Freestylers heading to town to practice at Smalley complex

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— By late Monday afternoon, mogul skier Travis Mayer was at home relaxing after a day of skiing on Mount Werner.

With just 11 days until the Olympics begin in Salt Lake City, it might be one of the last chances to kick back on the local slopes and enjoy hanging out at home.

The U.S. Freestyle team will begin its final push toward the games this week when it opens a pre-Olympic training camp in Steamboat at the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex.

"We will be working on a few details and maybe taking three or four top to bottom runs each day," Mayer said. "It's pretty late in the game for any major changes, so we will just be fine tuning the little things."

The team will also be treated to a course, which is a near duplicate of the one that the skiers will find in Utah something Mayer and ski team coaches think could pay off when he takes to the slopes at Deer Valley Feb. 12.

"It's a dream come true," former U.S. moguls coach Jeff Good said. Good, who is a resident of Steamboat, has played a major roll in making sure this week's training camp is a success.

"This U.S. (team) has a huge advantage. This course is perfect for training. It is the same length and has the same cadence as the course the skiers will find at Deer Valley."

The course is also home for two of the skiers, including Mayer and four-time Olympian Ann Battelle, who started freestyle skiing in Steamboat under former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Park Smalley. Smalley was also the head coach of the U.S. Freestyle team as well.

Battelle is a 10-year veteran of the team and has competed in Albertville, Lillehammer and Nagano. Salt lake City represents Battelle's fourth trip to the big show.

Other top skiers who are expected to be in town this week will include Shannon Bahrke, Hannah Hardaway, Jillian Vogtli, Emily Cook, Brenda Petzold and Tracey Evans on the women's side. American teammates Jonny Moseley, Evan Dybvig, Jeremy Bloom, Brian Currutt, Eric Bergoust and Joe Pack will join Mayer on the slopes of the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex this week as well. Moseley and Bergoust both won gold medals in Nagano, Japan, at the last Winter Olympic Games.

Good said a number of locals, including some 25 volunteers, have worked to make sure this week's camps will be a success. Tim Meagher designed the course. The Steamboat resident will also design the course at Deer Valley.

"It's been completely revamped since the World Cup," Good said. "We have more snow now, so the course was lengthened so that it is the same length as the Olympic course. That should help give the American skiers an edge."

One of those American skiers Mayer was pumped up this week after learning he was promoted to the U.S. Ski Team's A squad. The move means Mayer, who was formerly on the C team, will be funded by the squad and will have a guaranteed World Cup spot for the rest of this season.

"Last year I had to fund myself," Mayer said. "I finished the season $5,000 in the hole. So this is very good news for me."

Good said the aerialists will begin official training on Wednesday and the mogul skiers, including Mayer, are expected to start on Thursday.

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