Freestylers eyeing spring boost | SteamboatToday.com

Freestylers eyeing spring boost

After a season of down, moguls skiers look for one last up

Steamboat Springs skier Jeremy Cota flips above the crowd during last year's U.S. Freestyle National Championships in Steamboat Springs. The event is back this year, and Cota is among the athletes hoping for a big finish to his season. Competition begins at noon Thursday at Steamboat Ski Area.

— The U.S. Freestyle Skiing National Championships won't be about avenging an average season, moguls skier Jeremy Cota said.

Cota said the event, which begins today at the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex on Voo Doo run at Steamboat Ski Area, stands on its own merits.

"National championships are always important," said Cota, a Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier. "Winning a national title is a big deal, something you will always have."

He should know, having won two in previous seasons.

After a stunted and often frustrating season for the U.S. team, however, this weekend's event, the final hurrah for the freestyle season, is one last opportunity to head into the summer with some momentum.

It was an odd World Cup season for a number of reasons, Cota explained.

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It was an off year for the series, with no Olympics, which run every four years, or World Championships, every two, anchoring ambitions and driving skiers. 
Low snow conditions were an issue in both Europe and in the United States. A World Cup stop in Lake Placid, New York, one of two stops in the U.S., was cancelled by a lack of snow.

U.S. results, especially on the men's side, seem to reflect that environment. The team's highest finisher in the year-end World Cup standings was Dylan Walczyk, in 10th. That's the lowest "best finisher" the team has had since 1990.

"The World Cup, right now, there's a lot of depth to it, more so than there used to be," Cota said. "In terms of talent, this is the best team I've been a part of in my seven years, but results wise, it may be the worst."

He finished 16th in the overall standings, fourth among U.S. skiers, after leading the team and placing seventh last season.

"The top end isn't any different," he said of the World Cup, "but there's so much more depth. If you do make a mistake, it can really cost you and will put you at about 20th or 30th place."

This season, he said, untimely mistakes were his undoing.

He had a did-not-finish in the season's first event, then was consistently between 10th and 20th through the rest of the season. Things finally came together in the season finale. Competing on a short, man-made course in downtown Moscow, he placed fourth.

"I ended with some better results," he said. "I made some mistakes at bad times and had a couple of finals where I had opportunities to get good results, but a little mistake here or there kept me out. Still, I skied healthy all year, and that's important.

"I skied well, but I would like to compete a little better next year."

The chance to build on that Moscow finish starts at noon Thursday, with the men's qualification round of the moguls competition, the opening act in what will be a busy weekend of freestyle skiing in Steamboat.

The top 16 men's skiers will advance. The women will run through qualifications starting at 10:15 a.m. Friday. Finals for both the men and women will begin at 1 p.m.

Aerials will dominate the sky at Steamboat Ski Area on Saturday. Qualification rounds begin at 11 a.m., and the finals are slated to start at 12:15 p.m.

The moguls skiers will be back Sunday to wrap things up. Dual moguls competition will begin at 10:40 a.m. and is expected to finish around 2 p.m.

U.S. Freestyle Skiing National Championships schedule

Thursday

Noon — Men’s moguls qualifications

Friday

10:15 a.m. — Women’s moguls qualifications

1 p.m. — Women’s moguls finals

1:30 p.m. — Men’s moguls finals

Saturday

11 a.m. — Men’s and women’s aerials qualifications

12:15 p.m. — Men’s and women’s aerials finals 1

1:25 p.m. — Men’s and women’s aerials finals 2

Sunday

10:40 a.m. — Men’s and women’s dual moguls competition

2015-16 U.S. Team men’s World Cup standings

10 Dylan Walczyk

12 Bradley Wilson

13 Thomas Rowley

16 Jeremy Cota

25 Joseph Discoe

34 Bruce Perry Jr.

35 Troy Murphy

40 Bryon Wilson

47 Troy Tully