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The changing face of freestyle skiing

SUMMIT COUNTY – The new school has become the old school, the radical the traditional in the world of freestyle skiing.

Team Summit has stayed with the curve and is offering not only traditional mogul skiing, but also new-school skiing this season as part of its freestyle program.

The sport’s free-est spirits were once attracted to mogul skiing. Now they are gravitating toward terrain parks.



“The kids who are getting into mogul skiing are looking for more structure,” said long-time Team Summit mogul coach John Dowling. “The new-school guys are looking to go big and maybe be more free.”

Steve Mullin, a 22-year-old who still has competitive goals, took over Team Summit’s new-school program this season. Last year’s coach, Chris Hawks, moved to Quantum Sports Club to run a similar program there.



Team Summit’s program will start Dec. 15 with about a dozen kids. They will train on Saturdays and compete some Sundays in slopestyle, halfpipe and big air events around the state.

The team will spend most of its time at the Breckenridge and Copper terrain parks, hiking the halfpipe, rails and kickers. It will also build jumps in the backcountry to take advantage of powdery landings.

The mogul skiers, meanwhile, will be doing their thing, lapping mogul lines and trying to land helicopters, heli-iron crosses and daffy-twister-spreads in the bumps.

They have a regional competition circuit to focus on, and higher up than that, the Nor-Am tour, U.S. Team and Olympics.

For the most part, the two programs will remain separate. But there are new rules in moguls competition that allow for new-school tricks. For example, a mogul skier’s feet can now go above his or her head in the air. This opens the door for D-spins, misty flips, lincoln loops and other new-school tricks. The two squads may get together to work on the areas that overlap.

“They’re trying to incorporate the new-school element into moguls,” Mullin said.

But Dowling doesn’t see the sport of moguls progressing too far away from its traditional roots this season.

“We’re doing more of it, but we’re not completely focused on it,” he said. “It’s not necessarily an advantage unless you can really tag it. A lot of the top competitors aren’t really throwing this stuff.”

Mullin’s crew of new-schoolers have trained either as mogulists or alpine skiers in the past. They now endeavor to showcase their skiing skills in a venue with fewer rules and more freedom (and no timing devices).

“Style goes a lot further,” Mullin explained. “You can take it as slow as you want or as fast as you want. Moguls is kind of restricted to the same line and same jumps. New school gives you a lot more room to show your talent. There’s a lot of different possibilities.”

The Team Summit mogulists will compete in the Rocky Mountain Division, with home meets Dec. 21-22 and Jan. 10-12, both at Breckenridge. The January meet will have a slopestyle contest that both programs will compete in.

The upper level of the mogul team has about 25 competitors, most of whom are working toward the U.S. Team.

The team also has a developmental program, coached by Chris Carson, with about 50 younger skiers working through the regional level. About half the kids are Summit Countians and half are weekenders from the Front Range.

“That program keeps producing good athletes for us,” said Dowling, who coaches only the upper-level skiers.


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