Ski and snowboard team takes first at USCSA competition

The vibes were high up on the mountain as skiers and snowboarders from schools in the United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association (USCSA) gathered at Snowflex Feb. 4-5. 

Liberty hosted a two-day event for USCSA that included big air on the first day and a Rail Jam on the second. Due to weather conditions, the big air competition had to be canceled.

Weather conditions on Sunday were much better than the previous day, as it started off cool and dry, with a little wind to remind us of the winter season. Ironically, Snowflex is better at hosting winter sports when the weather is a bit warmer. 

“Snowflex is generally not its best in the winter because we heavily rely on the misting system that wets the bristles, which allows you to slide better,” Liberty ski and snowboard coach Isaac Gibson said. “If it gets below freezing, that mist turns to ice, and that ice starts building, and it’s not really that safe to ride on.”

Nearly 100 participants gathered on the Mountain from schools including Appalachian State, JMU, UVA, Virginia Tech and UNC. The rail jam competition gave participants two sets of rails to perform tricks off of, with the first set giving the competitors a choice from a pole jam, kinked rail and hubba, and the second set giving the option of flat rail, box and a kinked rail with a donkey tail that kicked up at the end.

The traditional rail jam was a time-based competition, with competitors having a certain time limit to make the run as many times as they would like and the best score being recorded. USCSA took a modified approach where participants had a set number of controlled runs, and then let participants go free for a traditional jam.  

The biggest difference for competitors at Snowflex is that the entire hill is turf instead of actual snow. 

“It is a little different because it’s not snow, as far as how your board reacts to speed or how it holds an edge, it is different,” senior Liberty snowboarder Emory Orlando said. “But once you’re on the rail, it’s the same thing.”

Orlando showcased her skills in the women’s rail jam competition, taking the top spot on the day with a score of 48.25. Just behind Orlando was Flames sophomore Emmaus Rich, who posted a score of 44. One other Liberty athlete, freshman Hannah Walder, finished in the top five with 40.25. The Flames women’s team took first overall on the Mountain, with UVA coming in second and Appalachian State in third. 

On the men’s side, it was Liberty senior Jesse Mast who claimed first place, posting a 74.5 score. Like Orlando, Mast knew there would be an added challenge without snow. 

 “Getting to the rail is the hard part, but after riding for a few days, your body gets used to the surface, and you have to readjust when you get back to (real) snow,” Mast said. 

The top four of the men’s competition were all Flames, with sophomore Tate Gardener,  sophomore Jayden Horrocks and freshman Curren Cook all          following behind Mast. Once again, Liberty was the overall winner on the rail, followed by Appalachian State in second and UVA in third. 

On the slopes, Liberty junior Josephine Rich took first with a score of 32.25 in the women’s ski competition, while Liberty freshman Loken Siebert took the top spot for the men, scoring 69.5. The Flames came in first for the men’s ski, while the women finished second behind UVA. 

Throughout the competition, music and laughter could be heard, as well as cheering from participants and spectators, no matter what school they were from. 

“There’s pretty much music at every competition. It’s pretty intimidating if you’re standing at the top (of the mountain) with no music or noise,” Mast said. “You’re just there listening to your own thoughts, so it’s good to have music.”

The day ended with Gibson cooking hotdogs for every competitor that came and an informal rail jam on the smaller slopes. The Flames will hit the mountain once again Feb. 11-12 at the Wintergreen USCSA Event in Wintergreen, Virginia. 

Wilson is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion

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