Wehrman hopes to defend title in revamped freeride series
The Colorado Freeride Series drops from four to three events this year.
That doesn’t bother Summit County skier Rex Wehrman. The defending series champ skied in only three of the four events last season. And he plans to return to Snowmass to defend his title this year.
“I felt good about winning it,” Wehrman said. “It didn’t come easy. I’m definitely going to defend it.”
The focus of Wehrman’s season is the International Freeskiing Association (IFSA) tour. It is the highest level of extreme skiing competition, stopping in Whistler, Snowbird, Crested Butte and Alaska. He uses the Colorado Freeride Series as a practice for the higher-level events.
The Colorado Freeride Series is geared toward up-and-coming big mountain skiers. In its second year after replacing the Berthoud Badass Series, the circuit uses the steep Hanging Valley at Snowmass as its venue.
“The kids who compete here are the ones who will go on to win big mountain extreme events like the U.S. Extreme Skiing Championships in Crested Butte,” said Chief of Race Tom Winter of Vail. “What makes Snowmass so exciting is that unknowns come out of the woodwork and beat some of the better-known pros. It’s a stepping stone.”
The contests give lesser-known skiers like Gary Fondl and Paul Zaleski, who train at Arapahoe Basin, and Breckenridge skiers Lori Testa and Matt Belleville a chance to compete against veterans like Wehrman and other pros from the IFSA tour. It’s a mixed start list.
“If you’ve never done a contest before, you can try it out and see what you think of it before you go to one of the bigger events,” Wehrman said.
The series begins Feb. 15, with the second event planned for March 2. The series finale and championships are March 21 and 22.
There are divisions for skiers and snowboarders. Prizes totalling $7,000 are up for grabs.
Wehrman’s advice for young skiers eying these events as their break-in to the competitive freeskiing circuit is to focus on your own skiing. Most of the competitors ski at the same high level. The difference between the winners and losers, Wehrman said, is mental.
“You just have to get it in your head that you’re going to win, then go do it.”
Fondl and Zaleski each had their best season of competitive freeskiing in the first year of the series last year. Fondl was seventh, and Zaleski was 10th at the March 30 championships.
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