At Copper Mountain Resort’s closing weekend, slopesoakers explain what makes a great pond skimmer (video)
One hundred signed up. Thirty advanced to the final. Four were awarded Copper Mountain season passes.
And one skied up and over the fencing into the crowd.
It was a fun, skillful and — at one point — scary seventh annual Red Bull Slopesoakers snowboard and ski pond-skimming event at Copper Mountain Resort on Saturday afternoon.
As locals and tourists alike flocked to the resort’s hills to take their final turns of the season, hundreds watched at the base of Center Village as costumed, fun-loving skiers and snowboarders took to the pond-skimming course.
Similar to a mini slopestyle course — just with various water bodies between rails, jibs and jumps — four heats of skiers and snowboarders were narrowed down to 30 for the mid-afternoon finals as partly cloudy skies finally gave way to sunshine.
And each time they slid into the half-snow, half-slushwater crowd-surrounded course and corral, each athlete attempted to answer the following question: What makes a great pond skimmer?
To some, it’s about the costume. To others, it’s about showcasing silliness and humor. Yet to others, it’s about winning.
“This is one of the most prestigious events of the entire year,” said Heat 1 contestant and University of Colorado at Boulder student Charlie Turchetta, originally from Rhode Island.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he continued, his cotton Wonder Woman suit soaked-through. “A lot of training, but it all comes down to originality. Like, if everyone is hitting one side, I’m going to go for the other. I got to show the judges that I’m not a follower. I’m a leader. Try to be unique, try to show off my style of skiing to the judges and hopefully they took it well.”
And why the Wonder Woman suit?
“Because it was the only costume I could scrape together last minute,” Turchetta said. “My friend actually gave it to me.”
Competing against the likes of Turchetta for a spot in the finals were shredders like Bryce Kuehl, a Wisconsin native who lives in Grand Junction.
Kuehl was identified by the Slopesoakers event’s announcer as a “super hero.” But Kuehl was quick to qualify that his outfit was in honor of Jack Black’s “Nacho Libre” professional wrestling movie character, complete with the traditional Mexican “Lucha Libre” mask.
So what, to Kuehl, makes for a good pond skimmer?
“A guy who just gets up there, just gets after it,” he said. “He’s not too serious. He’s not too silly. He just wants to have fun.”
Nacho Libre himself would be proud.
Turchetta’s Boulder buddy Ryan Nee, originally from Boston, was certainly having fun Saturday afternoon, complete with his “Penguin with Jorts” outfit.
“Yeah, you know, jorts are the move,” Nee said.
None of those three challenged for a Slopesoakers championship in the final round, though all three got what they were looking for.
But there were more serious contestants out there, like Trevor Fritz of Boulder and Seth Karlsrud, High Country local and best snowboard trick winner.
Fritz came to be known to the crowd, thanks to the announcer, as “Naked Guy,” because all he wore was a Speedo.
His secret to pond-skimming success, which saw him advance from Heat 2 to the final?
“Not afraid to fall,” he said. “(I’m wearing only a Speedo) because I’m not afraid to fall.”
As for Karlsrud, he took more of a business-like approach, executing a 360 backflip to sew up the best trick award.
“Just confidence,” he said. “That’s it. Being willing to get into your head and say that you can do it. And then you do it.”
The Slopesoakers event wasn’t all fun and games on Saturday though. During the finals, competitor Hayden Wright of Alaska soared off of one of the right-side jumps and, while attempting a backflip, soared over the fence and the first row of spectators before landing on his upper back.
The competition was paused for 15 minutes while Copper ski patrol attended to the incident. Wright collided with several spectators, though all walked off on their own power. Several seemed to have minor injuries while Wright held his right arm when departing.
The incident even put a damper on Red Bull’s awarding of the traditional “Best Crash” honor.
“We understand that, uh, ‘Best Crash’ could be approached in many different ways here today,” the announcer said. “Fortunately, everybody has walked out with heads held high.”
After the break in the action, however, the fun returned, highlighted by the home county win by Dillon resident, 24-year-old Mitch Holtz.
And, to the champion Holtz, what makes for a good pond skimmer? Confidence, preparation and some on-the-fly thinking — especially when it’s so cold and wet you can’t feel your fingers.
“After the qualifiers I wrung out my socks and boots and dried off,” a soaking wet, Hawaiian shirt-wearing Holtz said with a smile.
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