Freestyle skiing first hit the big time in the early 1970s, when a handful of enterprising young athletes began incorporating tricks and aerials into their flashy runs down the world’s steepest mogul fields. Arguably the forerunner for such popular contemporary events as the Winter X Games, freestyle gave skiers a chance to compete without forcing every competitor through the same set of gates, while offering points for style as well as for speed. Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Tahoe, Calif., was among those innovative early areas where freestyle skiing, then commonly referred to as “hot dogging,” received the kind of recognition usually accorded to more established forms such as alpine racing or traditional ski jumping.
This weekend, March 29-31, Heavenly brings the United States Freestyle Championships back to California for the first time since 2004, and the timing could not be better. As of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, the United States became the most successful country in the history of Olympic freestyle, with five gold, five silver, and five bronze medals scored since the sport became a part of the Winter Games in 1992. Current world and Olympic champion Hannah Kearney will be competing, as will Chris Hernandez, Brooke Ballachey, Travis Woodcock, Christy Tibbetts, and Travis Cabral, as well as current U.S. Ski Team Member Sho Kashima and rising stars Ryan Hickey and Anna Park. The action starts on Friday, March 29 when skiers will hit Heavenly’s famous Gunbarrel run for the individual moguls competition. Saturday afternoon and early evening are reserved for the aerials, which will conclude with fireworks following the awards ceremony. And on Sunday, the dual moguls, freestyle’s most exciting format, will wrap up the weekend’s activities. For more information, call (800) 587-4430 or visit skiheavenly.com.