Luke Graham: Freestyle program becoming best around |

Luke Graham: Freestyle program becoming best around

Luke Graham

Luke Graham

— It's easy to look down at the base of Howelsen Hill every day and see the buzz of athletes roaming around.

On a typical Howelsen day, it's mass commotion of athletes — some just able to walk and some on snow since they could walk.

Although the accolades of the Nordic combined and alpine athletes have been talked about, something interesting is happening with the freestyle moguls program.

It's simply becoming one of the premier clubs in the nation.

Steamboat and freestyle mogulists certainly have a past.

Nelson Carmichael and Travis Mayer made waves on the Olympic scene and continue to keep Steamboat close.

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But in the past four years, Steamboat has become a moguls mecca.

At the top level, there continues to be a Steamboat presence. Current World Cup leaders Hannah Kearney and Patrick Deneen each spent time in Steamboat training.

Kearney relaxed after her Olympic-gold-winning run last winter by finding a little anonymity in Steamboat this summer. She also worked on her aerials with Bobby Aldighieri in summer and jumped out at the ramps at Bald Eagle Lake.

Deneen currently is using Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Timmy Meagher as his own personal coach in tearing up the World Cup circuit.

You don't have to go far from the top to truly see Steamboat's stranglehold on freestyle skiing.

Competing this year on the World Cup are two Winter Sports Club alums. Eliza Outtrim, fresh off her first World Cup win last year and with a fourth-place finish already this year, looks primed to challenge Kearney as America's top female moguls skier.

On the men's side, Jeremy Cota will ski his first full year on the World Cup. Cota battled several near misses to make the team and finally moved to Steamboat from Carrabassett Valley, Maine, to get the final push.

As the 2009 NorAm champion, Cota just missed making the 2010 Olympic team.

The stranglehold doesn't stop there.

With the U.S. Freestyle Selections events continuing Tuesday and Wednesday in Steamboat, there are two spots open for skiers on the U.S. team.

Whichever male and female skiers win the combined two days of singles moguls will be guaranteed a spot on the U.S. Freestyle C Team.

Right on cue, it appears there are four Winter Sports Club members with legitimate opportunities to do so.

Brittany Loweree on the girls side and Reed "The Ginger Express" Snyderman on the men's side have every opportunity to be on the U.S. team. Ryan Dyer and Michael Degrandis also should have shots.

Looking ahead, it's not out of the realm of possibility to think the 2014 Olympic freestyle team could include a good portion of Steamboat's contingent.

Beyond that, there are more athletes in the budding pipeline the Winter Sports Club freestyle mogul program is creating.

Some probably have just strapped on skis for the first time at Howelsen.

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