Local skiers represent at Taos extreme competition
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
TAOS, N.M. ” After losing almost all of last season to a broken left ankle, freeskier George Casaletta was itching for a good result, something to prove the injury had not gotten the best of him.
Last week at Taos, he scratched the itch.
Casaletta, a 29-year-old Arapahoe Basin Freeride Team member, landed on the podium in third place at the Taos Extreme Freeride Championships, leading an overwhelming Summit County presence at the prestigious competition.
Eight of the 19 skiers who made the men’s finals hailed from Summit, and four of them cracked the top 10. A pair of local female junior competitors also earned podium results, with Breckenridge skier Colby Adams taking the victory and Dillon’s Jozy Gessner finishing third.
“It’s kind of a big mental thing for me to get over,” said Casaletta, a local ski tech who broke the same ankle twice in nine months, the second fracture occurring last January. He finished with 60.8 points overall, 1.6 back of men’s champion Bryce Newcomb.
“I was really psyched every time I got to the bottom,” said Casaletta, who drove home immediately after the banquet, got to Summit at 4 a.m. and was at work by 8. “I’d usually let out a scream and a big roar ” then I’d cheer on my friends. The camaraderie down there, you can’t touch it. We’re always rooting for somebody.”
They had plenty of fellow locals to root for, too. Ryan Banker, another A-Basin Freeride Teamer, snagged a career-best result by taking fifth after entering the finals in first place; Breck ski instructor Teague Holmes and Loveland Freeride Team member Doug Evans improved their standing all three days of the contest before finally ending up in eighth and ninth, respectively; and A-Basin’s Jamie Ober (11th), Gary Fondl (12th), Oliver Holmes (T-13th) and Shaun Spacht (15th) all cracked the finals, as well.
Banker’s fifth-place result would’ve been even better had he not elected to charge his final run, instead of do something conservative to protect his lead. He took the most difficult line off Taos’ vaunted and cliff-strewn Kachina Peak, and despite losing a ski halfway down, he clipped back in and completed an otherwise perfect run to control whatever damage the lost ski had done to his score.
“I have no regrets,” said Banker, 27, who grew up in Delaware before moving to Summit at age 20. “It was a pretty big decision for me to take that line because it’s a headwall, so you’re gonna have a mandatory drop of at least 30 feet to exit.”
In addition to Banker’s first-place score on Day 1 of the main event, Summit skiers Fondl and Casaletta tied for second to give the local boys all three of the top spots heading into the finals. (Fondl performed an unintentional front flip on a cliff landing in the finals, which dropped him in the standings.)
The action doesn’t stop yet for many of the Taos competitors, who are on their way to Utah for this weekend’s U.S. Freeskiing Nationals at Snowbird.
Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or at email@example.com.
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