The best of the best will sample the best of Telluride this week.
The Freeride Junior Tour Telluride Nationals, sanctioned by the International Freeskiing and Snowboarding Association (IFSA), will run Wednesday through Sunday on Telluride’s steep, extreme terrain.
The event will bring top junior freeskiers and snowboarders to a big mountain competition that will showcase the challenging lines of Black Iron Bowl.
“There will be 80 to 90 kids in each division,” said Ryan Van Nuys, the freestyle and big mountain program director for the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club (TSSC). TSSC is the host for the competition, along with Telski.
Van Nuys said there will be competition in the age 12-14 division, as well as the 15-18 age category.
“There will be kids from all over the state,” Van Nuys said, “as well as skiers and snowboarders from California, Utah and Wyoming. Taos and New Mexico will be out in force, too.”
The Telluride competition is one of two national events in the Rocky Mountain Region this year, as Taos will host the other prestigious national freeride competition.
Van Nuys said the freeride competition follows the tradition of extreme skiing and boarding events of the past.
“The competition will have just a venue, with a start, a finish and boundaries. The competitors are welcome to do anything they can within the boundaries,” he said. “They will be judged on the difficulty of their line and how well they execute that line.”
A four-judge panel will score the individuals on each run. The judges, with extensive backgrounds in big mountain competition, will travel to Telluride from all over the country. They include former competitors and coaches.
The schedule for the Telluride Nationals will open with check-in and venue inspections on Thursday. A meeting for coaches and athletes in the 12-14 division will be held Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m.
Friday will feature the qualifying runs for skiers and boarders in the 12-14 age bracket, starting at 10 a.m. The 15-18 age competitors will take their qualifying runs on Saturday, also starting at 10 a.m.
Van Nuys said the Friday and Saturday qualifying rounds tentatively are scheduled for the Westlake expert terrain and the Genevieve double-black diamond run — both accessed with a hike from near the top of Chair 12 (Prospect Express).
The location will depend on weather and snow conditions, he said.
The finals for both divisions are set for Sunday, starting at 10:45 a.m.
The finals will be staged farther up in Black Iron Bowl with the exact location to be determined, pending snow conditions. Competitors will make the longer hike up the ridge to the Black Iron Bowl venues for Sunday’s finals.
Awards for the Telluride Nationals freeride event will be presented Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m.
In addition to top skiers and riders from clubs like Ski Club Vail, Summit County and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, a bevy of TSSC members will compete.
“We’re going to have a ton of competitors,” said Van Nuys, who added that Telluride is fortunate to host a national-level event. The competition is particularly valuable for the TSSC skiers and riders, he added.
The TSSC field includes a trio of club members who advanced to the season-ending freeride championships last season, held at Kicking Horse, British Columbia. Lily Young, Chloe Hehir and Elijay Blakney all qualified for the freeride championships, representing Telluride.
“They are all back at it this year,” Van Nuys said. “They jumped up to the older group. … They’ve been training super hard; their skiing is looking good.”
He said another Telluride skier to watch is Anthony Carmola.
“He’s finding focus with his skiing,” Van Nuys said, adding that he’s got top skills and has shown a solid approach to his competition runs.
Neilly Busch is another Telluride skier looking for a strong showing on local snow.
“Super-talented, definitely,” Van Nuys said.
Both Carmola and Busch are seniors at Telluride High School.
Van Nuys said TSSC secured the backing of Telski before bidding to host the national freeride competition.
“The mountain is really willing to work with us,” Van Nuys said. “They’re behind us completely. And it’s everyone — patrol, mountain operations and the event staff.”
He said the event will produce great exposure for the mountain and the unique terrain at Telluride.
“This is a good group of dedicated skiers. And there will be snowboarders, too,” he said. “With snowboarders, there’s great growth potential (in big mountain events). Snowboarders can take their sport to the next level.”
Visiting coaches and parents also will get exposure to Telluride’s legendary terrain, Van Nuys said.
“It would be impossible to pull this off without our parents’ help,” he said, also thanking the legion of volunteers who are contributing to this week’s competition.
“More so than any other discipline, the freeride family really comes together,” he said. “There is a general stoke around the event. ”
The sanctioning IFSA was founded in 1996 by freeskiing pioneer Shane McConkey.