Pipe dreams

Freeskiers up for challenge at Mavericks

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— The Mavericks Superpipe is not a stage in the traditional sense of the word, but then freeskier Aaryn Briggs isn't your average performer either.

Briggs was one of the featured attractions in last year's production of Steamboat's biggest halfpipe event. There, he unveiled jaw-dropping tricks and breathtaking air to captivate an audience standing along the edge of the pipe.

Briggs and some of the region's best freeskiers will return to Steamboat this weekend hoping to cash in on the $13,000 in cash and prizes available at the second Mavericks Superpipe Challenge. The event will help support Boarding for Breast Cancer and the Steamboat Springs Breast Cancer Awareness Project.

Once again, Briggs is promising a great show with a wide variety of tricks including inverted 900s and 720s, flat spinning alley oops and other groundbreaking moves.

"Of course I have to come back," Briggs said. "I have to defend my title."

But the top local will also be here because the Superpipe Challenge is one of the fastest-growing events of its kind. It will attract top skiers and snowboarders from all over Colorado and the other Western states.

It's an event Briggs thinks will gain national exposure in the future as it grows into one of the premiere events in the country.

"With the addition of the Mavericks Superpipe last year, we were able to host one of the best amateur events in Colorado," said Andy Wirth, vice president of marketing for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. "This year's event should draw even more competitors as the word about Mavericks has spread."

Freeskiing and its cousin, snowboarding, have been breaking down barriers and pulling in spectators for a number of years. While this will be only the second Mavericks Challenge, the event has actually been around for the past five years. First, it was a snowboard festival and then it was used as a way to promote the ski area's world-class superpipe and terrain park.

"I was a little disappointed last year," local snowboarder Spencer Tamblyn said. "I had won the event three years in a row, but I got beat last year."

Both Tamblyn and Briggs are members of the Steamboat Ski Area's freeriders team. Most of the athletes on that squad will compete this weekend.

"It's great that this is an annual thing," Tamblyn said. "It's a really neat event for locals to go head to head."

And thanks to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club's strong snowboarding and freeskiing programs, the competition is strong.

"It normally has really good competitions, and this year should be even better," Tamblyn said.

The longtime snowboarder, who has coached and competed in Steamboat most of his life, said spectators should expect some great tricks this weekend. But the key to winning will be big air (amplitude) and flow.

"It's not so much the trick, but how the run flows from top to bottom," Tamblyn said.

"The judges always seem to reward amplitude (how far the rider gets out of the halfpipe) in events like this."

Ski fans looking for big air should show up at the Mavericks Superpipe at 11 a.m. Saturday.

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