Summit County 10-year-olds Haser, Webb bond via big mountain season capped by Nor-Am podiums
On the snow or off of it, 10-year-old Summit County freeskiers Hannah Webb and Maddie Haser finish each other’s sentences. If one needs a refresher on just what happened at a Monarch Mountain big mountain freeskiing competition last year, the other can fill in the details. If one forgets what kind of games their posse of young big mountain girls skiers were playing on the chairlift at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, the other remembers.
And if you ask either girl who their main inspiration was during a ski season when they both podiumed at the International Freeskiing Association North American Junior Freeride Championships at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Canada, they’ll point to each other. “When I’m competing against her,” said Webb, 10, of Frisco, “I’m always like ‘Maddie is my toughest competition. She kind of just inspires me. We’re good friends but I feel like she makes me want to work harder in doing this.’”
“I get in my head and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t do that,’” Haser, 10, said. “Hannah cheers me on and gets me to hit the cliff she knew I could hit. And then she hits it. It helps us all become better skiers.”
That wasn’t always the case for Webb and Haser of Breckenridge, as just last year they didn’t know each other nearly as well as they competed as big mountain freeskiers on different teams. When Haser joined Team Summit this year, though, the duo immediately clicked while also routinely finding success against older competition in the U-12 division.
“Big mountain is their connection. It’s how they met.” said Haser’s mother, Jenny. “It’s how they know each other at all. This year is the first year they connected on a personal level. The year before, they were on different teams, eyeing each other up. They saw each other as and they knew each other was close competition.”
Big mountain freeskiing is a young sport from an official competition standpoint, one predicated on awarding points to skiers based off of their line choice, fluidity, style and technique on what typically is extreme, double-black-diamond terrain that features natural or man-made jumps. Webb found her way to the skiing discipline after previously succeeding in moguls as well.
“When I first decided I wanted to do big mountain, my dad said, ‘thank God, we won’t be spending all of our time in the park and or on a moguls course,’” Webb said.
For both Webb and Haser, transitioning into big mountain skiing was natural as they each had skied terrain like that for fun with their families. Fun days out skiing The Nose off of the Pallavicini Lift and Dragon and Falcon off of the Lenawee Lift at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area come to mind for the girls. That experience made it easier for them when Team Summit’s big mountain practices ventured to, say, A-Basin’s East Wall or Steep Gullies terrain.
Leading up to the North American Championships at Kicking Horse, both Haser and Webb found success at earlier competitions. Webb is perhaps most proud of her ability to ski to a third-place big mountain finish at Steamboat Resort earlier this winter after she bounced back from a hip-check fall in her first run.
Steamboat was the only competition this season before Kicking Horse that Haser didn’t win in the U-12 girls division, as she crashed. Of those wins, a favorite memory for Haser was the IFSA competition at her home mountain of Breckenridge Ski Resort. The competition saw freeskiers drop into the Contest Bowl on Peak 8.
“And I found this kind of secret jump there,” Haser said. “So I hit that, came down, and there’s this one main bush, skiers call it ‘Christmas Tree.’ I hit it coming on straight and I hop-turned off. Then I controlled myself with some turns and hit this jump at the bottom.”
The season wrapped up for the two close friends and Summit County’s other top U-12 big mountain freeskiers at the Kicking Horse Nor-Am from April 6-8. The U-12 girls freeski division saw 21 total entrants from across the continent, including Webb and Haser’s Summit County friends Darby Leffler and Riley Combe. Combe went home with the “Flyin’ Ryan” award for her ambitious, high-flying performance on the big-mountain course.
Webb finished in second place with a score of 60.93, just more than a point out of first place, while Haser joined her on the five-person podium with a fourth-place score of 60.9. At the IFSA Nor-Am competition, scores are combined from each freeskier’s best of two runs on Day 1 and of two runs on Day 2 of the competition. On Day 2, Webb opted for a more difficult second-run line to earn 30.23 points and to clinch second place.
“I jumped off of this cornice, jumped off into the chute,” Webb said. “I skied the chute, hit a little bush and did a big airplane turn. Then I had to hit this huge bush, I had to clear a bunch of rocks and stuff. It was scary but awesome.”
That brave and technically sound line rewarded Webb before Haser threw the highest-scoring run of Day 2, a 30.63. To achieve that score, Haser opted for a newly opened-up rock section as part of her line before completing her run with several airs off jumps and tight turns to maintain control.
Looking ahead, Webb and Haser won’t be the only members of their Summit County big mountain family and friend group to challenge at competitions like the Kicking Horse Nor-Am. Haser’s younger brother Jaxon, just 8, was one of only two 8-year-old boys to ski at Nor-Ams last month. He’s the kind of kid with a contagious energy that lights up either a room or a ski line when he joins his family and friends at a beloved skiing location like My Chute at A-Basin. And, though Jaxon loves park skiing as well, he embodies the same try-everything mentality of his older sister Maddie and her good friend Hannah.
“I want to be every kind of skier,” Jaxon said.
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