Masters of the Universe
Sun Valley, Idaho, took a trip back to its 1970s ski heritage on Saturday by playing host to the eighth installment of the Orage Masters, skiing's self proclaimed anti-comp.
Sun Valley, one of the hottest spots for freestyle skiing back in the 70s, has always welcomed the hot-dogging ski lifestyle and the party scene that went along with it. Which made the resort a perfect fit for the return of the Orage Masters, a fun, rider-judged slopestyle event that last took place in 2011 in Whistler, BC.
This year's Masters invited eight teams of four athletes and one filmer to Sun Valley to compete for cash and prizes. Teams represented ski film crews and were encouraged to dress up, build a "crib" where the team would hang out all day, and judge each round. While the level of skiing is high, the Masters is by no means a sanctioned contest -- it's a late-spring mashup of costumes, chaos, music, and skiing, and if you take yourself too seriously, you probably shouldn't show up at all.
Teams were given 25 minutes to complete three head-to-head runs. Master's MC Luke Van Valin, a former winner of the Masters, called the Sun Valley course "the greatest Masters course of all time" and tipped his cap to Sun Valley terrain park manager Brian Callahan for the creation of the slopestyle course.
The course featured two 60-plus-foot jumps, which incorporated quarter pipes and some mind-bending transfer options, a few rails and wall ride options.
The action was cranking right from the start as the Toy Soldiers' Camo and Ammo and the Traveling Circus' Pizzeria teams tied and went directly to a back flip tiebreak jump. The Traveling Circus' Andy Parry jumped first and although he landed in a slushy hole, he was able to fend off Toy Soldiers' Shay Lee, who was unable to land his Screaming Seamen back flip. 4B19's Mahalo Lifestyle, Level 1 Productions' Construction Crew and the Kids dressed as the Warriors all advanced to the semi-finals.
Immediately following the quarterfinals, one skier from each non-advancing team headed to the top of the course for the so-called half-time hoe down and a chance to snatch $1,000 from Orage Marketing Director Mike Nick, who was at the bottom of the course with $1,000 cash in hand.
Lee rode a homemade sit ski, two pieces of wood screwed into a ski to make a chair, like a pro and outgunned reps from Inspired Media Concepts' Ganja Force, Stept Productions' Fast Food Effort and Elite 8 video contest winner Me Gustan Aviones for the money.
The semi-finals saw plenty of doubles being thrown and before you knew it, 4B19 took out the Traveling Circus team to march into the finals. The toughest match-up of the day followed, with the Kids taking on Level 1. Level 1 had marked tricky transfers, takeoffs and landings on the course with neon orange paint and they were able to focus on their skiing in the semi-finals.
The Kids, on the other hand, were busy lighting things on fire, which turned out to be their downfall. Organizers had warned competitors that the continued use of fireworks or fire would result in immediate disqualification. Despite their best efforts, the crowd and the Kids were unable to coerce the organizers into letting them continue. "I would have be happier to win $10,000, but if I didn't win I'd want to be disqualified," Kids skier Joe Schuster said.
The finals were complete mayhem. Level 1's Banks Gilberti hucked the day's first double front flip followed by the only triple. The loudest crowd roar of the day came after LJ Strenio's impressive triple back. Not to go down without a fight, 4B19's Karl Fostvedt put down a switch double front flip. "We have a showdown," Mike Nick declared at that point. With the weather threatening to turn, each team ripped out two more runs. All eight remaining riders put on a show for the Sun Valley crowd with what seemed like eight bodies in the air at the same time.
The judging was tight, but in the end, the Level 1 Construction Crew of Mike Hornbeck, LJ Strenio, Banks Gilberti and Chris Logan took home the $10,000 grand prize.
Team captain and filmer Josh Berman said his philosophy was to select "four guys who would have fun with it." Hornbeck was on the podium with a freshly cut mullet while Logan tried to bite the head off the golden flamingo trophy. Staying in character, Strenio exclaimed, "I'm quitting my construction job!"