on Saturday, and then dual moguls on Sunday.
“What we set about doing was creating a showcase deal for Park City Ski and Snowboard Club,” Evans said. “We wanted a marquee event that would create opportunity for our athletes for one, but also create a system that we could work as a team and move forward, with a vision of helping support the February 2019 World Ski Championships at Deer Valley, Park City and Solitude.”
Evans said the event, hosted at Park City Mountain Resort and the Utah Olympic Park, facilitated competition for 304 athletes.
“That’s across all disciplines,” Evans said. “The pipe, the slope, the big air, the aerials, moguls and dual moguls.”
Evans added that the 12-day competition process had been taxing to produce, but it made sense for the club to host something as a whole, after it was created by the merging of several independent clubs before this season.
“It’s been intense but, as Walt said, our eye is on the prize of bringing all the different communities together,” Hughes said. “So we don’t have two alpine clubs like we used to and three freestyle clubs. … We’re all together under one umbrella now, and this was our first event working all together.”
Hughes said the event has given athletes, parents and club staffers the opportunity to see what each branch of the club does, and what its athletes can do.
According to Hughes, the club had about 50 local competitors in the event.
“Thirty coaches worked night and day to produce it,” Evans said. “Supported then by 550 volunteer sessions — something like that. But next year, as we go into world championships, they are forecasting about 2,500 volunteer sessions to produce that. So this volunteer effort, we’re anxious to help with that, but we cant do it all, we need to collaborate.”
As for the competitions, athletes from Park City represented their home turf well, taking four of the top six podium spots.
On the boys’ side, Mac Forehand, a Park City native, took first with a switch double cork 1440, earning a solid 97.4 on the final run of the day.
“I call it turtle grab, but it’s a double grab with two hands,” he said.
He was pushed into making the bold move by Parkite Troy Podmilsak, who was tied with Forehand going into the final jump after landing a regular double cork 1440.
Forehand said the nearly 50-degree weather did make the competition more difficult, but he said overall it turned out to be a great day.
“It feels great,” he said. “I got first last year, so it feels good to get it back to back.”
Ava Surridge took first on the girls’ side with a 78.6, followed by local athletes Alli Macuga and Tasia Tanner.
After the event, families and athletes gathered around the cement podiums outside the Alf Engen Ski Museum, throwing snowballs as they waited for the official results.
Tanner said the junior nationals were a good event for her, but there were some glaring gaps between the genders in how many athletes showed, and in level of competition.
“It’s always interesting to come into a big air competition where there’s six girls and 65 guys,” she said. “And it’s always interesting to have to watch them beforehand throw big, nice tricks and land them then get 93s and stuff. Then to watch the girls come down and some of them throw flips, maybe throw a rodeo 5, maybe have a couple girls throw a (700), but overall we just don’t throw as hard of a trick and it’s just really interesting to watch and it’s kind of weird I guess.”
She wondered aloud why more girls weren’t competing, and contrasted big air with alpine racing, where there could be more than 100 female competitors.
“We have six in a junior national best-of-the-best competition,” she said. “It’s just kind of crazy.”
Park City Ski and Snowboard big air coach Chris “Hatch” Haslock said one reason for the low turnout was a booking overlap with the Revolution Tour, which was hosting its final event in Mammoth Mountain, California, at the time.
Tanner, who is primarily an aerialist, said she was drawn to big air because it allows another level of freedom. Instead of having to call all her tricks beforehand and abide by rules regarding tucking and form, Tanner can roll up to a big air ramp and change what she’s doing mid-air.
She suspects that the sport is intimidating for many girls, and said while events like moguls have jumps, they aren’t on the same order of magnitude as big air.
“But big air, it’s part of the name,” she said. “You have to get big air and you have to throw a decently big trick and the landing can hurt sometimes.”
In a later interview, Macuga, who took second for her front flip, also said she wished more girls were competing. When asked what she thought would bring more girls into the sport, she said the best thing she could think of was to try and motivate them.
“Maybe just try our hardest and inspire others and hopefully they’ll come and try the event out,” she said.
For now, with the season over, Macuga said she is going to go train at a few summer camps, and wait for the snow to start falling again.
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Park City is the lone undefeated team in Region 10 play after a 60-30 win over Mountain View. The Miners have three more region games in their quest to repeat as region champions.