New Mexico Extreme Freeride Championships Went Off
OK we almost forgot about Taos because it's so darn far away from Whistler, but their first Freeride Championships just went off last week with or without us, here's the official lowdown from the final day's action…
Day three of the 2007 Salomon New Mexico Extreme Freeride Championships unfolded under sunny skies on Taos’ famed Kachina Peak. The venue, coated with fresh snow, did not fail to live up to expectations. At just over 12,000 feet, Kachina Peak is the highest venue in North America. The elevation adds another dimension to the event as does the 30-40 minute hike to the top: athletes who are not in top shape suffer, and overall fitness comes into play.
But while the competitors have to suffer through the hike, for spectators the location is ideal. With all the rowdiest terrain at the bottom of the Kachina sector, some of the most intense action unfolds directly in front of the crowds. And there are crowds. This year over 300 people watched the entire event, with more than 600 viewing part of the festivities. It is, without a doubt, the biggest skiing event in New Mexico.
With round two dominated by Colorado athletes, the final day saw some local skiers step up and make a statement. Fluid, aggressive lines by Michael Holmquist and Marcia Ready saw both Taos skiers advance, with Holmquist moving from the 17th spot up to 6th and Ready just missing the podium with a 4th place finish. Arapahoe Basin’s George Casaletta, who was leading going into the finals by a mere point, had a few problems on his final run and slipped to 3rd. The top three spots for the men were rounded out by Boulder, Colorado’s Chuck Mumford, who finished in 2nd and nineteen-year old phenom Bryce Newcomb who skis out of Sun Valley. Newcomb steadily advanced through the ranks with solid, aggressive skiing, taking advantage of mistakes by the leaders to score the victory.
For the ladies, Squaw Valley’s Elyse Saugstad beat out Aspen’s Emily Teague with a narrow win. Illustrating the depth of talent in the women’s field was the fact that third place finisher, Crested Butte’s Carrie Jo Chernoff, was only 1.6 points behind Teague. Local telemark skier Marcia Ready rounded out the top 4.
The junior event was lead by Colorado athlete Colby Adams. The talented female athlete from Breckenridge walked away with the junior women’s title, beating out Sugar Bowl, California, athlete Rebecca Lefanowicz and Jozy Gessner who also skis out of Breckenridge.
For the junior men, all eyes were on Aspen’s Brandon Clabaugh, who, despite falling on day two, held onto 3rd place due to an extremely aggressive run on day one. Clabaugh skied rather conservatively, given his natural talents, and moved up to 2nd place. The rest of the podium was filled by Squaw Valley’s Jessie Tibbetts who advanced from third into first and Taos athlete Richard Pyatt who used a smooth fast line down Kachina to advance from 5th to 3rd on the final day. A special mention must also be made of Andre Bertoncin. One year ago, Bertoncin suffered severe injuries, requiring months of rehab. Today, he’s back on skis and finished in 7th place in the junior mens’ division.
And, while kudos are being throw out there, we have to applaud Tyson Bolduc, who took a freak fall during inspection. Bolduc was severely bruised in the incident, but fought through the pain to finish in 7th place and win the first annual Tobias Lee Spirit Award, given to the athlete that exemplifies the spirit of this amazing event. Also walking away with a trophy was Crested Butte’s Justin Bunting, who took Parjilo Loco (Sick Bird) honors with a huge front flip on day two of the event. Bunting underlined the fact that he was the only choice for that honor with yet another huge flip – this time a backflip – while forerunning on the final day.
"Taos is one of the best events in North America," said veteran competitor Elijah Lee, who presented the spirit award in honor of his brother, Tobia, who perished in an avalanche at Mt. Baker last year. "It's a honor to award the Tobias Lee trophy, and I'm looking forward to coming back."
"It is one of my favorite stops on the North American tour," added Head Judge Jim Jack. "The vibe here is truly something special, and the Kachina Peak venue is world class."
FINAL RESULTS (overall points in parenthesis):
1. Bryce Newcomb (62.4)
2. Chuck Mumford (62.0)
3. George Casaletta (60,8)
4. Elijah Lee (59.4, tie for 4th)
4. Bill Buchbauer (59.4, tie for 4th)
5. Ryan Banker (59.2)
6. Michael Holmquist (59.0)
7. Tyson Bolduc (58.6)
8. Teague Holmes (58.4)
9. Doug Evans (57.8)
10. Josh Carlson (57.4
1. Elyse Saugstad (61.6)
2. Emily Teague (60.4)
3. Carrie Jo Chernoff (58.8)
4. Marcia Ready (57)
5. Caroline Colonna (54)
1. Jesse Tibbetts (78.2)
2. Brandon Clabaugh (78.0)
3. Richard Pyatt (77.4)
4. Amon Barker (73.2)
5. Robert Forbes (73.0)
Colby Adams (80.8)
Rebecca Lefanowicz (75.6)
Jozy Gessner (62.2)