Olympic freeskiers and snowboarders kickoff season at Copper Grand Prix | SummitDaily.com

Olympic freeskiers and snowboarders kickoff season at Copper Grand Prix

Vail's Broby Leeds spins out of the halfpipe during Grand Prix practice at Copper Tuesday.
Sebastian Foltz / sfoltz@summitdaily.com |

U.S. Grand prix schedule

Wednesday, Dec. 3

8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Freeski qualifiers

2:30 p.m.– 3:30 p.m., Snowboard practice

Thursday, Dec. 4

8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., Snowboard qualifiers

2:30 p.m.– 3:30 p.m., Freeski practice

Friday, Dec. 5

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., Freeski practice

12:30 p.m.– 2 p.m., Freeski halfpipe finals

Awards immediately following

Saturday, Dec. 6

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., Snowboard halfpipe practice

12:30 p.m.– 2 p.m., Snowboard halfpipe Finals

Awards immediately following

While the men of the Alpine World Cup circuit will be working toward midseason form at Beaver Creek this weekend for the Birds of Prey races, some of the world’s top halfpipe freeskiers and snowboarders will be carving up the superpipe at Copper Mountain Resort for the first stop on the U.S. Grand Prix and their first major competition of the season.

It was all smiles and reunions for the Sochi Olympians, X Gamers and Dew Tour veterans during the first two days of practice — Monday and Tuesday — leading up to Wednesday and Thursday’s qualifiers.

“This is such a good contest to get started,” Breckenridge local and Sochi Olympian Keri Herman said after a practice session Tuesday. “It’s the best getting back in there and getting my feet under me.”

For Herman, it will be her first halfpipe competition in a year and a half. She spent last season focusing solely on slopestyle in preparation for the Olympics, where she finished 10th.

Friend, teammate and Sochi slopestyle silver medalist Devin Logan described the start to this season as a little less tense than the lead up to freeskiing’s inaugural appearance in the Winter Olympics last February.

“Last year was definitely hectic, so this year I’m just focused on having fun and progressing now. You don’t have all the stress of qualifying, you can take it a little more mellow and focus on skiing,” she said of this year’s approach. Now two seasons removed from tearing her ACL, she said she feels better than ever and is looking forward to working on some new tricks. “Fun is the main idea this year,” she said.

It was a notion the rest of the crowd seemed to share, cheering one another on during a low-key training session.

For most of the top athletes, this week’s competition will serve as a warm-up for next week’s Dew Tour, Dec. 11-14.

Herman and Logan will be joined by some steep competition on the freeski side this week with all six Olympic halfpipe medalists expected to participate, including U.S. teammates David Wise and Maddie Bowman, both of whom won gold.

Slopestyle silver medalist Gus Kenworthy also will be in the mix, along with fellow Coloradoan and Sochi veteran Aaron Blunck.

On the snowboard side, Olympians Taylor and Arielle Gold — the brother-sister pair from Steamboat Springs — will be among the favorites along with four-time Olympian Kelly Clark, snowboarding’s most accomplished athlete.

Clark added another bronze to her medal collection at Sochi in February. 2010 Olympian Louie Vito also will compete. Women’s American gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington is expected to participate, but has yet to practice.

Freeskiers kick things off this week with qualifying rounds on Wednesday, followed by the finals Friday. Snowboard qualifiers will take place Thursday with finals Saturday afternoon. The competition will be broadcast on tape delay on NBCSN this weekend and NBC later this month.

Spectators will be able to take in the action from the bottom of the pipe or along one of its walls.

The event is free to the public.

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