Hella Hectic: Summit locals shine at Copper’s pond skim competition
When most ski areas schedule a pond skimming event at the end of the season, participants are expecting mild spring temperatures, with bluebird skies to counteract the icy cold water.
Participants at Copper Mountain Resort’s Hella Hectic competition, which was put on in partnership with 10 Barrel Brewing Company, did not get the luxury of warm weather on Saturday, April 23, since competitors faced snow flurries and wind.
However, 10 Barell’s Hella Hectic was not your average pond skimming event. The course started a couple hundred feet up the mountain and featured a boardercross start gate.
Competitors, often dressed in unique costumes, raced in groups of four. The race course featuring narrow banked turns, a series of step downs, and rollers before the course opened up to the pond.
Once across the water, competitors then had to skim down to the finish line. The top two competitors would advance to the next round.
The competition was broken into five categories including team, men’s snowboard, women’s snowboard, men’s ski and women’s ski.
Among the competition were several Summit locals including US snowboard halfpipe team member Chase Blackwell as well as US Paralympians Garrett Geros and Zach Miller.
Blackwell competed in the men’s snowboarding division alongside his fellow US snowboard halfpipe teammate and good friend, Ryan Wachendorfer.
Despite the course being more suited to boardercross racers instead of halfpipe tricksters, Blackwell and Wachendorfer stood out among the competition as they both bombed down the hill and skimmed perfectly upon the water to win several of the first-round runs of the competition.
“It’s a little different, but the board is fast and the turns are about the same,” Blackwell said after his first two runs. “Just staying light on that edge and trying to go as fast as I can. The pond is a lot of fun, and the whole course is a lot of fun.”
Blackwell and Wachendorfer both made it to finals in order to duel it out with two other competitors for the $5,000 prize. The race was a nail biter with no one really getting an edge until the final turn when 2007 Olympic boardercross gold medalist Nate Holland broke away for the victory.
Wachendorfer finished in a nearby third, while Blackwell placed fourth.
In the women’s snowboard division, it was Canadian snowboard freeride athlete Audrey Hebert who dominated from start to finish. She came across the finish line well in front of the competition on her final run.
After receiving her $5,000 check, Hebert said she has never done a pond skim quite like the one Copper Mountain and 10 Barrel offered.
“It was such a fun course and such a good time,” Hebert said of the experience.
In the men’s ski division, retired American Alpine skiing star, Casey Pucett, used his Alpine skis for a different type of ski course.
Wearing a red, white and blue race suit, Pucett maneuvered his long skis around the tight turns without a problem, coming across the finish line in first place overall in the final race.
In the women’s ski division, Jessica Whittam claimed her $5,000 check by narrowly winning the title by leaning hard at the line. Whittam was overjoyed at the finish line as she was engulfed by friends and family in response to her accomplishment.
In the adaptive division, Adaptive Action Sports athletes Geros and Miller dueled it out for team bragging rights and the $5,000 check.
Geros and Miller got out of the starting gates like the true pros they are, with Geros dressed in a red blazer and shorts to show off his new Paralympic rings tattoo, while Miller was dressed as a mustard-covered hot dog.
As the duo neared the pond, they were close, but Miller came out of the water first and rode to the finish line for the title in his first-ever pond skim.
“This is awesome,” Miller said. “After having such a crazy eventful season, traveling all over the world — to finally end the season on a totally fun note is just awesome.”
Geros and Miller went down the course as part of the team category later in the event. Miller got a true pond skim experience when he fell into the drink, soaking his hot dog suit and filling his boots with water.
Geros must have felt left out since he went down the course one last time by himself and executed on a back flip into the water in order to get the full experience as well.
Geros’ performance was met with applause from the crowd as he resurfaced which spurred him on to drink a beer from his adaptive leg.
Geros was crowned the most Hectic male at the event and awarded $500 for his back flip and beer chug.
“It was fun,” Geros said. “It was honestly one of the best and most fun banked slaloms I have ever done.”
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