Freestyle skiing competition gets the green light this weekend at Steamboat Ski Area

Ben Ingersoll
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club freestyle skier Avital Shimko gets airborne Friday during a training run at Steamboat Ski Area's Voo Doo run. Shimko and her teammates were prepping for this weekend's Ski Town USA Freestyle competition, held Saturday, Sunday and Monday all on the same course.
Ben Ingersoll

— Simply hosting a freestyle skiing competition has been a bit of a cat-and-mouse game for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

First, there wasn’t enough snow. A three-week snow drought coupled with higher-than-normal temperatures between late November and early December canceled the Rocky Mountain Division freestyle opener.

Then the Steamboat Ski Area Voo Doo moguls course got blasted with a 17-day stretch of snow, opening up the window of opportunity for this weekend’s Ski Town USA Freestyle competition, another Rocky Mountain Division competitive series event.

As that window opened up, though, it threatened to slam shut again earlier this week when the winter’s coldest days showed up, including the coldest day of the entire 2014 calendar year on New Year’s Eve.

But with huge help from ski area officials and workers and some extra Winter Sports Club man hours prepping Voo Doo, the Ski Town USA Freestyle is a full go starting Saturday, attracting a jam-packed start list of 110 men and women up-and-coming talent.

“I think a lot of other mountains would have tried to scratch the event,” Winter Sports Club freestyle ability coach Mike Amato said. “The ski area was willing to pay overtime for cat drivers and overtime for snowmaking to make this happen. We really appreciate Steamboat. I think they should get a big shout out for that.”

Skiers from all over the Rocky Mountain Division — including club athletes representing Winter Park, Vail, Telluride, Aspen and Australia — spent a three-hour block Friday training on Voo Doo’s course, and the course needed it.

Despite all the last-minute work put into the slope to get it ready for the three-day competition, it desperately longed for some extra carving on the moguls and some test runs on its jumps, Winter Sports Club athlete Avital Shimko said.

“The moguls are super tiny so it’s kind of hard to wiggle through,” Shimko said after her final training run Friday. “Hopefully, they’ll build up. My first run to my last training run was like a day and night difference, though.”

Shimko will lead a group of Winter Sports Club women’s athletes that Amato said is working its way toward the upper echelon of freestyle skiing club teams in the United States.

The 18-year-old took a pair of top-10 finishes at the U.S. Selections event at Winter Park a few weeks back, earning her the opportunity at North American Cup starts, a level just under World Cup starts.

“They’ve been working us pretty hard,” said Shimko, widely known by her Winter Sports Club coaches as “Avalanche.” “It’s definitely a new training regimen for me. Last year, I didn’t really go to the gym. Now it’s more intense but in a good way. We have great teammates. It’s hard, but we have a good team doing it so we make it fun.”

Also showing out as of late on the Winter Sports Club women’s side are Jaelin Kauf and Lindsay Mustard. World Cup qualifier and Winter Sports Club product Lane Stoltzner won’t be in any of the lineups this weekend in Steamboat. Stoltzner is training in Deer Valley, Utah, for a pair of upcoming World Cup starts, Amato said.

The Shimko, Kauf and Mustard trio also are registered for Monday’s daul moguls event that will cap off the Ski Town USA Freestyle.

“I think Avital Shimko and Jaelin Kauf are going to be two girls you’ll have to look for this year,” Amato said. “They are some of the strongest skiers” competing this weekend.

On the men’s side, nine Winter Sports Club athletes will be competing in Saturday’s opening singles moguls run. In Sunday’s singles moguls, Ryan Dyer will lead in the local contingent. Dyer also is coming off a strong showing at Winter Park with a pair of podium finishes.

“We worked really hard in the early season so I think our kids are more than ready, and I think the results will show off,” Amato said.

All three days’ runs will start shortly after 10 a.m.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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