The past 5 days I've spent at Kirkwood trying to qualify and compete in the 3rd tour stop of the Freeskiing World Tour (FWT), The North American Freeskiing Championships at Kirkwood.
I needed to do a one-run qualifier on Thursday on Lookout Vista to earn the right to compete against the rest of the pre-qualified World Tour skiers in the semi-finals on Friday, and then hopefully the Finals as well on Saturday. The last time the FWT came to Kirkwood (2007), i was able to make the Finals, so I wanted to at least equal that showing and hopefully better.
Wedneday was athlete check-in day and venue inspection on Lookout Vista, the qualifying venue. Conditions were extremely hard and bony with the words "coral reef" being used by many of the competitors to describe the snow conditions. Freeze/thaw cycles in the Tahoe region can mean bone crushing conditions on south/southeast facing slopes such as Lookout Vista. Thankfully however, temps were to rise into the 50's on competition day so by 12:30 or 1, things should've been softening up given a distinct advantage to the competitors in the latter half of the start order. Unfortunately, I was scheduled drop 20th out of 74 skiers, so when I was going conditiosn were going to still be pretty firm. Oh well.
Two years ago, I qualified for this thing taking a line that nobody else did. And this year I wanted to do the same. So I spent Wednesday trying to find a line that no one else would think of getting into.....and luckily I found it. My eyes were continually drawn to a cluster of rocks just off the peak that seemed to hold a sliver of snow for a landing strip in a mandatory straight line. I thought of I could air this rock cluster and land in the mandatory straightline, I could earn a difficult line score. The problem was that the cluster of rocks was so rocky, there was no clean way into the takeoff spot I needed to be in to land on the small strip of snow. So I spent Wednesday, shoveling snow on rocks and building myself a small little ramp that could be onto the tight patch of snow for takeoff that would line me up perfectly for the tight landing zone.
So Thursday, qualifying day comes along and I'm nervous as hell wondering if the snow is too firm for the line I have picked out, but before I know it, it's my turn to drop and I have no choice but to trust my judgement and go for the line I picked out. Things went well enough that I made the cut and qualified for Day 1 of the FWT which meant I was skiing Friday from the top of lookers right in the permanantly closed Cirque.
Unfortunately, Friday didn't go so well for me. I picked out a line from the top that not a lot of competitors were taking, but those that did go into this rocky zone, were well rewarded with high scores (i.e. top 5 - 10 type scores).....and since I joined this thing trying to be more competitive this year (i.e. do better than "just make it through) I decided that I was going to go into this more risky zone. However, things didn't work out, and I got bucked by some firm snow above an air and ended up somersaulting over a cliff band and onto some frozen traverse tracks in the landing zone resulting in some bruised ribs. After I crashed, I knew I was out of the competition, so I just cruised GS turns down to the bottom and I didn't even want to finish the rest of my planned line as my ribs were hurting pretty good. Grrr.....I'm pretty pissed at myself for not sticking my line as I know it's something that I can ski.
Anyway, here's a POV helmet cam vid of my qualifying run and my semi-final run. Kept in some extra footage of the hike to the starting area, and of the starting tent and what not to try to give you a feel of what it's like up there.
Click on "HQ" in the bottom right corner to watch in higher resolution: