Competitive skiers and riders from Grand County left their mark in national and international competitive events this ski season, and they are all planning to spend their summer training to go faster and throw down bigger tricks in the winter of 2013-2014.
The USA Snowboard & Freeski Association (USASA) held their annual National Championships at Copper Mountain during the first two weeks of April, and several Grand County skiers and riders climbed the podium for their age group. USASA is the organization that governs local and national amateur snowboarding and freeskiing contests in the U.S. At the annual national event, the top athletes of 36 regional snowboard series compete with other regional champions to become National Champions.
Lydia Silber took first place in Superpipe and Slopestyle in the 10-11 Girls Snowboard category. The 11-year-old from Fraser won the pipe event in a field of 15 girls with a score of 93.7 by landing a 540 and a 360, and shooting above the lip of the pipe on all her airs.
In Slopestyle, Silber took gold in a field of 17 girls by busting a 360 air and a switch 180 on the kickers, and throwing a backside boardslide and a 50/50 to 180 on the rails.
“Waiting up at the top for my turn to compete can be scary, but being with my friends makes it less nerve-wracking,” said Silber. “I don’t let the competition get to me. I focus on my own run and what I’m doing – I just have fun and enjoy the day.”
Silber is on the Winter Park Snowboard Team under the coaching of Nick Nagel, Michelle Whitson and Ben Berberich. She is sponsored by Flow Snowboarding, Von Zipper Goggles, Powder Tools of Winter Park and Winter Park Resort.
Nabbing a gold medal for women 40 to 49 in Giant Slalom was Karla Whitacre of Hot Sulphur Springs. Other local riders who saw success at the Nationals include Nick Stephanie with a 9th place finish and Fred Silber with 15th (both in Slopestyle), and Max William, 28th (Superpipe) – all three in the 12 -13 Boys category.
In the skiing portion of USASA’s National Championships, 13-year-old Birk Irving of Winter Park was the youngest semi-pro competitor in the Skier Superpipe Open Class. He took 7th in a field of 16 men. Birk’s 11-year-old sister, Svea, also took home a gold medal in the 10-12 Girls Skier Superpipe.
Cal Carson skied to a silver in Slopestyle for 13-15 Boys and also placed fifth in Superpipe. Cody Ray placed fourth in Superpipe for 16 to 18 year-old men. The aforementioned skiers are all coached by Jeremie Livingston, Winter Park Competition Center’s Freeski Head Coach.
Siblings Elizabeth and Patrick O’Connell both had good showings in their first year of NorAm (North American Cup) freestyle skiing competition. Elizabeth, 16, placed 7th in Single Moguls at the U.S. Ski Team Selections in December. This qualified her for the NorAm Cup Finals in Telluride and Apex, Canada, where she placed 15th in Dual Moguls at both.
Patrick, 18, qualified for the NorAm Circuit next season with strong finishes this season including a 7th place in Dual Moguls at the Junior Olympics.
And last but certainly not least is ski aerial wonder Nik Seamann of Fraser, who mastered a twisting double backflip while training on water jumps at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City. By the end of the summer, the 15-year-old had added another twist onto his double backflip, and those two tricks vaulted him to 15th and 8th place in the two days of the U.S. Aerial Selection in December at Park City. His performances there earned him a forerunner spot at the Deer Valley World Cup in February.
At a NorAm aerial event in February, Seemann took 5th place among top aerialists from the U.S. and Canada, then hammered home a win and a 3rd place at the Aerial Warmups. At the Junior Nationals in March, he took 5th among much older competitors.
At his final event of the season in Heavenly, Calif., he finished 11th, sealing a 12th-place season ranking of all the aerial skiers in the country and 49th overall in world rankings. He does his winter training at Park City and Winter Park, and if you want to catch a glimpse of him, look skyward.