Finding diamonds in the rough at 2004 U.S. Freeskiing Open | SummitDaily.com
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Finding diamonds in the rough at 2004 U.S. Freeskiing Open

Nate Peterson/Eagle County Correspondent
Vail Daily/Bret HartmanSkier Kendall Field pulls an iron cross Thursday at the Nature Valley U.S. Freeskiing Open during slopestyle qualifing in Vail.
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VAIL – Somewhere, buried in the 135 names on Thursday’s slopestyle qualifying roster for the U.S. Freeskiing Open, there is a star.

In an event that allows all comers a chance to qualify and take on freeskiing’s heavy-hitters such as Tanner Hall, C.R. Johnson and Simon Dumont, it is almost predestined that some nobody will come out of the ranks to make a name for himself.

Unlike the Winter X Games, or other pared down invite-only events, the greatest thing about the Freeskiing Open is that it truly is open season – something both no-names and big-names alike can get behind.



“This event’s definitely up there, because anybody can come from anywhere and do well,” said Copper Mountain Freeride Team member Nick Mercon, an established name in the sport. “You never know if some kid from Nebraska is going to come out and kill it out here.”

Mercon, who finished 16th in last weekend’s Winter X Games slopestyle, was one of the 28 prequalifiers who didn’t have to ski on Thursday. He will have to earn his spot in the 10-person slopestyle final today, matched against the 25 skiers who survived Thursday and the other 27 prequalifiers, forming a contingent of 53.



The field may also expand to between 56-60 skiers, depending on whether or not a last chance qualifier is held to give the top 10 skiers who didn’t make Thursday’s cut another shot.

While the 28 prequalifiers – pretty much all the X Gamers who have migrated over from Aspen – didn’t have to run the slopestyle course on Thursday, most were out milling around at the bottom of Golden Peak, checking out the course and the competition.

“This course here is a little bit more straightforward than the X Games course,” said Mark Abma, who finished seventh in the Winter X slopestyle. “This is just jump after jump, where over there, it’s almost like you didn’t know where to come down.”

Abma admitted that Winter X Games XIII was a savory five-day fun fest, but also interjected that the Freestyle Open isn’t necessarily just a rebound event after all that was X.

“It’s a well-organized event put on by Freeze,” Abma said. “There’s very few slopestyle events out there in this day in age. A ski slopestyle event in general is a good thing.”

Added Mercon: “I think the jumps are better at this course than they were at the X Games course, but it’s still pretty hard conditions out there. That’s what you have to deal with in January and February.”

Of the 25 qualifiers that qualified on Thursday, one name that jumped off the list was Andy Mahre, whose bloodlines trace back to U.S. skiing god Phil Mahre, the last American to win the World Cup overall title back in 1983.


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