The crowds might not be there until the weekend, but the 2013 Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships officially got underway Wednesday with women’s qualifying rounds in ski and snowboard slopestyle and half-pipe.
For a number of members of the U.S. freeski and snowboard teams, it was a strong start down the road to the Winter Olympics less than two months away in Sochi, Russia.
“Our level of riding is really high right now,” decorated U.S. team snowboarder Kelly Clark said. Clark led the way Wednesday, throwing down 94.80 on her second run in the superpipe.
While her first round 86.2 would have been enough to qualify, the second run landed her with the top position going into Saturday’s half-pipe finals.
“I was happy to get the early season jitters out of the way,” the two-time Olympic medalist said, describing her more conservative first run. “The first contest of the year, you’re trying to get back into it. There’s always a lot of hype; it’s nice to get it over with and get on with the season.”
Instead of opting out of the second run, Clark took advantage and even threw in an extra trick at the end.
“I use every opportunity in a contest,” she said of her decision to include an inverted 7 at the end of the run. “I rode a bit more confidently.”
Looking ahead to Saturday she said, “The finals is when you really get to cut loose.”
If Wednesday is any indication, the iON team athlete may already be well on her way to a third Olympics.
Fellow Olympic medalist and Aspen resident Gretchen Bleiler also qualified for the finals, placing seventh.
Competing in freesking slopestyle, Keri Herman of Breckenridge also had a solid outing, finishing third in the first round.
“It went really great,” Herman said with a big smile. “It’s always such a fun contest to be at home with all my friends. I’m going to have to up my game a little bit for Saturday. It’s going to be a good show.”
Teammate Devin Logan also made a splash Wednesday by qualifying for the finals in both slopestyle and half-pipe — and returning to the snow this season after tearing an ACL.
Looking ahead to the Olympics, Herman said she’s exited that her sport will join snowboarding half-pipe this year in Sochi.
“Slopestyle being in the Olympics is amazing,” she said. “It’s such honor and cool opportunity that we all have.”
Snowboard slopestyle and skier half-pipe will also be new to this year’s winter games.
The action at the Dew Tour resumes Thursday with qualifying rounds for men’s skier slopestyle and snowboard half-pipe. Women’s finals will be split between Friday and Saturday.
Lake Dillon, recognized more for its uncanny ability to produce a limit in disappointment, has offered an early-winter windfall in the form of kokanee salmon on ice.