X-treme competition comes to Sugar Bowl | SierraSun.com

X-treme competition comes to Sugar Bowl

Paul Raymore, Sierra Sun

Court Leve/Sun news serviceA snowboarder spots his line through the course at the X Game qualifier at Sugar Bowl.

The music was loud, the sun was bright, the Red Bull was flowing and the spectators were out in force last weekend at Sugar Bowl where almost 200 competitors vied for the final 11 qualifying slots in ESPN’s Winter X Games scheduled for Jan. 24-27 in Aspen, Colo.

Coming out on top and with an invitation to next weekend’s X Games women’s Boarder X competition was 13-year-old South Lake Tahoe phenom Jamie Anderson who dominated the field throughout the competition, winning every heat she entered. Joining Anderson on the podium were Jeff Greenwood from Boulder, Colo., in men’s Boarder X; Casey Puckett of Snowmass, Colo., in men’s Skier X; and Katie Stroshin from Whistler, BC, in women’s Skier X.

Competitors from as far away as Nagano, Japan, and Quebec, Canada, joined many local skiers and snowboarders in the Skier X and Boarder X (the ‘X’ stands for ‘cross’) competitions, in which racers negotiate a man-made course filled with berms, tight banked turns, an intimidating step-down and a long series of large jumps, seeking to cross the finish line first.

The Sugar Bowl course was unique due to its length and difficulty.

“I heard many of them (the competitors) commenting that this course was harder than what they’ll face in the X Games,” said Sugar Bowl Terrain Park Coordinator Trevor Tanhoff.

Tanhoff, who helped design the race course along with Lead Grooming Supervisor Jesse Collins and X Games course planner Greg Novello, wanted the course to be difficult and to offer competitors multiple opportunities to take over the lead.

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“We wanted a diversity of terrain out there – we wanted more than just your basic rollers and jumps,” Tanhoff said. “We had a pretty significant step-down in there, and I think that was a significant difference from other courses we’ve seen out there. Another difference was that our course was top-to-bottom. We wanted it to be lengthy so if a competitor went down up top, they still had a chance to get back into it.”

Friday featured a qualifying round in which racers competed in individual time trials down the course with the top eight women in both Skier X and Boarder X making it through to the finals. Because of the much larger field on the men’s side, 32 racers made it through to the finals held Saturday and Sunday in which competitors raced simultaneously in heats of four, with the top two finishers moving on to the later rounds.

Up for grabs were two invitations to the X Games for both the men’s and women’s Boarder X top finishers (meaning that the top two men and the top two women all received invites), three invitations for the women’s Skier X top finishers, and four invitations for the men’s Skier X top finishers.

And taking home those precious invites were: Jeff Greenwood and Brad Tetreau in men’s Boarder X; Jamie Anderson and Marni Yamada in women’s Boarder X; Katie Stroshin, Asia Jenkins and Holly Shelton in women’s Skier X; and Casey Pucket, Ryan McCullough, Tyler Sheperd and Brett Fischer in men’s Skier X.

Women’s Border X winner and 13-year-old South Lake Tahoe rider Jamie Anderson will now have to compete against her older sister Joanie Anderson, who had already qualified to compete in the X Games Border X and Superpipe competitions next weekend.

Said Jamie of her winning run, “When I first went it was really good with perfect snow, and then as it (the day) went on, it got more slow and slushy. And then in the final run, I was in second, I got a hole shot and she passed me before the third berm, and then I went on the inside and just went ahead.”

Jamie’s mom Lauren was thrilled to have two daughters competing in the X Games.

“I didn’t think she was going to be mature enough to pull it off because she’s only 13,” she said, “and I know she’s strong, but I figured it was going to be a little more mental. But she’s just really strong . . . She’s got two older sisters that compete and a younger sister that competes and they all just egg each other on.”

Besides Anderson, Reno skier Katie Deist put together a strong weekend, with the best time in women’s Skier X in Friday’s time trials and a fourth-place finish in Sunday’s final race.

Sugar Bowl organizers were excited to see so many spectators present at the event, and they are already in talks to host the event again next year.

“By sending 11 athletes to the X Games, we’re making up almost 20 percent of the field,” said Colleen Dalton, marketing director for Sugar Bowl.

“The people here are really cool people,” said Rob Marsden, who came up from Chico to help set up the course and watch the races. “Everybody who is coming out for this just has a really good attitude, and I’m glad to see that people are taking an interest in Sugar Bowl and everybody really came together to put this on.”

ESPN’s Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo. will run Jan. 24 – 27 and will feature athletes competing in skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and freestyle motocross competitions. For more information and to follow the progress of Tahoe-area riders in the X Games log on to http://www.expn.com.

Men’s Skier X top four:

1) Casey Pucket of Snowmass, Colo.

2) Ryan McCullough of Lakewood, Colo.

3) Tyler Sheperd of Boulder, Colo.

4) Brett Fischer of Denver, Colo.

Women’s Skier X top four:

1) Katie Stroshin of Whistler, BC

2) Asia Jenkins of Aspen, Colo.

3) Holly Shelton of Denver, Colo.

4) Katie Deist of Reno, Nev.

Men’s Boarder X top four:

1) Jeff Greenwood of Boulder, Colo.

2) Brad Tetreau of Kelowna, BC

3) Chelone Miller of Franconia, N.H.

4) Cliff Dimon of Crested Butte, Colo.

Women’s Boarder X top four:

1) Jamie Anderson of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

2) Marni Yamada of Seattle, Wash.

3) Kym Cragnolini of New South Wales, Australia

4) Carrie Bispo of McCall, Idaho