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World Tour, Freeskiing Series champs crowned at Kirkwood


World Tour, Freeskiing Series champs crowned at KirkwoodKIRKWOOD, Calif. – The 10th annual Subaru North American Freeskiing Championships concluded April 1 with the best conditions seen in competition all year. A bluebird, two-foot powder day brought both the inaugural Subaru U.S. Freeskiing Series and the 2006 Freeskiing World Tour to a close.

‘It was epic’ said Nick Greener of Snowbird, Utah. ‘One of the best venue days of skiing I’ve ever had in my life.’

Raging storms late into last night left competitors expecting rough conditions again Saturday, but the weather broke early in the morning, leaving clear skies and 28 inches of light, dry snow on Kirkwood’s Cirque.

‘Waking up and looking out the window this morning to see bluebird was mind-boggling’ said Cliff Bennett of Snowbird. ‘You couldn’t ask for a better day.’

The day opened with the semifinals for women skiers and snowboarders, men snowboarders and the remaining 11 men skiers that couldn’t compete yesterday due to weather. Fifty competitors were sent rapid-fire down the far left section of Kirkwood Mountain Resort’s Cirque in knee-deep, untouched snow.

‘It was Alaska-style skiing’ said Carrie Jo Chernoff of Crested Butte, Colo. ‘Everywhere I went there was a blanket of snow sluffing all around me. To have that in a contest is so rare.’

The field was cut in half for Satuday’s final down the untouched skier’s right section of the Cirque, with huge double-stagers and technical exposed lines into mandatory 20-plus-foot airs.

‘We saw more snow on the venue today than we’ve ever seen here’ said head judge Jim Jack. ‘Skiers were able to handle some big moves that we haven’t seen in a really long time. Incredible skiing from the qualifier all the way to the end – it was one of the closest competitions we’ve had.’

2006 SUBARU NORTH AMERICAN FREESKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS

At the end of the two runs – final scores were a combination of semifinal and final runs – only eight-tenths of a point separated the top four men’s skiers. Local boy Craig Garbriel, who won the semifinals, ended up fourth, behind a tie for second between ‘flying Frenchmen’ Adrien Coirier of Les Arcs and Guerlain Chicherit of Tignes. Mathiew Richard of Whistler, B.C., sneaked out a two-tenths of a point lead to be crowned 2006 Subaru N.A. freeskiing champion.

With the highest score in the finals of anyone, men or women, Laura Ogden of Whistler, B.C., pulled off a three-peat, winning all three World Tour events and earning the N.A. women’s freeskiing title.

‘The competition is so stiff and these girls are so good, I feel like I’ve got to go out and give it everything I got’ said Ogden. ‘I just try to keep a smile on my face, and try to go as fast as I can.’

Ogden finished ahead of Jackson Hole, Wyo., ripper Jess McMillan and Chernoff, who took third with the most aesthetic, original lines seen all day, men or women. ‘This is my favorite contest anywhere’ said Chernoff.

Local girl Rose Marie Dittfach came from eight points behind in the semifinals to take the women’s snowboard title over Shannon Yates of Snowbird and Christy Deysher of Squaw Valley, Calif.

Snowboard men stepped it up in the finals, with some of the biggest lines seen all day. Sam Luebke of Squaw Valley took the men’s snowboard title, with solid wins all day. Another Squaw boy, Dan Krenicki, took second, edging local Ben Crocker in the finals.

‘The level of snowboard competition got very big today’ said snowboard judge Joe Stokes. ‘They were greasing that run, riding really fluidly.’

The Sickbird award for the weekend was given to Tobias Lee of Eaglecrest, Alaska, for his full-throttle skiing all weekend.

The 2006 North Face Young Gun Award, honoring outstanding new talent in competitive freeskiing, was given to ‘The Flyin’ Hawaiian’ Drew Tabke of Alta, Utah, who exploded onto the scene this year with huge lines and some of the most stylish, progressive skiing seen all season. Tabke was leading the U.S. Freeskiing Series until losing a ski in the finals.

‘Winning the North Face Young Gun totally changes my whole perspective’ said Tabke. ‘It made me realize that I am still up-and-coming and I don’t have what it takes to beat the guys that won – but now I’ve got the opportunity to go places and do the things that will put me on the same playing field as the guys that I want to catch up to.’

SUBARU U.S. FREESKIING SERIES AND FREESKIING WORLD TOUR TITLES

As the final freeskiing event of the season, the North American Freeskiing Championships awards the most coveted titles in the sport: the U.S. Freeskiing Series and Freeskiing World Tour overall titles.

The running for the inaugural Subaru U.S. Freeskiing Series was incredibly close all season, with four points separating the top five men coming in to Kirkwood. However, three of the top five men did not finish this weekend, leaving the door wide open. With a win Saturday, Coirier came out of sixth place to take the overall U.S. Freeskiing Series men’s title.

With creative, aggressive lines all season, and wins at both Telluride and Jackson Hole, tour favorite Chernoff was awarded the first ever Subaru U.S. Freeskiing Series overall women’s title.

The 2006 Freeskiing World Tour overall men’s title went to Saturday’s second-place finisher Chicherit.

‘I can’t believe I won the World Tour this year because I haven’t competed for the last two years’ said Chicherit, who didn’t win any 2006 tour events, but had the most consistently high finishes of the year. ‘It’s incredible.’

Continuing her domination of the World Tour with wins at all three World Tour stops, Ogden was crowned 2006 Freeskiing World Tour women’s champion.

‘We had really good conditions, so people were able to push themselves and I pushed myself and it turned out really good’ said Ogden. ‘This is my first time at Kirkwood, and I think it’s my favorite venue.’

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