It was hurry up and wait for competitors at the U.S. Grand Prix at the Breckenridge Ski Resort Friday as weather continued to postpone freesking and snowboarding slopestyle finals throughout the day.
“Unfortunately, it’s a good day for pow skiing, not park skiing today,” Breckenridge resident and No. 2 ranked U.S. team slopestyle freeskier Bobby Brown said of the conditions.
By noon officials decided to reschedule snowboarding slope finals for Saturday morning. Freeski finals were canceled, and the decision was made to use qualifying round results as final standings.
“When the conditions are like this — where from the drop-in you can’t even see the first rail — it’s just the smart decision to make,” fellow Breckenridge local and women’s Olympic freesking contender Keri Herman said. “We’re in an outdoor mountain sport. It just happens sometimes. I’m just really happy that everyone’s all right and no one’s hurt. We all live to ski another day.”
While it was less than optimal for skiers who may have taken it easy in the qualifying rounds just to make it to finals, it was welcome news for Brown and Herman, as they were the top qualifiers and finished first as a result of the decision.
“It feels kind of weird,” Brown said after the podium ceremony. “I’m definitely excited, don’t get me wrong. But at the same time I would have loved to win in the finals. I’ll take it. It is what it is, just gotta move on to the next one.”
Third-place women’s finisher Devin Logan said it was a mutual decision among organizers and athletes. “All the girls were on the same page and didn’t feel it was safe to ski today,” she said. “The visibility, the speed, the new snow, the wind, all of it, it just didn’t make sense to try to put down a run and possibly get injured. It’s not worth it right now with Sochi being a month away.”
For Logan, Herman and Brown, it was another big step to making the U.S. Olympic team. With two qualifying events remaining, the Olympic picture is still unclear. Only slopestyle skier Nick Goepper and snowboarder Kelly Clark have secured spots on team, with two podium results each as the top American finishers.
Herman, Brown and Logan are all top contenders in their disciplines. Each will need another podium appearance to solidify their chances.
Like snowboarder Shaun White, Logan is attempting to make the Olympic team in both slopestyle and halfpipe. She will be in the Grand Prix pipe finals Sunday. Telluride’s Gus Kenworthy is also trying to make the U.S. team for both freeskiing events.
He had qualified seventh in slopestyle at the Grand Prix and could have used a top finish to keep his Olympic hopes alive. The final two events in Park City, Utah, will be critical for him. Kenworthy also qualified for Sunday’s halfpipe finals. He already has a podium appearance in pipe and is currently the third-ranked American.
To make the U.S. freesking team, competitors need two podium appearances in the five selection events — the Dew Tour and the four stops on the U.S. Grand Prix.
The selection committee then takes the two best finishes and can select up to four men and four women for each discipline. Freeskiers share Olympic spots with other disciplines in the freestyle category.
The snowboarding team requires only one podium appearance and the best second result for its selection process. Tie-breaking scenarios and coaches discretion also come into play for both teams. Final decisions will be made after the remaining U.S. Grand Prix events — two in Mammoth, Calif, for snowboarding and two in Park City for freesking.
All other finals for the U.S. Grand Prix at Breck are scheduled to resume Saturday, but weather will remain a factor as forecasters are calling for continued snowfall through the weekend.
• Sweden’s Jesper Tjader finished second in men’s freeski slopestyle, and Switzerland’s Kai Mahler finished third. Nick Goepper, Tom Wallisch and Gus Kenworthy were the next highest placed Americans, finishing fifth, sixth and seventh.
• Sweden’s Emma Dahlstrom finished second in women’s slope between Herman and Logan. No other Americans qualified for the slope finals.
• Two-time Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Shaun White is scheduled to compete in the slopestyle and halfpipe finals Saturday.