Snowboarders, skier Steltzer shine at Snowflex, Wintergreen
February 4, 2013 | Lynchburg/Wintergreen, Va.
Fresh snow and ice at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre created challenging conditions for Saturday night's first slopestyle competition of the new year on a night when temperatures dipped into the 20s.
But that didn't prevent members of Liberty University's ski and snowboard team from unveiling some slick new tricks and landing a few spectacular stunts to ride away with the men's team titles and a first-place women's individual finish at the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association-sanctioned event.
"I think everybody held their own tonight," Liberty head coach Will Scheren said. "With the ice, it kind of holds your edge a little bit and so I think some of the guys were a little more hesitant. But definitely, it was good getting the first (competition) in at home and I think everybody got a good clean run in."
Just 12 hours later, the Flames were back on their boards, competing against many of the same Southeastern Conference schools at a slopestyle event at Wintergreen Ski Resort, where they again cleaned up, winning the men's ski and women's snowboard individual crowns and the men's snowboard team trophy.
For both events, participants were judged on technique, style, and amplitude, earning a maximum of 30 points on each of four features on the slopestyle courses. At Snowflex, that included a down box, followed by a choice of a flatbox ledge drop, down rail, or flat down box, leading up to a 20-foot jump and ending with a 10-foot quarter pipe at the bottom of the slope. The best of two runs counted in the final individual standings and team scores.
"Honestly, Snowflex is better if there's not snow on it," said Flames senior Dave Promnitz, who finished second in the men's snowboard competition behind only teammate Kevin Hoff. "It's just challenging (tonight) because the conditions are inconsistent. With the snow on it, they can't turn the sprayers on so it's icy and there's slow spots and fast spots. It could be fast and then all of a sudden, it'll be dry on the jump, so it'll slow you down and throw you off."
Eden Jones, Liberty's only women's competitor, placed first out of 11 female snowboarders. She led the Lady Flames to a third-place team showing behind Virginia and East Carolina, and ahead of Appalachian State, which featured Shannon Hildebrandt, Jones's closest challenger, and N.C. State.
On her first run, she grabbed her board, picking up style points on the jump, and stuck a clean landing for a score of 48, the highest of the night.
"The second run, I did a spin off the jump," Jones said. "I definitely slowed down a bit on purpose just because I would rather land it than go too big and risk falling."
Scheren said Jones followed his instructions to the team precisely.
"We had a plan going in of putting really conservative runs down first and then taking off the training wheels for the second run and it worked out for the most part," he said.
Hoff carved out the best overall run of the night, scoring 68 points to edge Promnitz, Liberty's winningest rider in the team's short history, by three points.
"By far, for sure, that was a solid run," Liberty sophomore Isaac Gibson said of Hoff's first run. "He nailed everything and he had big tricks. He did a front board on the jersey stepdown and then hardway 270 onto the flat down and then a backside 360 on the kicker and a disaster on the wall."
Gibson said a disaster is when a rider executes a 180-degree spin into a board-stall on the top of the wall before sliding back down to complete the run.
"It was really good, so it was pretty memorable," he said.
Gibson finished fourth with 52 points, one point behind freshman teammate Brennan Bilek and two ahead of fellow Flame Jesse Spadino. Liberty swept the top five positions to finish far in front of ASU, ECU, UVa, and Virginia Tech in the team competition.
"Isaac just learned how to snowboard not too long ago, and he's going upside down," Promnitz said of Gibson's flip landings off the 20-foot jump.
"Brennan is from California and he actually learned on Snowflex how to snowboard last semester."
Promnitz performed a backward 360-degree spin with a tail grab on his second jump.
"It felt good," he said. "I definitely improved from my first one, definitely better style points. It was a lot cleaner than my first runs through."
Liberty senior Brendan Sullivan had a clean first run before stumbling on his final trick and settling for seventh place with 38 points.
"I stomped everything up to the quarter pipe," he said. "I fell a little bit, but that's OK. That's what second runs are for. It's a lot of fun out here, everybody's having a good time, everybody's riding well and the weather's not bad."
Tim Steltzer, the Flames' only ski competitor since his younger brother Jonathan, now an online student, is no longer on the team, clearly enjoyed himself, and delighted the crowd, on his two official runs and practice stunts off the larger jumps at Snowflex.
"My first run, I was a little worried I wouldn't land it, but I was able to come through," said Steltzer, who scored a 71 to blow away the only other ski competitor, ECU's Jared Iscrupe and his 25-point total. "I had to wait at the top (so) I was cold a little bit, but eventually, I landed it and I was happy and I was able to just have fun on my second run. Overall, it was a really fun comp. It was good."
After completing Saturday's event around 8 p.m., the Flames arose as early as 5 a.m. Sunday to travel to Wintergreen for their first event of the school year on real snow, starting at 8 a.m.
The course also had four features, with the choice of a down box, cannon box and propane tank, followed by a 20-foot gap with a "bonk" feature and 30- and 40-foot jumps.
"Wintergreen had a great park and did a good job of keeping it maintained, especially considering the warm weather earlier in the week," Scheren said, noting new ownership spent $8 million on snowmaking ability since last year. "There was very little snow on Wednesday and they were able to make snow very quickly and had every trail in the park covered."
This time, Promnitz nipped teammate Stephen Dankert 39-38 for first place in leading Liberty to another team triumph over ECU, UVa and ASU while Steltzer beat Iscrupe 51-32 in the men's skiing event and Jones won the women's snowboarding event, again edging Hildebrandt, 29-21.
"Eden was the decisive winner," Scheren said. "She was the only girl to hit the bottom feature set up at Wintergreen. She was hitting huge jumps, looked good in the air, and she stuck her landings really well."
Hoff, Sullivan, and Bilek finished fifth, sixth and seventh for the Flames with 36, 35, and 34 points, respectively.
"We only got one practice run before the competition and two competition runs," Scheren said. "Our guys were going much bigger off the jumps, had a lot more amplitude, got a lot more air time and had more style in the air."
However, the natural snow was foreign to many of the Flames, who have become accustomed to Snowflex's synthetic surface and could have scored higher with a few more practice runs.
"They had a hard time sticking landings because they were not used to landing on hard-packed snow," Scheren said. "They're used to landing on Snowflex and it was a big adjustment for us to get dialed in on the snow."
Due to the near-perfect conditions, team members decided to stay at Wintergreen all day and as they adjusted to riding through snow, they became more and more polished on powder, spinning both ways off of jumps with confidence.
Scheren anticipates a sharp learning curve when the Flames travel to Snowshoe, W.Va., this Saturday and Sunday for another slopestyle competition.
"I'm expecting us to do very well," he said. "We're excited for the Snowshoe competition to come up, to get on the snow and hit some big kickers to get us ready for nationals."
Liberty's next home event is a freestyle snowboard and freestyle ski rail jam set for March 30 at Snowflex.
20130202 Snowflex Competition - Images by Joel Coleman/Liberty University