McElhiney, Steamboat skiers shine at home USASA slopestyle event
Steamboat Springs — “Hardly ever” is how Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club freeskier team coach Tony Lodico sums up the frequency his young skiers get to show off at home.
It’s largely a road grind for the club’s competitive slopestyle group, except for the once-in-a-great-while event like Sunday’s USASA Rocky Mountain Series competition at Steamboat Ski Area’s Mavericks Terrain Park.
“This is it for the season,” Lodico said after the event. “It’s awesome. It’s really fun for these guys to be a part of it. USASA sort of helps battle down some of the stereotypes of what park skiing is. It’s sort of a family. We had like 250 families come into town for some park skiing, so that’s cool.”
Roughly 90 skiers from all over the Rocky Mountain scene and beyond hit the park, including a handful of local products making a late-season push toward nationals at Copper Mountain in about six weeks.
In the open skier men’s class, Frisco’s Gregory Spaulding threw down the best two-run score for the win. Boulder’s Andre Hamm and Park City’s Ryan McElmon took second and third, respectively.
Steamboat’s Katie Hitchcock was the lone open women’s skier, putting together a 40.67 two-run average.
Liam Baxter, of Steamboat, took home his first slopestyle win in the skier boys’ 10-12 division, outlasting second-place Connor Ladd by fewer than three points. Winter Park’s Svea Irving was the top skier girls’ 10-12 competitor, and Oak Creek’s Riley Jacobs was a bronze medalist in the division.
In the 9-and-under class, Axl Bonenberger took a gold medal back to Breckenridge. Cael McCarthy was the top local finisher in the age group with a fourth-place score.
Steamboat’s Payton McElhiney continued his ascent in the freeskier circuit with his first-place finish in the men’s 13-15 division. Teammate Kai Doyle was second by about six points, and Vail’s Reagan Wallis was third.
“He took a step up to the Revolution Tour this year,” Lodico said about McElhiney, noting that he is heading to Mt. Hood soon for competition. “He’s got style for days. He looks good in the air. He’s starting to make a name for himself.”
The men’s 16-18 class was taken by a diverse pool with the winner, Connor Flynn, hailing from Portola Valley, California, the silver medalist, Robby Wheeler, coming from Centennial, and the bronze medalist, Jacob Tapper-Norris, skiing out of New Zealand.
Josie Seibel, a Steamboat product, took home the win in the women’s 13-15 division, rounding out the day’s scores.
On Feb. 28, Vail is hosting the season’s final slopestyle event before Steamboat’s athletes have about a month off from competition.
“We’re closing in on the finish,” Lodico said. “We’ve got a month from our last contest until nationals to dust off some stuff. We’ll pull the airbag back out so hopefully they’ll have a few totally new tricks.”
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Things are normally pretty quiet around the base area of Steamboat Resort this time of year, but a lot has happened since the ski area closed following the 2020-21 season.