COPPER MOUNTAIN, USA, 9 JAN 2012 – Training is over and qualifications are set to get underway today at the VISA U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, USA.
Featuring both halfpipe and slopestyle competitions, the stop promises to be one of the biggest freestyle events of the year. In addition to having an essentially “open” invite list and hundreds of registered competitors, the contest will provide athletes with a chance to gain both Association of Freeskiing Professional (AFP) points and the critical FIS qualification points necessary for skiers hoping to compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Those Olympics will be the first time ski halfpipe and slopestyle have been featured at the Games, and there's a huge amount of excitement and anticipation building in the freestyle world as the big event draws nearer.
The host Americans will be fielding a strong team, lead by halfpipe specialists Bita Sigourney and David Wise, as well as four-time X-Games medallist Tom Wallisch and all-around top competitor Gus Kenworthy.
However, several international players will have something to say about any projected dominance by the home team. Kiwi athletes Jossi Wells and Rose Battersby are tearing up the AFP tour this season, while Canadians Kaya Turski and Rosalind Greonewoud are also strong competitors, with Turski recently named “Freeskier of the Year” by Freeskier Magazine and Groenewoud the reigning X-Games champion and last year's FIS halfpipe overall runner-up.
Swede Henrik Harlaut, with a 2nd-place finish at September's World Cup slopestyle event in Ushuaia, ARG, and 2012 Dew Tour slopestyle winner and AFP slopestyle points leader Russ Henshaw of Australia are just two more of the international names to look out for at what is guaranteed to be an exciting event.
It could also be a very unpredictable event. As noted earlier, there is a huge field on hand at Copper Mountain, and there are any number of skiers on hand capable of making it through qualifying to lay down a couple of good runs in the finals. We'll have to wait and see who that might be, but beginning today, things in Colorado are going to be extremely interesting.