It’s no secret the West has had less than favorable winter conditions with below average snow accumulations. However, the conditions have not stopped Wasatch Academy snow sports athletes from training and preparing for the International Freeskiers & Snowboarders Association (IFSA) Rocky Mountain Freeride Series competition on Monarch Mountain in Colorado.
The ski area, while lesser known in the ski-centric state of Colorado, was an ideal venue for a freeride competition. It operates on 100-percent natural snowfall and is littered with high-quality tree skiing and natural features atop Monarch Pass in Colorado’s picturesque Sawatch Range.
Wasatch Academy athletes Lily Bowen, Teagan Ahlers, Charlie Clifford, and Grant Hopkins climbed up 800-feet vertical at 12,000 ft elevation on the face of Monarch mountain to the High Anxiety run to arrive at the start gate. Each athlete then picked the line they would take to qualify for finals.
Judges score athletes based on the line they choose, the control the athlete demonstrates, air and style, fluidity, and technique.
Having never competed in any ski event, Bowen scored 14 points on her first ever run. Clifford scored 12.63 and showed great leadership both on and off the snow as the team captain. Ahlers and Hopkins had successful first runs that qualified them for the finals. Ahlers’ first run scored her 27.77 points, and Hopkins scored 25.47 points.
The second day of the competition came with a new challenge, 60 mph winds. Ahlers and Hopkins stayed optimistic as they picked their line for finals. Ahlers had a successful run. However, a last-minute change in her line cost her valuable points. Ahlers finished the competition 5th with a total of 53.54 points.
Hopkins’ run started strong, but a missed landing caused an unexpected crash leaving Hopkins with a final score of 40.97 finishing in 9th place. “Out of the 1,200 people that tried to be in this competition with only 120 athletes actually selected, I feel our team did very well,” says Chris Nester, Wasatch Academy Head Snow Sports Coach. “They competed against kids that are way more seasoned in the sport and still outperformed most of them. I couldn’t be prouder.”