Telemark nationals kick off at Copper on Friday |

Telemark nationals kick off at Copper on Friday

DEVON O'NEILsummit daily news
Summit Daily file photo/Richard ChittickCompetitors in last year's inaugural U.S. Telemark Nationals telecross race tear down Copper Mountain's Vein Glory trail. This year's tele nationals begin on Friday with telecross, and include a slopestyle competition on Saturday as well.

COPPER MOUNTAIN – A sport still working to break into America’s mainstream will crown national champions in two disciplines this weekend at Copper Mountain.The U.S. Telemark Nationals, put on by Tough Guy Productions (TGP) for the second straight year at Copper, begin on Friday with telecross races and wrap up on Saturday with a slopestyle competition.The competitions will feature some of the top freeheel skiers in the sport, including a number of Summit County locals. Copper Freeride Team member Ben Dolenc, as well as local rippers Pete Gallup, Mark Tieszen, Max Mancini, Eron Turnipseed, Brian Moon and Taiga Young, all are expected to compete. Breckenridge up-and-coming teen Jozy Gessner will join Young on the women’s side.According to Nat Ross of TGP, the Copper freestyle nationals are held in conjunction with a TGP-produced national-championship big mountain competition at Crested Butte – the U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Telemark Championships – and gates races put on by the U.S. Telemark Ski Association (USTSA) in Montana to determine tele national champions in all aspects of skiing.

This weekend’s competitions at Copper are big for the sport, which despite its firmly entrenched roots, hasn’t caught on with the ski industry’s mainstream on the same level as alpine and snowboarding.”These events are giving telemark visibility and credibility on the mountain, especially with people who don’t live here,” said Ross, who also produces the Total Telemark freeheel film series. “They’re establishing telemark in the mainstream. Maybe not in sales, but in recognition and growth.”Mancini, who will compete in slopestyle, added that the event’s summit-like aspect also contributes by uniting those who are already behind the sport.”That helps set up other opportunities, both competitive and with filming,” he said.Both days’ events will begin at about 10:30 a.m., and registration is still open to all who are interested. (Go to, or show up on Friday at 9 a.m. at Jack’s, near the Burning Stones Plaza.)

The telecross competition will be split into heats of four, with a double-elimination format to determine the winner. It will take place on Vein Glory, and finals are slated for about noon.The slopestyle competition on Saturday will be split into either two or three rounds, Ross said, depending on how many competitors show up.Last year’s slopestyle featured some unbelievable, alpine-inspired tricks from skiers willing to do almost anything – including Todd Greenwood’s attempt at a double backflip that ended with blood streaming onto the snow. This year, Dolenc said he’s seen some impressive training runs over the past week, but “we’ll have to wait and see what happens” in the actual competition.The slopestyle will be judged by a panel that will include, among others, last year’s champ, Jack Tolan. Tolan, of the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) in Carbondale, broke his collarbone for the third time in two years and won’t be able to compete.

However, two-time defending telecross champ Lorenzo Worster will be back to defend his crown, Ross said.Competitors will be vying for national championship medals, as well as product prizes from sponsors such as Atomic, GoFast and Fate Clothing.For those intent on learning the sport for themselves, free telemark demos will be available Friday and Saturday at the Burning Stones Plaza base area.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at

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