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Freestyle teams ready for the bumps

Morgan Daly, Sun News Service

Freestyle ski teams from around Lake Tahoe were able to get some mountain training thanks to the early November snowfall. Alpine Meadows was the first California resort to have a full mogul course set up this season, and welcomed athletes from other teams to train there.

The Alpine freestyle team got started in 1995, but is well on its way to competing at a national level. David Beck, a senior at North Tahoe High School, was last year’s Far West combined champion and Matt Matuskowitz, also a NTHS senior, earned spots at the U.S. qualifiers and the Junior Olympics. Though it may be a few more years until Alpine Meadows has a few members of its team on the national squad, the program has a strong start.

“We dominate in aerials and are closing the gap in moguls,” said Clay Beck, head coach and program director of the Alpine Meadows Freestyle Team, which will host a Far West division single format mogul competition Dec. 17.

Squaw Valley, recognized for consistently having one of the best freestyle teams in the country, has several athletes on the U.S. Ski Team including Shannon Bahrke, Tony Basile and Laurel Shanley.

After being named the Far West Division Skier of the Year in 1999, Shanley competed on the Nor Am circuit last season and won first overall in duals at the the 2000 U.S. Selection event last December at Squaw Valley.

While training with the U.S. team in Colorado earlier this season, Shanley won an informal intra-team competition, which may not be official enough for a resume but is definitely some worthy foreshadowing for the coming season.

With this year’s U.S. Freestyle Ski Team selections coming up Dec. 11-15 at Snowbird in Utah, it looks like Shanley will be moving up to the World Cup circuit this season. Shanley will also go to the U.S. Nationals at Winter Park Dec. 8-10.

Travis Ramos who is from the Sierra-at-Tahoe team but often trains with Squaw Valley, will most likely be rejoining the U.S. Team after dropping off last season due to disagreements. Jessica Davis, who played on the North Tahoe High School state championship varsity soccer team with Shanley, is recovering from knee injuries, but if she heals well Davis has a very good chance at earning a spot on the national team.

“Despite the youth factor, every skier on the Squaw team that is going to selections has as much natural talent and drive as anyone on the Olympic team,” said Ramos.

While the Squaw Valley team has all but taken over Far West mogul events, the Heavenly team is working on its aerials. Heavenly has an especially young team this season as many of the athletes aren’t even in high school yet, but that doesn’t stop them from flying of the jumps in Heavenly’s terrain park. Heavenly is looking forward to competing in terrain park aerials, a new event in Far West this season.

“It’s what the kids are doing anyway,” said Jere Crawford, head coach of the Heavenly Freestyle team.

The fact that the athletes spend most of their free time in the park and spend four nights a week in a rigorous dry land training program including two nights of gymnastics means that Heavenly will be a favorite in this new event.

While it is still too early in the season to make predictions about how athletes will fare, it is likely that the early snowfall and training will be a major advantage for all the freestyle teams in the Far West Division.


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