Americans Drew Stoecklein and Jessica McMillan took the top spots at the North Face Chilean Freeskiing Championships on Saturday afternoon at El Colorado. It hasn't snowed for weeks in this part of Chile, so organizers and competitors had low hopes for the quality of competition. But the spring-like weather combined with the perfect aspect of the venue, Max's Face, delivered the goods and the riders were able to put on a top-notch show for the hundreds of spectators in the roadside finish line and event village.
Stoecklein, who's from Idaho, stomped his final run, which included several huge airs and a 50-footer that few had considered and none had attempted, earning himself first place for the men. Frenchman Mathieu Imbert skied a creative line far to the looker's left of the course, spinning three 360s and hitting several big drops, landing him in second place. Local hero and last year's champ Chopo Diaz was in second place after day one and after his amazing final run, the spectators, myself included, seemed certain that he had won the event. However his near-crash off one of his airs cost him too many points and he ended up in third place.
Veteran big-mountain rider and Jackson Hole local McMillan took top first for the women. Angel Collinson, last year's overall world champ, skied with her characteristic speed and power and finished in second place. Claire Burns, an American rider who now calls France home, took third place.
Griffin Post, ranked first after day one, and Lars Chickering Ayers, ranked fourth after day one, both took falls during the finals leaving the door open for the other top riders to make a move to the podium. I was in sixth after day one and during my final run I had a slight loss of control mid-course, but my backflip off the top air, a big final drop, and 360 mute off the booter near the finish area bumped me into fourth.
Another of the most impressive performances came from 18-year-old Snowbird local Johnny Collinson. Last year, Johnny won the overall title of the Junior Freeskiing Tour and this was his first event competing on the Freeskiing World Tour. In ninth place after day one, his huge line in the finals had the crowd going nuts. It was the second-highest scoring line of the day (behind Stoecklein) and it pushed him into fifth place.
After last night's rager at Blue Tambo, most athletes are using today as a recovery day. In my room of six athletes we are only four this morning, and hopefully the missing two return shortly with stories of their exploits. Once missing friends are accounted for and gear is packed up, the whole Freeskiing World Tour is rolling to Las Leñas, Argentina, for stop two of the 2011 tour next weekend. Stay tuned.