Blog: Wednesday, 10:02 p.m. " Dialing in your line takes time, and luck |

Blog: Wednesday, 10:02 p.m. " Dialing in your line takes time, and luck

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Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Devon O'Neil

The first words on the page explaining how the Extremes are scored go like this: “Line choice is considered the most important category and control is the second most important category.”

This can be taken a couple of ways. Either the person who wrote those words got confused and mixed up the priorities, or competitors win a large battle just by dropping in to the gnarliest terrain, period. I figure someone would’ve caught the error after 16 years if it was indeed a mistake, so we’ll assume the second translation is right.

According to Frisco’s Gary Fondl, who took fifth in this event last year, lines are scored on a scale of 1-10 ” with 1 being basically uphill, and 10 being basically vertical with pointy rocks waiting for you like rattlesnakes in a pit.

“You wanna ski an 8 line and ski it well, and you’ll be in the money,” Fondl said. “The younger kids, man, they’re laying it out on the 9 lines. But they don’t have kids or anything.”

Scoping out your line can be a complicated process. It can also be worthless, according to many competitors I spoke with on Wednesday, who told me they rarely end up skiing the exact line they’d planned.

If you’re like Fondl and the other athletes who devote time and care to selecting their line ” John Rutherford, 18, of Seattle told me he videos his line and then studies it the night before the event ” you might tiptoe up to the edge of each rock you plan to huck during the competition, peer over at your landing, then tiptoe back to safety.

“When you come up to those 30- and 40-foot airs, you wanna know where you’re heading and what’s down there before sending it,” Fondl said. “Because turning your skis just a few inches to either side on takeoff will put you in a really different spot.”

Fondl uses dead trees to spot his jumps and landings. Others said they mark their intended lines by smaller features, like peculiar-looking rocks. Much of the process depends on snow coverage, said Aspen’s Ashley Carruth, 23, a first-time Extremes competitor and former racer who is just breaking in to the big-mountain scene.

“I know when people were looking at Headwall today, they were just tiptoeing out ” they weren’t skiing their lines because there’s so little snow so they don’t wanna knock any off of it,” she said.

And then there were the three guys sidestepping down what appeared to be their intended lines Wednesday, literally throwing boulders off to the side if they were in the way. It’s legal … maybe.


What a first day down here. Got to the competition and soon realized there was no event-organized photographer shooting the juniors, as I figured there would be; he won’t start until Thursday’s action ” which is also when our photographer, Kristin Anderson, arrives.

Bad thing to overlook, seeing as covering this competition without photos is like putting together an all-text swimsuit issue.

I asked a guy with a digital camera if I could use his for a while, since he was shooting video. Turns out he’s a freestyle coach for Ski Club Vail, but it was his buddy’s camera. I took some photos, some OK, some blurrier than our time in the womb, with the plan to meet up with the coach and download the pics later.

Only problem was he didn’t have the cord needed to transfer the images. To make a long story short, a trip to the Gunnison Wal-Mart self-service photo lab ensued, on deadline, 31 miles there and 31 miles back, and that’s the only reason there are any photos on this page.

Big thanks to Noah Brooks and Garrett Scahill of Ski Club Vail. Pat ’em on the back if you know ’em.

(Sorry the photos stink today.)

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