Upcoming Deer Valley World Cup full of local talent
Skiers with ties to Park City Ski & Snowboard, Wasatch Freestyle slated to compete
The world’s best moguls and aerials skiers will head to Deer Valley Resort for the 2023 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Ski World Cup, and among them will be several athletes with ties to Wasatch Freestyle and Park City Ski & Snowboard.
Jon O’Brien, director of Wasatch Freestyle, counted seven moguls skiers the program has worked with: Olympians Nick Page and Cole McDonald, and Dylan Marcellini, Charlie Mickel, Landon Wendler, Kasey Hogg and Avital Carroll.
“All of the athletes when you get to Deer Valley are happy to be there – they look at starting at the Deer Valley World Cup as a great accomplishment in their careers,” O’Brien said. “Everybody’s just psyched to be able to ski there. To have the honor to ski there is a huge recognition for our club. Of course, it’s nice that local people can come out to watch our athletes and watch who we’re able to produce athletically, so we’re very happy to have a showcase.”
Park City Ski & Snowboard has LuLu Shaffer, August Davis and Kylie Kariotis competing on the moguls side, plus Connor Curran, Ian Schoenwald and Ashton Salwan for aerials. Alumni Alli Macuga (moguls), Kaila Kuhn (aerials) and Derek Krueger (aerials) are also slated to compete.
“With the World Cup in your backyard, you grow up watching it every year, and our kids have always aspired to compete there,” said Mikaela Wilson, Park City Ski & Snowboard’s moguls director. “It’s kind of the iconic World Cup for moguls skiing under the lights in front of a big crowd. For a lot of these kids growing up with it in their backyard, it’s a huge goal for them, some of them even over making the U.S. Ski Team.”
Page and McDonald are the big names for Wasatch Freestyle, with both following up their Olympic debuts last year with stellar seasons this year. Page recorded his first-ever World Cup win in December, and McDonald scored his first World Cup podium in December as well. Both Parkites are in the top five of the overall World Cup standings ahead of this weekend’s competitions in Canada.
“I am just so proud of Nick and Cole and their accomplishments and even more proud of what great young men they’ve turned out to be and what great young men they are,” O’Brien said. “They’re tremendous representatives of the sport in general and our sport and our club in particular. We’re just so proud that we can produce athletes at that level who have really, really distinguished themselves as some of the world’s top athletes.”
Mickel and Marcellini are both on the U.S. Freestyle D-Team this season. Deer Valley hosted the national championships last March, and Mickel skied away with a national title in moguls and a third-place finish in dual moguls. Mickel also earned a top-10 World Cup finish in December.
Marcellini was slated to make his World Cup debut on Friday in Canada. He had three top-three finishes at U.S. Freestyle Selection Events earlier this month.
Wendler was named to the national team last season and then left off it this year. The 22-year-old started working with Wasatch Freestyle coach and three-time Olympian Brad Wilson and has seen his results improve. Wendler finished in the top three in all three events at the U.S. Freestyle Selection Events and has made a few World Cup starts this year.
“He came to us, and Brad, our head coach, has just been a fantastic asset for Landon,” O’Brien said. “He’s turned Landon’s career around.”
Hogg was 18th in the women’s overall moguls standings entering this weekend’s stop in Canada. Her best finish was when she came in 14th in her last World Cup start, in Alpe d’Huez, France, in December.
“We’re hoping that things will break Kasey’s way because she’s had moments of brilliance this season, and then she’s had some disappointing moments,” O’Brien said. “We’re hoping that Kasey can put it all together at this Deer Valley World Cup.”
Carroll has gotten off to a hot start this year, scoring a top-10 finish in all of her World Cup events. She competes for Austria and was fifth in the overall moguls standings ahead of this weekend.
“She’s an athlete that locals should definitely watch, and she’s having a very successful season so far,” O’Brien said.
Macuga has been a strong representative for Park City Ski & Snowboard’s moguls program. She made her World Cup debut earlier this season and has finished in the top 16 in all five of her starts ahead of this weekend.
“We’re excited, she’s been crushing it so far on World Cup this winter,” Wilson said. “She’s made finals at every World Cup, so it’s really fun to see her take that big next step and step up against the big dogs.”
Wilson added Shaffer, 23, went from considering retirement after last season to making a start at Deer Valley.
“My coaching staff kind of sat down with her, and they had some good talks,” Wilson said. “She decided to give it one more shot because she really wanted to ski in some World Cups. It’s especially rewarding to see those kind of athletes finally earn those starts and kind of make a big step toward accomplishing their goals.”
Kuhn has also had a standout year on the World Cup circuit. She sits in sixth place in the World Cup standings and hasn’t finished below sixth place in any of her World Cup starts so far.
Kariotis had a start in last year’s World Cup stop at Deer Valley. Wilson said it was as an alternate. As for Davis, Wilson called her “kind of a dark horse.”
“I think (Kylie) wasn’t quite prepared to take on that role, seeing as she got it kind of because someone else couldn’t ski, and so I think she’s excited to feel like she truly earned the start this year and is coming into it with a lot more fire, which is fun to see,” Wilson said. “(Davis) had a really good result at nationals last year, and that carried through. She had a great Selections as well, so she’ll be making her World Cup debut in Deer Valley.”
After Salwan’s 14th-place finish in his World Cup debut last weekend, he, Curran and Schoenwald have all competed in at least one World Cup event going into Deer Valley. Curran and Schoenwald finished 26th and 34th last year at Deer Valley, respectively. But that experience should help.
“Sometimes, your first World Cup, you can be kind of starstruck,” said Chris Haslock, freeski division director at Park City Ski & Snowboard. “You’re there in the field with the best. The crowds at Deer Valley can get nervous, things like that. You can kind of get those jitters out.”
Park City continues to produce world-class freestyle skiing talent, and next week will be a big opportunity to show the rest of the world that.
“We’re so blessed to have Deer Valley, the premier World Cup, right in our backyard,” Haslock said. “We can’t wait to get out there and show our stuff with the best in the world.”
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