It seems that every time you look, there are more parts to freestyle skiing than there were the last time. Now there is half pipe, slope style and skier cross. But the bread-and-butter events, the ones that routinely draw the ooohs and the ahhs, remain the aerials with the remarkable gymnastic elements and the moguls, where you can feel your knees crack just watching the competitors navigate the bumps and jumps.
Both events will be featured next week at Lake Placid in the only World Cup skiing event that will be held in the East this winter. The men’s and women’s mogul competition will be held Thursday at Whiteface starting at 9:15 a.m., with the finals in both events set to start at 2:40 p.m. on the Wilderness trail, just up from the mountain mid-station.
The aerials will be next Friday and Saturday at the Olympic Jumping Center just east of the village. The men’s and women’s qualification jumps will be held in the afternoon both days, while the competition will be under the lights each evening, starting at 8.
This will be one of only three World Cups this season that feature both aerials and moguls competition. It seems that while there are suitable bump runs that can be built just about anywhere, aerial facilities are a lot less common. And when there are few facilities “there seem to be fewer competitors and less interest” said Niskayuna resident Jay Simson, who for years has been the U.S. delegate to the FIS, the world governing body for snowsports.
Simson began his association with freestyle skiing in the 1970s and rose through the judging ranks to become the chief judge at the Winter Olympic Games at Nagano in 1998. His wife Sarah, whom he met at a judge’s clinic in Lake Placid, can easily hold up her end of a conversation about the sport. She was a judge at the World Championships in 2011 and will be in Sweden later this winter to judge a World Cup event there.
So how do you judge an event where the movement is so quick and there is no video replay?
“Every move in both aerials and moguls have criteria for judging.” said Jay. “What we look for is ‘purposeful motion.’ ”
And those with less than a World Cup judge-trained eye: how do you watch these events?
“The easiest thing to look for is line and balance,” said Sarah. “In moguls, that means a straight line down the hill and a quiet upper body.”
Still, it isn’t easy. And there is no replay!
At least in the aerials, the competitors announce what they intend to do. “In moguls, it is anything they want to do at any time,” said Jay.
The competition in Lake Placid is drawing unusually close attention this time because it marks the return of Hannah Kearney, the Norwich, Vt., resident who set a snowsports record last year, winning 16 consecutive World Cup and World Championship competitions. Kearney, 26, is the reigning Olympic Champion, but has been sidelined since October when she was injured in a training accident in Switzerland.
Other Americans to watch at Lake Placid will be moguls skiers Heather McPhie, brothers Bryon and Brad Wilson and Jeremy Cota.
In the aerial events, the Chinese women, led by Mengtao Xu, are the overwhelming favorites, with the Canadians, led by Mikael Kingsbury, fielding a strong team in the men’s competition. The top American in the field is the veteran Emily Cook. American Ashley Caldwell, who won this event as a teenager two years ago, is out with an injury.
Recent Union College graduate Kelsey Albert will be getting her first World Cup start at Lake Placid. There is a solid tradition of people with local ties doing well in the freestyle event. Nikki Stone, a 1995 Union graduate, won the first Olympic gold medal in women’s aerials in 1998 at Nagano.
Back in the days when it was called “Hot Dog” skiing, Latham’s Tommy LeRoy was one of the pioneers when he was doing flips in the 1960s. The Post twins, Marion and Ellen from Averill Park, were standouts in the 1970s, followed by Tami St. Germain, also from Averill Park and Bruce Boleski from Melrose and John Witt from Saratoga Springs, who were top competitors up into the 1990s.
For those who are fans of the Winter Olympics, the same competitors you will see on television in 2014 will be competing a short drive away. And it will be a lot easier to see them up close next week in Lake Placid.
LAKE PLACID LOPPET
The biggest citizen’s cross country race in our region is the Lake Placid Loppet, which this year is scheduled for Jan. 26. This is the 30th year for the Loppet which features a 50k and a 25k race at Mt. VanHoevenberg, where the 1980 Olympic cross country races were held.
The race is open to all comers. Online registrations will be accepted through Jan. 23, or in person in Lake Placid through Jan. 25. For further information, check www.-active.com/winter-sports/lake-placid-ny/lake-placidloppet-2013.
You won’t find the most prominent name in snowsport journalism on the masthead of Ski Magazine any longer. John Fry, a ski writer and editor since the 1960s, has severed his connection with the magazine which he helped build and served as its editor-in-chief for many years.
Fry, whose credits include helping to launch the NASTAR Program, the Nations Cup of Alpine Ski Racing and the Graduated Length Method of ski instruction, is the author of “The Story of Modern Skiing,” a comprehensive history of the sport, published by the University Press of New England in 2006. He serves as president of the board of directors of the International Ski History Association and as a member of the editorial board of its Skiing Heritage journal.
Ski Magazine has had several publishers in recent years. Said Fry, “They were using my name on the masthead with no intention to assign any actual work. I told them to remove it.”