After years of finishing behind French and Canadian skiers the Americans made a strong showing in the U.S. Freeskiing Nationals at Snowbird, Utah, last week to capture four out of the top six spots.
The one exception in the womens race was Huere Darquier Bariloche of Argentina a resident of Whistler and a Whistler-Blackcomb Ski School instructor. She finished second overall, wedged between Kit DesLauriers of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Carrie Jo Chernoff of Crested Butte, Montana.
"Im so stoked," said Huere.
It was only her second freeskiing contest after finishing fifth in Whistler last year. With 30 women in the finals, it was also the largest field yet for a World Tour event not bad for a girl who had never been on fat skis until she arrived in Whistler last season.
The snowpack on the run was mostly hard, with moguls up top and hard landings in the cliff area. Looking on the bright side, something Heure likes to do, you could drop the same cliffs over and over again without hitting bomb holes.
"I usually try to keep the runs big, I like cliffs and jumps. I also use long skis, so I try to keep them pointed straight down, and to ski very fluid and fast."
Heure was unsponsored in her first competition, but currently receives gear from Rossignol and Helly Hansen. She paid her own way to Utah, but is hoping to get some financial support for her trip to France for the World Tour finals.
Although conditions havent been the best in Whistler this winter and the Canadian events were superseded by the snowboard world championships, Heure has seen plenty of snow this season as a private ski school instructor.
"In Argentina we dont have the best snow all the time, its usually pretty sketchy so Im used to it. But if you ski every day, good or bad, youre going to be a better skier," said Huere.
The other Whistler woman taking part was Holly Walker, who finished 19 th . Dawn Carmichael of Squamish also took part.
In the mens competition, Snowbird local Ben Wheeler jumped from sixth place to first with an incredible run in the finals. He also got a boost from the fact that four of the French skiers that were in the top-five after the first day of competition fell on their first runs. The French skiers pulled out all the stops on their second runs, but in the end nobody could put together a run to beat Wheeler. Thomas Diet Val Thoems came the closest, finishing second ahead of Jack Hannan of Crested Butte.
Aurelien Ducroz and Manuel Gaidet of France, the most dominant freeskiers of the past two years, settled for fifth and sixth respectively.
Whistlers only finalist was Mathiew Richard in 10 th place.
Ian MacIntosh was also in the field, once again dropping the biggest cliff of the day to finish 11 th . James Heim was 12th, Leif-Zapf Gilje 16th, Dana Flahr, 27 th . Shane Carmichael and Ryan Oakden didnt make it to the final day of competition.
The World Tour, which is only two events this year after the Canadian Freeskiing Championships were cancelled in Whistler, will wrap up at Les Arcs, France from Feb. 28 to March 4.