Taos Goes Off: Kachina Peak Venue Wraps Up 2008 Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships

Comments by Tom Winter/

There are few places on this planet like Taos ski resort’s Kachina Peak. The mountain rises high above the valley, dwarfing everything below. For the skiers who have flocked to this hidden New Mexico gem for years, Kachina remains the ultimate test piece. Reached only via an arduous hike, the face of the mountain is studded with rock bands, cliffs and steep chutes. At 12,481 feet high, it is the highest venue of any freeride event in North America and the variety of lines make it one of the most challenging – and popular – among those who dare face it when the Salomon Extreme Freeriding Championships roll into town.

Kachina has a way of weeding out the weak and mixing up the field. Yeah, you may be in first place after the event leaves the West Basin venue, but the next day you have Kachina staring you in the face. Everything becomes possible here: the greatest of heroics or utter collapse and failure. And nothing is certain or easy.

The men’s alpine field on the final day of the Salomon Extremes had already been greatly diminished by an aggressive cut by the judges. Only 25 athletes made it to the final round, and the JR and Womens’ fields were also similarly tight. For the men, some big dogs remained: Joey Smallwood who stood in third place, Kenjiro Matsuo who entered the day in the top ten and Cliff Bennett who also seemed out of the podium race. Local Mark Binder was in first holding a respectable 3.5 point lead after a first round run that amazed and impressed. He seemed poised to become the first local to win it all.

But Binder was one of many athletes who crashed out. A very aggressive line going wrong at the end, Kachina once again dashing hopes as Binder couldn’t stomp his final air and tumbled into the 24th spot. Matsuo, the Japanese warrior who had shown so much promise during round one also crashed out, and with other athletes also facing trouble, the door was left wide open for someone to snatch victory from the leaders.

That someone happened to be Jake Cohn. The Telluride skier put down another mistake free run to fight off a charging Cliff Bennett, who finished 2 points behind the winner. Scott McBrayer took the third spot on the podium, followed by Jason Hutchins and Josh Carlson in 5th.

With the points scattered a bit more widely among the ladies, it was left to the top four to battle it out, with the rest of the field hoping for a complete meltdown from the leaders to bolster their podium chances. Alaina Huestis ended up taking the top spot, followed by Katie Gillen and Breckenridge’s Colby Adams in the third spot. Adams narrowly edged local favorite Andrea Krejci for the win, wrapping up a very tight battle that was decided by less than a point.

The JR field was similarly competitive, with the largest group of athletes seen to date and some very impressive skiing. Francesca Pavillard-Cain took top honors for the JR females, followed by Xanthe Demas in 2nd and Carmen Fregulia in 3rd. Kevin McJames led the men, with Miles Honens in the second spot and Amon Barker rounding out the podium. Like the adults, the story for the JR men was little mistakes by the leaders opening up the door for those who skied clean. The clear leader after round one – Duncan Adams – taking a small fall that cost him dearly: Adams finished just off the podium, in the fourth position.

Two other new groups of athletes also joined the event this year, snowboarders and a mens’ masters division. Jeff Meyer took the inaugural snowboard event with Leo Vanderbosch walking away with the hardware in the masters division.

For streaming video highlights of all the action, log onto www.skitoas.org.

Complete Results:

Women
Finish BIB First Name Last Name City ST
1 48 Alaina Huestis Sandy UT
2 45 Katie Gillen Ranchos de Taos NM
3 76 Colby Adams Breckenridge CO
4 42 Andrea Krejci Taos NM
5 36 Galena Gleason Telluride CO
6 43 Emily Teague Woody Creek CO
7 40 Lauren Alkire Crested Butte CO
8 37 Marcia Ready El Prado NM
9 47 Traci Lopez Santa Fe NM

Senior Men
Finish BIB First Name Last Name City ST
1 70 Jake Cohn Telluride CO
2 60 Cliff Bennett Ward CO
3 67 Scott McBrayer Carbondale CO
4 58 Jason Hutchins Taos Ski Valley NM
5 59 Josh Carlson Taos NM
6 56 Bryce Newcomb Reno NV
7 50 Ryan Banker Frico CO
8 125 Travis Hart Wolf Ophir CO
9 66 Daryn Edmunds Cottonwood Heights UT
10 86 Spencer Keep Snowmass CO
11 118 Ben Leoni Alta UT
12 107 Tyler Ceccanti Tapps WA
13 68 Jason France Cottonwood Heights UT
14 90 Chuck Mumford Salt Lake City Ut
15 101 Todd Ligare Park City UT
16 98 Joey Smallwood Snowbird UT
17 116 Brayden Brassey Park City UT
18 99 Peter Manley Gunnison CO
19 77 Jeff Martinson Sitka AK
20 69 Abbott Smith Brookfield WI
21 49 Ryan Halverson Dillon CO
22 71 Kenjiro Matsuo Tokyo Japan
23 72 Brady Newton Salt Lake City UT
24 128 Mark Bindner El Prado NM
25 82 Roy Leckonby Boulder CO

Junior Women
Finish BIB First Name Last Name City ST
1 3 Francesca Pavillard-Cain Steamboat Springs CO
2 2 Xanthe Demas Telluride CO
3 1 Carmen Fregulia Graeagle CA
4 4 Kelsey Lewis Basalt CO
5 27 Molly Holmes
Junior Men
Finish BIB First Name Last Name City ST
1 13 Kevin McJames
2 12 Miles Honens Orinda CA
3 20 Amon Barker Taos NM
4 18 Duncan Adams Breckenridge CO
5 34 Michael Gardner Ridgway CO
6 6 Austin Prince Los Alamos NM
7 14 Jesse Tibbets Santa Rosa CA
8 28 Grady Jaramillo El Prado NM
9 30 Winn de Burlo El Prado NM
10 19 Brandon Clabaugh Aspen CO
Masters Men
Finish BIB First Name Last Name City ST
1 126 Leo Vanderbosch Telluride CO
2 105 Tim Naylor Ranchos de Taos NM
3 52 Scott Kennett Ridgway CO
Snowboard Men
Finish BIB First Name Last Name City ST
1 123 Jeff Meyer Breckenridge CO
2 96 Jack Wilson Taos NM