TELLURIDE – Some of the world’s best extreme skiers will get the chance to test their skills, and their mental fortitude, against Telluride’s most radical reaches this weekend when the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour comes to town. Close to 100 competitors, who hail from around the globe, will point their ski tips down the steep, craggy and rock-strewn slopes of Black Iron Bowl and Palmyra Peak starting Friday.
While weather and snow conditions on competition day will ultimately decide the specific venues, Friday’s events are tentatively scheduled for Mountain Quail and the Review runs, located off Prospect Ridge. Day two’s competition is slated to take contestants all the way to the flanks of steep, couloir-riddled Palmyra Peak. At 13,320 feet, The Peak (as locals call it) is sure to deliver a hefty helping of adrenaline for this year’s final day of competition.
It will be the first time in the history of the Telluride Freeskiing event that Palmyra Peak’s upper reaches will be included as a venue – that is, if weather conditions allow.
“MSI [Mountain Sports International, the tour’s governing body] has wanted to use Palmyra Peak for a few years, and this year we’re going to try to make that happen,” said the Telluride Ski Patrol’s Erik Aura, who is helping coordinate the event.
This is the fourth time Telluride has hosted the annual competition, and it serves as the kick-off to the 2009 competitive big mountain season. The Telluride contest is also the only World Tour Qualifier of the series, offering competitors the opportunity to bypass the qualifying rounds of the four other FWT stops, which will be in Crested Butte Feb. 19-22; Snowbird, Utah March 10-15; Kirkwood, Calif. March 19-23; and Alyeska, Alaska April 8-12.
Competitors from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, and others will battle it out for the $10,000 cash purse. Contenders include such extreme skiing stars as Andy Sabatier, Chuck Mumford, Nick Devore, Frank Shine, Lars Chickering-Ayers, Kira Kitchens, Erin Kerr, and Ariana Stufano.
"The Freeskiing World Tour Qualifier at Telluride Ski Resort promises to be one of the most unique events of the season," said MSI Events Director Dak Williams. "There will be athletes looking to qualify for the Freeskiing World Tour, athletes looking to win a title, and athletes looking to win some cash.
“Telluride Resort has again stepped up to make the event better than ever and if the weather cooperates we will be competing on terrain that we haven't skied on before,” he continued. “Telluride Resort and MSI are both committed to making this tour opener set the precedence for the season."
The Freeskiing World Tour is partly to thank for forging the way for the ski area’s recent opening of Black Iron Bowl and Palmyra Peak. When the Freeskiing Tour first visited Telluride in 2005, runs like Westlake, Lakeview, Mountain Quail, Dihedral Chute, and Dihedral Face had never been opened to the public, but were opened for the competition. The early successes of this event helped put those runs on the map.
Sunday is designated as a weather contingency day if competition cannot take place Friday or Saturday. As of Wednesday, there was a 60 percent chance of snow for Friday and a 40 percent chance for Saturday.
Spectator access to venues will be designated with signs on competition day. Fans can also follow the action from home via the Internet, as MSI will be satellite broadcasting live video coverage on the web at