Great expectations for freeride locals
SUMMIT COUNTY – Gary Fondl already has his line picked out. It’s a double drop off a cliff band in the Hanging Valley Headwall that, if he skis it how he’s dreamt it, will win him $400 and first place at the first stop of the Colorado Freeride Series.
Fondl finished eighth in the three-stop series at Snowmass last season and thinks he’s ready for a breakthrough.
“I’m either going to go down hard or I’m going to win,” said the Frisco resident. “I don’t want to be in the middle anymore.”
The Colorado Freeride Series begins its second year Saturday, with the first of three stops. Vail’s Tom Winter created the series to replace the Berthoud Badass Series, which died when Berthoud Ski Area closed its lifts following the 2001 season.
The series is designed to be challenging enough for veteran competitors like Fondl yet accessible enough for skiers and snowboarders wanting to begin competitive big mountain careers.
Like Fondl, Montezuma’s Rex Wehrman is a part of the first group. He skied away with the series championship last season and is one of a number of veteran freeriders using the Colorado series to enhance an already established professional career.
Breckenridge’s Teague Holmes, on the other hand, is a rookie. The Colorado Freeride Series will allow him to glimpse the world of competitive extreme skiing and determine where he stands in a field of hundreds of the Rocky Mountain’s best.
“You have people like me who are just getting into this,” Holmes said. “And you have people who have been doing this for a while.”
Holmes grew up skiing in New York and has been teaching skiing and snowboarding in Breckenridge for four years.
“I had been considering (competing) for a while,” Holmes said. “I thought it would be fun to do and it would help me take my skiing to the next level.”
Holmes got his feet wet last month at the U.S. Freeskiing Championships in Snowbird, Utah, failing to qualify for the finals but getting experience he thinks will help him at Snowmass.
“I know what I need to do better,” Holmes said. “I’m pretty confident that I’ll be doing pretty well.”
Confidence, said Fondl, a seven-year veteran of extreme skiing competitions, is the key to big mountain skiing. Confidence and commitment.
“You can’t think “what if,'” Fondl said. “You have to come in with a lot of confidence and know you’re going to stick it.”
That confidence comes from experience just as much as skill. All the competitive skiers have skill. Fewer have experience, and that’s what the Colorado Freeride Series readily provides, especially for Summit Countians just a two-hour drive from the venue.
“It’s definitely better to do more events to get a feel for competing,” Fondl said. “There’s a lot of good skiers, but to be a good competitor is another thing.”
Competitors are judged on the criteria of the International Freeskiers Association (IFSA) – difficulty of line, control, fluidity, aggressiveness and form/technique.
The series continues March 1 and March 21. The championships will be held March 22.
Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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