Over the past 15 years, Freestlyle skiing has become a Deer Valley tradition. Not only did the resort host the 2002 Olympic Aerials, Alpine Slalom and Mogul events, but it has also held two World Championships and a dozen World Cups over this time span. The very first Freestyle World Championships were held in 1986. Two years later, mogul skiing was a demonstration sport in Calgary before becoming an official medal event at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. World class mogul skiers who come to Deer Valley Resort to compete appreciate its challenging run on Champion ski run, as well as its impeccable and fun filled organization.
Like an overwhelming number of mogul enthusiasts, I never miss the annual Freestyle World Cup at Deer Valley early in the year, and the dual moguls event in particular. Why the dual moguls? Because it’s a turbo-charged version of the regular event, as not just one, but two competitors, are jousting neck-to-neck, fighting the tremendous pressure of completing the run, in addition to managing the thought of having an opponent just ahead or right on their tail.
For the spectators it doubles up the excitement and the potential for upsets. All these elements are why I didn’t want to miss the dual mogul event when I heard that the 2014 U.S. Freestyle National Championships would be held at Deer Valley Resort at the end of March. Since I couldn’t attend the regular mogul competition on Friday, I set my sights on the dual moguls held the last Sunday of March.
I must admit that the usual Deer Valley spring sun wasn’t present that day. Instead, a fierce blizzard had taken over the mountain, with strong gusts of wind and a steady snowfall that would increase in ferocity as the competition came to its conclusion. There were about 60 men and 40 women engaged in that event and all would dual in a succession of heats, beginning at round 32.
As an official Deer Valley blogger and videographer, I was given access to the start of the race, where competitors get a plunging view of the slope below. In reality, the slope on Champion ski run is so steep that from the start, competitors can just see one edge that transitions down into the finish area. That’s right, the grade is so forbidding that the whole field of moguls isn’t even discernible – it’s a straight line separating start and finish – and the two sets of jumps can barely be spotted as the eye scans down towards the area where the spectators are massed!
That said, it takes a lot of courage, cool concentration, good preparation, and great physical shape to launch from the top of Champion! I watched the entire competition, making notes and taking pictures. While the fresh snow falling in abundance kept the course rather soft, it held remarkably well and the only challenge was visibility that, at times, made the contest even much more competitive than it would have been under normal, sunny circumstances.
In particular, it wasn’t easy on competitors who had to constantly switch goggles because of the heavy snow that dumped nonstop, and to make things even more stressful, skiers had to duel from a round of 32 participants, something unusual when compared to World Cup events where it only start at 16.
As usual, the women completed their runs first and the contest was won by Eliza Outtrim, from Hamden, Connecticut, who had already won the single mogul event on Friday. These successive victories brought Outtrim a total of three U.S. Titles to her name! Second in that dual mogul contest was Sophia Schwartz from Steamboat Springs, Colorado while Elizabeth O’Connell from Winter Park, Colorado took third.
In the mens category, Bradley Wilson, a Deer Valley Resort athlete, climbed on the highest step of the podium, while local Nick Hanscom from Park City took second, preceding Joe Discoe from Telluride, Colorado.
When the race was over and just after the award ceremony took place in the finish area, I ran into Bob Wheaton, President and General Manager of Deer Valley Resort who introduced me to Skip McKinley, one of the male competitors.
Remarkably, Skip ran the rental ski department at Deer Valley some 33 years ago, but even more remarkable was the fact that the man was still competing at Deer Valley Resort that day, and managed to finish in the top 40 at more than 60 years of age.
What an incredible achievement and what an inspiration to all of us that would love to ski bumps but no longer have the skills, nor the “suspension” required to make it to the bottom of the course. Way to go Skip!