For local skiers, there’s more at stake |

For local skiers, there’s more at stake

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Kristin Anderson

CRESTED BUTTE ” Like always, there is a competition within the competition going on at the U.S. Extremes this week. Some of the athletes involved prefer to downplay it, and they are probably telling the truth. Being the top Crested Butte local at this event might not mean anything to them.

But it means something to a lot of other locals, and they are not afraid to admit it.

“The grand prize is $6,500, but really the grand prize is the pride,” said Ben Somrak, 22, a second generation Crested Butte purebred whose best finish in four Extremes was 17th. “I always figure if I would ever win, I wouldn’t care about the money.”

Ben Furimsky knows a thing or two about the prestige that comes from a solid result in the Extremes. The 35-year-old CB ski instructor has made the finals in five of his eight appearances leading up to this year, including his breakout, seventh-place finish in 1999. In the weeks which followed that contest, things began happening that hadn’t before.

“People are coming up to you and talking to you, and you don’t know who they are,” he said.

“It’s probably more intense than the overall competition. It’s very intense among the locals because it’s like a rite of passage or something. If you do well in the contest here then everybody knows who you are and everybody’s like, ‘Oh, that guy, he’s a really good skier. You shoulda seen the way he skied in the Extremes that one year.’ So it kinda moves you up in the hierarchy of the local skier world.”

Mark O’Neill, a 21-year ski patroller at Crested Butte and a two-time masters champion at the Extremes, said this event is one medium in which local athletes can win prestige, along with mountain bike racing and skiing certain lines in the backcountry.

“The young guns, they definitely talk it up pretty big all winter,” O’Neill said of the Extremes.

“Everybody that I ski with has either done it once or is in it every year,” said Travis Miller, 25, a CB resident of six years who drives a cat for the resort and who just missed the cut for the finals. “It’s just something that if you ski here every day, you end up doing.

“You get some respect for sure,” he added. “People know which locals do well in the Extremes.”

Crested Butte is the home mountain for more than a third of the men’s field at this competition. The women’s field includes its share of CB skiers as well, but there are far fewer women overall, and among them it does not seem to strike such a nerve.

“Being competitive, I just wanted to win,” said Wendy Fisher, an 11-year local who won the Extremes in 2005. “I didn’t care if it was other local people or someone from Canada or New Jersey. I just wanted to win.”

However, Fisher also conceded she wanted to “show that I can ski a sick line, and no one ever watches you until this point in the year.”

Ryan Sutton caught the masses’ attention last year when he finished runner-up to surprise champion Griffin Post. Sutton, a professional downhill mountain biker, is an unsponsored skier who works at the resort’s base area rental shop. After he finished second, no sponsors approached him about representing their brand. Nor did he seek them out.

“We have such a good group of skiers here, a good group of friends that really just enjoy skiing together,” he said. “And it’s nice to have one competition during the year where you can actually get out there and be judged on how you ski. You know, everybody’s the best here. But everybody does something different. So it’s cool to get out here and see who’s the quote-unquote king of the mountain.”

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