The annual divisional championship brings together the highest-ranked skiers for one final hurrah before the best of the best move onto Junior National and Senior National events, with the rest returning to their home mountains for the conclusion of their competitive seasons. In what has become true Telluride tradition, the best local slopestyle, halfpipe, aerial, and mogul competitors strutted their enviable stuff at the event – making their hometown proud with top ten finishes in all disciplines.
Last Wednesday morning marked the beginning of a drawn out day of competition for Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club freeride team competitors, who contended with harsh course conditions during the morning's halfpipe event and afterward braved a long slopestyle course.
Hannah Smith, who is currently ranked the number one female halfpipe and slopestyle skier in her age class, narrowly missed capturing the gold in the morning's halfpipe, finishing second. In the men's halfpipe, Walter Kvale stepped up for team Telluride with an impressive top ten finish by pushing the envelope of his skiing ability, finishing seventh overall. Woody Smith placed a solid 14th, Lane Smith held on for 20th, Hoot Brown was just behind in 26th, and Kyle Ward finished 39th.
The afternoon's slopestyle event found local freeride skiers on perhaps the longest, most complicated course of the season, with five large, closely placed consecutive jumps. Hannah Smith again led the way for Telluride, placing second in the event.
According to TSSC coach Dan Plummer, Smith has consistently taken top five finishes at events this season because she is one of only a few ladies who isn't afraid to take her skiing to the highest competitive edge at freeride contests.
"Hannah is one of the most gifted girls in our division," said Plummer. "No one else likes to take the risks she takes in competition."
In the men's slopestyle, the competitive field was perceptibly more aggressive, although Telluride skiers still took top 20 finishes. Kvale again threw his biggest and best tricks, taking 16th, just ahead of Woody Smith who finished in 20th place overall. Lane Smith placed 32nd, with Brown and Ward close behind, taking 35th and 36th, respectively.
Hannah Smith and Woody Smith will be the two Telluride freeride team members to represent TSSC at the Junior Nationals competition in Park City this weekend.
"The best young skiers in the country are going to be there," said Plummer, "but I feel confident that if Hannah and Woody ski their best runs, Hannah could take a podium finish and Woody could finish in the top twenty – which is quite a feat, since they'll be up against the toughest field of the season."
Members Make Waves at Divisionals Contest
It's no secret that Telluride skiers can ski the bumps…really ski the bumps. So it came as no surprise at last weekend's freestyle events that Telluride skiers were some of the toughest to beat, with the team consistently occupying the podium with top five and top ten finishes in all disciplines.
Friday and Saturday bore witness to Telluride's two most domineering days of competition, as Telluride bumpsters tackled the Winter Park mogul course with token intensity during the Championship Mogul and Junior Mogul contests. On Championship Mogul day, even the most seasoned competitors couldn't put a lid on the Discoe brother duo, who managed a family sweep of the top two spots with Joe in first and Jimmy in second. Jarrett Arguelles also found himself on the top five podium, taking fifth, while Wade Parkinson held on to a top twenty finish with 16th place overall. Zakary Watkins was close behind, finishing 22nd overall.
Lane Stoltzner, who has made a breakthrough in her skiing this season to uphold Telluride's reputation for magnificent mogul skiing, finished in 17th place at Friday's Championship Mogul competition, while fellow Telluride-raised phenom Lindsey Cannon took 32nd.
Telluride skiers really let the competition have it on Junior Mogul day, with top ten finishes from all six Telluride skiers. After a veritable Telluride-enforced rodeo on the mogul course, the men's scoreboard held a bevy of Telluride names, with Jimmy Discoe in first, Joe Discoe in fourth, Parkinson in seventh, and Watkins in ninth.
The ladies side saw similar Telluride domination over the scoreboard, as Cannon stepped her skiing up a notch to take ninth overall and first in her J3 age class, just ahead of Stoltzner who finished tenth overall and second in J3s. (Stoltzner was the only Telluride competitor to enter Thursday's aerials contest, where she took sixth.)
Sunday's duals day didn't show signs of a break in the clouds for regional skiers hoping to upset Telluride's command over the podium, as Jimmy Discoe took home his second gold medal of the week following an unstoppable string of strong runs. Brother Joe also held on until the end, taking sixth place, while Arguelles and Parkinson tied for ninth and Watkins finished 33rd.
Stoltzner exhibited her powerhouse potential at Sunday's duals event, finishing in sixth. Cannon tied for 17th.
Telluride's reign at the Rocky Mountain Divisional event was nothing out of the ordinary, and the team was awarded for their solid skiing throughout the season. Team Telluride took home a Rocky Mountain Division Team Award, which is awarded to the three teams with the highest overall points gained at regional competitions throughout the season. Telluride finished third, behind Team Summit and Steamboat Winter Sports Club.
"It is certainly challenging for us to win a team award like this, since we have so few competitors compared to other teams," said TSSC freestyle coach Caleb Martin. "Winning a team award this year was a huge improvement for us."
Telluride also took home the "Golden Buffalo" award, which is given to the team with the most team spirit.
Another cumulative season award was given to a Telluride skier at the Divisionals awards ceremony, when Arguelles won the Don Banghart award for highest consistent finishes in dual moguls events throughout the season.
"This was the first of three big events for us," said Martin. "These contests are what we've been building towards all year, to be skiing our best and feeling our strongest and healthiest. Our strong results across the board at Divisionals spoke to the commitment these skiers have made to the sport this season."
Joining the TSSC freeride team's Hannah Smith and Woody Smith in Park City this weekend for Junior Nationals will be Stolzner, competing in both aerials and moguls, as well as Cannon, Parkinson, Watkins, and the Discoes, who all earned spots on the moguls team.
Senior Nationals will be held the following week, with the location still to be determined (the event was originally scheduled to take place at Idaho's Bogus Basin resort, but lack of snow forced officials to move the event). Members of TSSC are still waiting to hear which skiers, if any, will be invited to the Senior Nationals event.