words and photos by Kristie Giles
After an intense semifinals round on Snowbird's Silver Fox the previous day, the Subaru U.S. Freeskiing Nationals moved to North Baldy for finals and superfinals. We never got that big storm they were calling for, but for some reason, snow conditions didn't really affect the level of skiing.
The U.S. Freeskiing Nationals is a stop on both the Subaru U.S. Freeskiing Series tour and the Freeskiing World Tour, so all the top competitive big mountains skiers came out to fight for the points they needed to win the overall titles.
Going into the superfinals round, most of the 18 men who advanced were just fractions of a point apart, so they were all sending it like you wouldn't believe. Current World Tour points leader Brett Crabtree from Whistler pioneered a new line down the bottom section of the venue and took the third place spot, stomping a cliff that no one else tried all day.
Second place winner Kevin O'Meara of Squaw Valley did a huge spread eagle off Blonde Rock and a burly double stager out of the amphitheatre near the finish, but it wasn't enough to beat Alta local Dylan Crossman, who picked the same line but skied it with no hesitation.
According to head judge and IFSA president Jim Jack, however, the thing that stood out the most this year was the women's field. Squaw Valley girl Jaclyn Passo's aggressive maneuvers in superfinals were enough to not only bump her from seventh place up to first but also earn her the Tobias Lee Memorial Sickbird award. She hit the same huge double stager most of the top guys were hitting, and sent it deeper and stomped it harder than a lot of them. She is only the second girl in 11 years of IFSA history to ever win the Sickbird award, a $1500 custom silver belt buckle given to the competitor with the "most spirited competition run, often involving super-human talent and agility" (basically whoever does the gnarliest shit). When the TV guys asked what the win meant to her, she said, "I'm not broke anymore." But while she might not be broke, she's not half as rich as Crossman. Jack said he'd like to see a more equal distribution of prize money between the men and women—and with the increasingly deep talent pool in the women's field, hopefully that will change.
Crystal Wright of Jackson Hole got second, and last year's champion Jess McMillan, also from Jackson, took third. Emily Teauge of Telluride and Aspen took the fourth place spot, clearing the photographers off a small cornice at the bottom to do a huge backflip after she stomped her drop in the amphitheatre.
This stop's North Face Young Gun Award went to 18-year-old Brayden Brassey of Park City, who finished 5th overall. At the end of the season, one under-21-year-old will win the Young Gun title and a full sponsorship from The North Face based on points accumulated throughout the tour—and after winning the award for the second time this season, Brassey has a good start.