The late afternoon light pitches itself across the landing of the last jump in Carinthia's Gulch Terrain Park, the low angle rays shine warmly and brightly onto my face. Bringing a hand up to shade my eyes, I watch as a flurry of activity takes place at the bottom of the slopestyle course, as event organizers and staff look to conclude the day's event with an awards presentation—the 2012 Carinthia Open is drawing to a close.
Over the whirr of drills pitting the snow for banners, hurried conversation and athletes' names being added to the novelty checks, I turn to Matt Gebo, Mount Snow's Director of Marketing and Events who's standing nearby. "So, how many years have you guys been putting this event on?" Gebo, who's recently come back to the East Coast after touring the ski industry byways—working for large resorts out West—pauses for a moment of consideration and answers, "I think we're in our fifth, maybe our sixth year," he says with a slight bit of hesitation, as if he's fact checking himself.
Covering events, it's a question I use often to break into a larger discussion, usually about how the event went, what, if anything went wrong (which is usually the weather) and what we might look forward to next year. I should know the answer myself as I've made the trek out to Southern Vermont for the past two years to cover the event but even I was stumped at that moment in regards to the Carinthia Open's origins.
"Open" events have had a bit of a checkered past on the East Coast. As the sport of freeskiing gained prominence as a legitimate discipline around the start of the millennium, sponsors and mountains eagerly hosted top level talent from all over the world by putting together large events with even larger purses. Among those early events were the likes of The East Coast Freeskiing Open and Vermont Open. Starting as early as 2003, these events helped cast a spotlight on the Northeast, and the athletes who live here. But only four season later, The Vermont Open and East Coast Freeskiing Open existed no longer, leaving a chasm in the East Coast competition scene.
Enter the Paul Mitchell Open Freeski Tour. Started during the 2007/08 season this event was the first credited as employing the "qualifying jam session," the result of direction from Simon Dumont and Jon Olsson; competitors were awarded bibs (a token signifying a skier had advanced to the final round) based on the merit's of their performance during the open qualifiers and not on a pre-scripted invite list. The result? Skiers were able to take multiple runs, leaving the pressure of the two-run-max behind them. In its inaugural year, the tour would make stops in Breckinridge, Big Bear and Mount Snow. One year later, Paul Mitchell would drop out leaving the tour series without a title sponsor and thus, a scratch for the 2009 season. Again, the East Coast would be without any major Open events for up and coming athletes.
That was until Mount Snow stepped in March of that year. According to a 2009 press release Greg Fisher, the Marketing and Events Director at the time, was quoted as saying, “We already have 75 freeskiers signed up for this event, and it’s obvious they are passionate; we have a great venue here at Carinthia. It’d be a shame not to host the Freeski Open.” And so the reigns of the tour, now a single event, were passed to Mount Snow.
Four years later, Mount Snow continues to be a conduit for the youth of the sport to hone their skills in front of a crowd, pacing themselves against veteran talent on course and pursuing the $10,000 in prize money. The event has seen skiers come from obscurity to the top of today's freeski scene. Past podiums have included the likes of Chris Logan, Kolby Ward, Tim McChesney, Parker White, Nick Goepper and Chris Laker. Now situated on the calendar between larger events like The North Face Park and Pipe Open series and The Dumont Cup, the annual event has become a cornerstone stop for competitors on the competition circuit.
As the final touches of the podium are dropped into place, the emcee shuffles the growing crowd into the finish corral, which gathers to hear who'll take the cake. "And the 2012 winners are…"
I'd later catch up with a few of the competitors from the day's event—including those who podiumed—to gather their reactions to the Carinthia Open. 18-year-old Canadian Noah Morrison came to the East specifically for the Dumont Cup, but decided to enter the comp at the last minute.
"It was a super fun event, I really enjoyed myself. The weather was great and the vibe was awesome," said Morrison. Speaking further towards the jam format, Morrison noted, "It really helps take the pressure off of qualifying runs so that you can just have a fun session in the morning and then get really focused for finals in the afternoon."
Morrison had placed third for the men's Pro Division with a front 450 out, to 450 on / 270 out on the top rail features, a right cork 9, switch left misty 9 and left cork 9 tail through the bottom jump section.
(Above: Jaime Crane Mauzy.) 19-year-old and Park City resident Jaime Crane Mauzy would agree with Morrison's statement, saying, "Mount Snow always has a super fun vibe to the comp, starting out with jam qualifiers, the BBQ, and an awesome finals." Crane Mauzy, who scored first place during the 2010 event before going down for two seasons with knee injuries, commented on the conditions: "Through the whole day I focused really hard on the conditions, Mount Snow did a great job keeping the course alive, but it was extremely sticky, rutted out snow—scary for those knees."
Crane Mauzy would top the women's podium with a conservative rail section, finishing with a backflip, right 360 mute and left 540 high safety poke. Joining her would be Julia Krass and Molly Prosser in 2nd and third respectively.
With the winter of 2012 never truly arriving here on the East Coast, event organizers had moved the course from Inferno, which has hosted events like the Dew Tour and other Open events in the past, to Gulch, Mount Snow's original terrain park, which muted the scale of the jumps. The course itself would suffer from the late season's summer like temperatures, where speed would become the issue of the day but due to the efforts of the amazing park staff, the heat's effects on the course were moderately negated, letting the good vibes of the day prevail. Vermont Local was upbeat about Mount Snow's efforts.
(Right: Dale Talkington.) "I wish it could of been a little bigger jumps, but for the snow there is they did a great job," said competitor Dale Talkington. Talkington would top the podium for the Men's Pro Division with a run that included a bind 630, 450/blind 270 through the rail section, finishing with a right 900 blunt, switch 900 blunt and a rodeo 900 safety.
The podium would be rounded out by 22-year-old Park City resident Ryan Wyble, who'd join Talkington and Morrison on the podium in second place.
Women's Podium (L-R: Molly Prosser, Jaime Crane Mauzy, Julia Krass)
Men's Podium (L-R: Noah Morrison, Dale Talkington, Ryan Wyble)