Right after the Crested Butte event, we had 48 hours before the turn around to head to Taos, New Mexico and beyond. We packed for the rest of the road trip as we will not be back in Summit County, Colorado for a few months.
As we pulled into Taos, we glanced at the thermometer and read 60 degrees... Ahhh shit, well that means we have 2 options for snow, either slush on a southern aspect or ice if the venue is on a northern aspect. We pulled into Taos Ski Valley for the evening meeting before the comp started. The cooks at Taos whipped us up some food and we ate like kings as over 100 athletes devoured the buffet. Good start! The next day was a 2 star event, which neither of us was doing, so with only 45 min of inspection in the morning we did not get to inspect very long. It didn't take long to realize what the conditions were like and what needed to be done to score well. With the majority of the venue in the shade and the heat glaring down on the competitors, we all knew it was going to be slippery and controlling your speed was the name of the game... again.
Day 1: Qualifier
The day started off at the Austing Haus B&B with a crafted breakfast and a waffle bar. After fueling up for the day, we loaded the chair at the 8am early athlete load and both got two laps to inspect the venue on West Basin 1 and experienced the first real sense of the conditions. Mostly a mixture of hard packed crust and "punchy" rotten bottomless facets. Over the next few hours we discussed line options in our snow couches near the finish and sorted out some runs.
We both had a relatively good idea of our line options ahead of us. Brian was the first of 32 riders and laid down a respectable quick run through the gut of Stauffenberg with a handful of sizable airs along the way to the finish. Zach ended up running 7th and ran upper Zdarsky with a air into a technical rock area with a large high speed exit air into the open. Made a few controlled turns into an unexpected bump which threw off his groove...
Brian Stenerson qualified 4th and Zach didn't end up making Finals for Day 2.
Day 2: West Basin 1
Due to extremely poor conditions, a slide for life, and a death from the public the day before, the infamous Kachina peak was closed. Unfortunately this area could no longer be considered for the finals venue. Finals were held on the same West Basin 1 venue, which again made for interesting conditions for a freeride competition event as now all the chokes, take offs, and landings were destroyed from the last few days of competitions on it. As if there wasn't enough to worry about with sketchy snow conditions as a result of weather and it's melt/freeze cycling. Due to Zach's unfortunate and uncharacteristic fall at the end of his run, Brian was the only one to make finals and so he felt greater pressure to perform even with the bruised ligament on his right ankle from Crested Butte.
"I'm running for 2 of us today!"
Because Brian scored well enough yesterday and didn't want to push his ankle too much more today, he decided for a similar line choice but with a little extra trickery. On the last feature, Brian went for his standard front flip. But as he was rolling off the cliff he knew one thing was wrong, he was going way too slow to get the rotation around. Not thinking clearly and really wanting to finish strong he still went for it. Brian popped of the nose of the board to start the rotation and immediately knew it would not be enough.
"I came up a little short and very back foot heavy (the bruised ankle from CB) and right when I landed I knew, I did more damage to my right ankle. I barely made it to the bottom with out screaming in pain so I sat down to ice and to watch the rest of the comp".
Brian normally likes to give the injuries a few days to see how they heal on their own with the help of some at home remedies. So with uncharacteristic finishes from both Brian and Zach, we took to the road and drove to Salt Lake City with a few scenic stops on the way so we could enjoy the journey and break up the 10.5 hours of driving.