Hundreds of spectators gathered on Telluride’s Heritage plaza to witness the crowning of the 2006 Subaru Telluride Freeskiing Open champions. MSI event organizer and announcer John “Dak” Williams started the ceremony by saying, “What you lack in snow, you can more than make up for in attitude,” amidst roaring applause.
The snow conditions were the only downside to an otherwise flawless weekend—with an incredible energy level, zero injuries, and hard-charging skiing through extremely technical terrain.
“The energy that these guys put to the mountain and their technical ability was amazing today. They were going into areas that had never been skied before by the public,” said Bobby Murphy, Executive Director of Resort Services at Telluride. “To see some of the best skiers in the world rip this mountain up was really exciting.”
Variable snow pack forced competitors to be ready for anything.
“The conditions up there were burley,” said head judge Eric Schmitz. “It went from pure ice to punchy to sugar over rocks. Definitely not favorable snow, and yet the level of skiing was phenomenal.”
Women’s competition was basically a battle for second place, with Head team rider Carrie Jo Chernoff of Crested Butte, CO, holding a commanding lead all weekend. She had the highest combined score of the day, for men or women, in yesterday’s semi-finals, and came into today leading by 12 points.
“I had a pretty big lead, so my focus was just to stay on my feet,” said Head team rider Chernoff. “Not take it too easy, but ski something I knew I could finish.” Despite her conservative approach, she pulled farther into the lead today, winning the event by over 13 points. Telluride local Galena Gleason came in second, followed by Head team rider Lynn Kennen of Alpine Meadows, CA, in third.
The men’s title went to Head team rider Cliff Bennett of Snowbird, UT, who came out of fourth place in the semis to take the overall win—based on combined scores of two semi-final and two final runs.
“I came into yesterday’s venue a little skeptical,” said Head team rider Cliff Bennett. There was a lot of weird snow in there, so I basically just skied down. Today, the venue was a lot more my style—really wide open, with cliffs I could air and then make big turns out.”
Yesterday’s semi-final winner Fred Mooney of Winter Park, CO, came in second, and Walker Willey of Salt Lake City, UT, rounded out the men’s podium in third.
The final award of the weekend, the “Sickbird” award, is perhaps as coveted as the win. Awarded to the competitor who lays it all on the line, this year’s Sickbird award was given to Chris Tatsuno of Sun Valley, ID, whose risky, aggressive skiing all weekend earned him the highest single-run score in yesterday’s semi-finals, and made him the clear choice for the award.