SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Heavenly Mountain Resort will host the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships this Friday through Sunday — part of a two-year deal to bring the country’s best moguls and aerials skiers back to Tahoe’s South Shore.
Heavenly also hosted the U.S. Freestyle Championships in 2004, as well as FIS World Cup Freestyle events in 1999 and 2000.
“Building on our heritage of freestyle skiing and competition that dates back to its roots in the 1970’s, we’re excited and honored to host the 2012-13 and 2013-14 U.S. Freestyle Championships at Heavenly on Gunbarrel,” said Pete Sonntag, Heavenly’s general manager. “Gunbarrel is the most iconic moguls run in North America and has spawned such great skiers as Glen Plake and current U.S. Freestyle Ski Team athlete Sho Kashima. It’s the ultimate challenge for America’s top freestyle skiers.”
The national event also offers young, up-and-coming freestyle skiers, including many from the Lake Tahoe area, the opportunity to compete alongside the best U.S. Ski Team athletes.
Eleven members of the Squaw Valley Freestyle and Freeride Team — aka SquawFree — earned that opportunity. They include Jake Hickman, Trevor Semmens, Riley McGuire-McCarthy, Austin Hoadley, Kyle Wescott, Bryn Anderson, Lynne Hickman, Sophia Marseilles, Julia Semmens, Emily Tewksbury and Tamara Wescott.
Starting Friday with the men’s and women’s moguls, the athletes will take to the resort’s freestyle arena located near the California Lodge base area, with the moguls competition commencing on the Gunbarrel run. The aerials will be held at the base of World Cup run in California, adjacent to Gunbarrel.
Plake, the resort’s famous Mohawk-sporting, extreme-skiing pioneer, knows a bit about Heavenly’s history, and he said there isn’t a better-suited mountain in the country to host such an event.
“Heavenly has a tradition of hosting the biggest freestyle events in the land, dating back to the 1970s Hot Dogging contests,” Plake said. “The 2013 Freestyle Nationals belong at Heavenly, and for the competitors, what a pleasure to be competing on such hallowed ground.”
The moguls of Gunbarrel have been home and training ground for several amateur and pro mogul skiers, including Chris Hernandez, Brooke Ballachey, Travis Woodcock, Christy Tibbetts and Travis Cabral, as well as Kashima and rising stars Ryan Hickey and Anna Park.
“I’m very excited that the next two U.S. Championships will be held on my home mountain,” said Kashima, a current U.S. Freestyle Team athlete. “This event brings the best moguls and aerials skiers in the nation to the best freestyle skiing venue in the world. It will be a great event for the community of South Lake Tahoe, especially with the 2013-14 Championships being held at Heavenly leading up to and immediately following the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.”
Heavenly is one of only a handful of resorts to recently host the championships two years in a row, joining Stratton Mountain Resort (2011, 2012), Squaw Valley (2009, 2010) and Killington (2006, 2007).