Chris Laker & Dara Howell Take Top Honors At North Face Park & Pipe Slopestyle
Men's slopestyle podium: l-r: Tim McChesney, Chris Laker, Dale Talkington.
It's sometimes nice to begin an event coverage article with a comment about the weather. Well, today's weather blew. Literally.
The second and final stop of the inaugural North Face Park and Pipe Open series just wrapped up with the finals of the men and women's slopestyle events here in beautiful, but blustery Waterville Valley. The Campton, New Hampshire resort and "the birthplace of freestyle skiing" has played host to athletes from all over North America for the past three days as they've descended upon the resort for practice, qualifiers and today's finals with their eyes on the $20,000 prize purse to be split amongst the top six finishers.
The series, an Open event, allows amateur athletes to compete with pros to compete on the same course for the same prize, providing an avenue towards further exposure on a national level in addition to AFP points.
East Coast native, LJ Strenio.
As mentioned, the weather was the big story of the day. With the previous two days seeing mild daytime temperatures, today's weather was anything but as the cold and high winds ripped through the mountain valley. After a night of below freezing temperatures with about 2 inches of snow, the course was reminiscent of last year's Dumont Cup, where a similar thaw and freeze pattern had rendered the East Coast snow cover bulletproof.
With the gusts whipping up, competitors had to rethink their plan of attack on the course, which consisted of a flat box & flat rail to start, immediately followed by a two jump line into a flat rail or flat to down box option and finishing with a three rail choice on the stairset. Event organizers had to make a change in the schedule as only a handful of female competitors registered, cutting the semis for women and moving the men's semifinal start ahead by an hour. At 11:00 AM, the 32 men who'd advanced from the field of 57 during qualifiers from the day before, had lined the starting gate, waiting to begin their heat.
The competition took on a surfer's pace, as athletes waited for "sets" of breaks in the wind to roll thru, jumping at lulls in the gusts that would easily send a skier in mid air off course. Despite the winds that censored the usual dub-fest that would normally take place, skiers sent it on the course, cleaning up on the first rail section, spinning conservatively on the jump line and showing the spectators who'd braved the cold a plethora of 270s and switchups on the bottom two rail features. It wasn't until American James Campbell skied, 4 skiers from the end of run one, that dubs were introduced as he a double 1080. Run two saw consistent winds as well, causing a number of skier errors.
After the men's semis, the women stepped up to the gate and moved directly into finals. Of the seven to drop for the first run, it was clear by the end that Canadian Dara Howell would sit pretty in first; her run consisted of a stylish cork 7 and 5 with solid rail game to boot. Following her in second was 13-year-old Julia Krass who's performance on the rail section set her apart. Rounding out the podium was Annalisa Drew who also had a great performance in the jump line with a 3 to 7.
Moving right along, the 16 men advancing from the semis made their way to the top of the course for a brief practice and the start of finals. If there was difference in wind between semis and finals, it was marginal, and each athlete tried their best to time the breaks in wind correctly in order to lay down a stellar run. In the end, however, many contenders couldn't put a solid run to their feet.
For those who did, they were deservingly rewarded. Dale Talkington was the first to step up on the podium, taking third. Following him was Tim McChesney in second. Claiming first and the $2000 check was Chris Laker who's 270 on & out of the top rail, into a switch cork 9 tailgrab, left dub 10, blind 450 on the downrail and tails over to switch out on the stairset.
Congrats to today's athletes and join us here tomorrow for the results of the pipe finals.
Women's podium: l-r: Analisa Drew, Dara Howell, Julia Krass
For information on what this does to the AFP Slopestyle standings, visit the AFP World Rankings page.
2) Dale Talkington 86.75
3) Tim McChesney 85.50
4) Alex Beaulieu 84.50
5) Ben Moxham 83.75
6) Jamieson Irvine 82.00
7) Frank G-P 80.00
8) Erik Hughes 77.50
9) Scott Nelson 75.25
10) Charles Gagnier 67.50
11) Lucas Evans 57.75
12) Kyle Keating 54.75
13) John Strenio 31.25
14) Clayton Vila 30.50
15) Vincent Gagnier 17.75
16) Evan Schwartz DNS
2) Julia Krass 86.00
3) Annalisa Drew 80.50
4) Maggie Stout 77.50
5) Jess Breda 74.00
6) Julia Marino 71.75
7) Kirsten Cooley 67.25