Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dollar course leads to big bucks

48 Straight ski cross competition is big hit for athletes and fans

Express Staff Writer

Canadian Chris Del Bosco, right, winner of Saturday’s men’s ski cross competition, leads the way down Dollar Mountain. Racing four across down the harrowing track littered with jumps left little doubt about the skill of the skiers taking part in the Jeep King of the Mountain Series.
Express photos by Willy Cook

For the second year in a row, Dollar Mountain, usually host to young and beginning skiers, showcased some of the best skiing talent in the world as the final stop on the Jeep King of the Mountain ski cross competition.

Over a thousand spectators flocked to Sun Valley for the 48 Straight event on Saturday, March 15, with a significant portion hiking up the slope for a better vantage point to take in the high-speed action.

The effort was well worth it, as both the men's and women's fields provided close races and surprise victories.

In the women's division, 19-year-old Julia Murray took an early lead, helping her avoid the carnage created when Sweden's Magdalena Jonsson, this year's X Games gold medalist, and Australia's Jenny Owens collided midway through the course, injuring the latter.

Murray beat out Canadian teammate Anik Demers-Wild, a veteran racer almost twice Murray's age, to take the first title in her burgeoning career.

Disappointed after her crash, Jonsson came through the finish line in third place, earning her the overall Jeep King of the Mountain title at the end of the three-stop series. Jonsson also finished third at both the Telluride, Colo., and Squaw Valley, Calif., competitions.

In the small final, Ketchum resident Langely McNeal skied aggressively from the drop of the gate, but lost her lead after a particularly fast corner left her nearly sitting on the tails of her skis. McNeal managed to recover from the adrenaline-inducing maneuver and finished second behind Michelle Greig of New Zealand.

"She had some flashes of really good skiing, so I'm excited to see her continue to improve and get more confidence," U.S. Ski Cross Head Coach Tyler Shepherd said of McNeal on the U.S. Ski Team website.

Crossing the finish line behind McNeal was another Ketchum representative, Tine Cordeau, who beat out France's Chloe Georges for third place in the consolation heat.

Like Murray, fellow Canadian Chris Del Bosco also managed to hurl himself to the top of the podium for the first time in his career, upsetting a highly qualified field.

"After eight years, I'm finally at the top of the podium," Del Bosco said to the crowd in his post-race interview.

This was no small feat for Del Bosco, who was up against Tomas Kraus, the world's top-ranked ski cross racer, from the Czech Republic, as well as Daron Rahlves, a multiple World Cup downhill winner.

Rahlves, the lone U.S. competitor in the final heat, appeared to catch an edge, and crashed near the top of the course while in close contact with Canadian Stanley Hayer.

Kraus, who came in second, took the overall title for the series, an accomplishment that brought with it a new Jeep, courtesy of the competition's main sponsor.

By all accounts, the course on Dollar was the best of all the venues visited this winter.

Starting on the rock outcropping above the Dollar chairlift, the narrow track wound right down to the base of the small mountain and included a number of very tight, steep turns, as well as a large jump right before the finish line.

"It's a good course—I loved it," Del Bosco said afterward.

Kraus's victory comments were slightly more difficult to understand, as he made them in his native Czech, leaving event announcer Gordy Johnson to make his own liberal interpretation.

"He says he's donating all of his prize money to all of us at the bar tonight," Johnson said to much applause from the crowd.


Ski halfpipe

The following day, the action moved to Bald Mountain, where speed was replaced with flying acrobatics as a field of the best male halfpipe skiers in the United States tried to amaze the crowd and outmatch each other with harrowing tricks.

After Saturday's cloud cover and snow flurries, spectators at Sunday's competition welcomed sunny skies and warm weather as they lined the halfpipe and dotted the open slope above.

The day's events began with a standard halfpipe contest, at which New Hampshire native Colby West, winner of the 2008 U.S. Freeskiing Championship, took the top spot, beating last year's overall champion Simon Dumont.

West's win on Baldy also gave him the overall series title.

In the Monster Hit competition, the athletes went head-to-head, attempting to advance on a single trick.

Peter Olenick, from Aspen, Colo., used his signature move, the Whiskey Flip, to take the top spot above New Hampshire's J.P. Solberg.

Ski cross and halfpipe results

Men's ski cross:

1.Chris Del Bosco (Can.)

2.Tomas Kraus (Cze.)

3.Stanley Hayer (Can.)

4.Daron Rahlves (USA)

5.Davey Barr (Can.)

6.Erol Kerr (USA)

7.John Teller (USA)

8.Casey Puckett (USA)

Women's ski cross

1.Julia Murray (Can.)

2.Anik Demers-Wild (Can.)

3.Magdalena Jonsson (Swe.)

4.Jenny Owens (Aus.)

5.Michelle Greig (N.Z.)

6.Langely McNeal (USA)

7.Tine Cordeau (USA)

8.Chloe Georges (Fra.)

Men's ski halfpipe

1.Colby West (N.H.)

2.J.P. Solberg (N.H.)

3.Simon Dumont (Maine)

4.Peter Olenick (Colo.)

Men's Monster Hit ski halfpipe

1.Peter Olenick (Colo.)

2.J.P. Solberg (N.H.)

3.Simon Dumont (Maine)

4.Colby West (N.H.)

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