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Freestyle team selection event in Steamboat could catapult careers

Jordan McMannis, of the Missoula, Mont., Freestyle Ski Team, flies off the top jump of the Voo Doo run moguls course at Steamboat Ski Area on Friday. The U.S. Freestyle Ski Team selections begin today.
Joel Reichenberger

Schedule

U.S. Freestyle Ski Team selections

■ Today’s moguls competition

9:15 a.m. Women’s qualification

11:35 a.m. Men’s qualification

1:45 p.m. Women’s finals, top 16

2:20 p.m. Men’s finals, top 16

■ Tuesday moguls competition

9:15 a.m. Women’s qualification

11:35 a.m. Men’s qualification

1:45 p.m. Women’s finals, top 16

2:20 p.m. Men’s finals, top 16

■ Wednesday dual moguls competition

9:45 Women’s qualification

10:50 Men’s qualification

1:15 Men’s and women’s finals

Schedule

U.S. Freestyle Ski Team selections

■ Today’s moguls competition

9:15 a.m. Women’s qualification



11:35 a.m. Men’s qualification

1:45 p.m. Women’s finals, top 16



2:20 p.m. Men’s finals, top 16

■ Tuesday moguls competition

9:15 a.m. Women’s qualification

11:35 a.m. Men’s qualification

1:45 p.m. Women’s finals, top 16

2:20 p.m. Men’s finals, top 16

■ Wednesday dual moguls competition

9:45 Women’s qualification

10:50 Men’s qualification

1:15 Men’s and women’s finals

— The easiest thing is to simply not think about it, Brittany Loweree said.

Loweree, 20, a freestyle skier, stood Friday with Steamboat Springs, where she has trained for three years, spread out below her. This week, she’ll have a whole world of opportunity spread out before her as she and more than 200 other athletes compete in the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team moguls selections.

With a few good trips down Mayer’s Mogul Run on Voo Doo at Steamboat Ski Area, Loweree would earn a spot on the U.S. Ski Team, a huge jump for the NorAm veteran.

Two spots on the U.S. Ski Team will be awarded in the event, which kicks off today.

“I try not to think about it,” Loweree said. “I try to keep my nerves under control, to just ski and do the same thing I’ve been doing all summer and fall.”

A 9:15 a.m. today, single-moguls competition starts the action. Skiers will go once to earn a chance at the finals and then those who qualify will get one more run to secure the win.

Another single moguls competition awaits Tuesday. A dual moguls event, in which two skiers simultaneously attack the course and winners advance through a bracket to win, is Wednesday, wrapping up the week.

The top skiers from the three competitions by aggregate score will be chosen. Two will join the U.S. Ski Team, and others can lock up valuable spots on the NorAm freestyle circuit.

“It’s possible,” Steamboat skier Rob Burden said about his chances at landing on the team.

He spent his summer guiding for Steamboat Flyfisher and said this first big event of his season is more about getting his groove back than punching his ticket.

Still, though, it’s difficult to ignore the possibilities.

“I try not to, but it’s hard not to think about,” he said. “It’s a long shot, but it’s possible.”

Nerves aren’t only spread among those clicking in for what could be life-changing dashes.

Winter Sports Club freestyle coach Rob Day said the buildup to selections had him a little stressed out, as well. Day has designed and built plenty of moguls courses in his career. He played a major role in putting together the course last year that played host to high-profile events, including the U.S. Olympic Trials for the freestyle team.

But when he took to making the run on Voo Doo for this year’s team selections, he was the main man cutting a course for a national venue for the first time.

“Courses are a big deal,” he said Friday at the bottom of the run with one eye turned uphill as athletes and workers slipped and chopped the snow into shape.

“It’s exciting, and I’m a little stressed out,” he said. “I wanted to give everyone the best chance to do well, not just our own athletes, but everyone skiing here.

“There are a lot of bad courses out there. I wanted this one to be perfect.”

Day said he learned from one of the best, Timmy Meagher, who built Steamboat’s courses for years. Meagher is serving as a coach for the U.S. Ski Team this winter and is sticking with the World Cup circuit.

Still, Meag­her’s influence is evident in this year’s design.

“This is Timmy’s course, his trail,” Day said. “That’s how I learned how to build courses like this, from him. Everything I’ve ever done to build a course, he’s taught me. I only made a few minor changes this year.”

Meagher built last year’s track to feature even but large moguls. This year’s is similar, with a few small revisions thrown in to mix skiers up. A moguls course has two mandatory spots for jumps with stretches of moguls between them, the start and the finish. This year’s version of Voo Doo has the top jump a little higher than in years past, and the bottom jump a little lower.

That leaves a long, treacherous section of bumps in the middle that the winners of the three-competition event will need to use rocket speed to rip through.

“You can go really big off the airs,” Burden said. “The middle section is a little sharp, a little tough, and you have to be on top of it. But overall, it’s a challenging course.”

There’s no particular strategy that makes it easier, Loweree ex­­plained. Instead, she plans to ride this course throughout the next four days the way she always has.

“I just need to ski my best and lay down a sweet run,” she said.


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