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Freestyle Continues World Cup Competition in Krasnoyarsk

By Lara Carlton
March, 6 2020
Nick Page
Nick Page trains on the Sopka Cluster course in Krasnoyarsk, Russia (Mateusz Kielpinski - FIS)

The FIS Freestyle tour continues in Siberia this week with both aerials and dual moguls World Cup competition under the lights March 7-8 at the Sopka Cluster, Krasnoyarsk - a new venue for both teams. This weekend serves as Aerials’ World Cup Finals and is the penultimate event weekend for Moguls. Over 140 athletes and staff arrived via charter flight arranged by FIS (International Ski Federation) to ease travel logistics in getting from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Krasnoyarsk, Russia. 

While both aerials and moguls competed in Almaty last weekend, the teams were at different venues. In Krasnoyarsk, the U.S. Freestyle Team truly comes together. “On this long trip, being all together gives everyone a sense of home, and maybe more of a sense of comfort - it’s been nice,” said Head Moguls Coach Matt Gnoza. “It’s really nice to see Vlad and Bergy and say hello in the morning. I even heard Justin [Schoenefeld] playing guitar outside of my room the other night.”

Krasnoyarsk is no stranger to elite-level ski competition after successfully hosting the 29th Winter World University Games in 2019. The city sits on the edge of Siberia, but its over one million residents have welcomed the freestyle community with open arms. “Everywhere you look in town, from flags in the park, all the way into the venue, it’s all decorated with banners and posters and fanfare,” relayed Matt. With added fanfare comes added security and the local organizers have not scrimped on that one bit. “Security is tight,” said World Cup Aerials Coach Eric Bergoust. “They screen everyone through metal detectors at the hotel before boarding a bus [to the venue]. The bus stays closed until entering a secure zone at the site. This method is called ‘bubble to bubble,’ requiring no added screening at the site.” 

The local organizing has been thorough planning for these World Cups in their attention to detail. Each team has their own wax and locker rooms, access to a gym and trampoline and lunch (surprisingly not always included on World Cup tour!). Athletes and staff were treated to opening ceremonies and a welcome reception, and will enjoy a farewell banquet. Each nation is also assigned an attaché to help navigate the language barrier. Nathalia is assigned to the U.S. and took the women of the moguls team thrift shopping, as well as coordinated a new haircut for Kalman Heims. 

The U.S. Moguls Team kicks things off on Saturday with dual moguls on what Matt describes as a dream course. “It feels like we are playing on a major league baseball field,” he said. “There are hundred-foot towers, all perfectly lined up to shine on every mogul on the course.” Coming into a perfectly prepped course means skiers got after it right from the get-go, skiing top to bottom runs during the first day of training. 

The #PowHERhouse of Jaelin Kauf, Hannah Soar, Tess Johnson and Kai Owens is looking good. The women of the moguls team are always strong contenders for a duals event. They have the speed, the technical prowess and the hunger to dominate the field come Saturday. Jaelin’s win last week has these athletes revved up for more results.

“Training [Thursday] was really great,” said Tess. “It was one of my best training days this year, and the course is a dream. It reminds me of the Olympic venue in Korea which brings up great memories. Krasnoyarsk has been full of amazing surprises. We really didn’t know what to expect coming here, but the city is unique and the people have been extremely kind!"

With more room to put distance between yourself and your competitor on this course compared to Kazakhstan, athletes may favor speed over DD to give themselves the edge. The 240 meter course suits Brad Wilson, who always puts on a show for duals. Kalman, who’s proven to be quite the dueler, knocking both Brad and France’s Ben Cavet this season, will look to reign in his top air to make it into a top-eight result. Nick Page is looking good too, working on his corks and throwing a loop jump on the bottom, providing a little more “fun and flare” as Matt says.

The U.S. Aerials Team caps off their World Cup competition season on Sunday. Three men and three women sit in the top 15: Chris Lillis in sixth, Justin Schoenefeld in 11th, Jon Lillis in 15th, Megan Nick in fourth, Winter Vinecki in 10th and Kaila Kuhn in 11th. This weekend will be the team’s last chance to make moves up the FIS standings list.

Twelve athletes will represent the U.S. in Sunday’s competition and the team is ready to stomp following the back-to-back U.S. wins on the men’s side. The venue is world-class and with mother nature providing lots of snow, the jump site has a nice, steep landing. 

“Training [Thursday] went well, the air site is big and the landings soft,” said Eric Loughran. “The last few stops the warmer weather hasn’t allowed us to get three full days of training. It’s cool to have some jumping time here before the contest.” 

“My favorite part about Krasnoyarsk has to be the jump site venue. It has all of the freestyle disciplines courses right next to each other. Also, a sweet gymnastics warmup area and ski prep and storage right at the site. I think everyone feels pretty comfortable with things here.”

The Krasnoyarsk stop is expected to be a mainstay on the Freestyle World Cup tour in the years to come and it’s clear the event is prepped for success. 

U.S. Starters

Ashley Caldwell
Megan Nick
Winter Vinecki
Madison Varmette
Megan Smallhouse
Kaila Kuhn

Eric Loughran
Chris Lillis
Jon Lillis
Justin Schoenefeld
Quinn Dehlinger
Alex Bowen 

Tess Johnson
Jaelin Kauf
Hannah Soar
Kai Owens

Kalman Heims
Nick Page
Dylan Walczyk
Brad Wilson 

All times EST

Saturday, March 7
6:50 a.m. - Men and women’s dual moguls, Krasnoyarsk, RUS -, NBC Sports Gold
1:30 p.m. - Men and women’s dual moguls, Krasnoyarsk, RUS - Olympic Channel

Sunday, March 8
7:50 a.m. - Men’s and women’s aerials, Krasnoyarsk, RUS -, NBC Sports Gold
11:30 a.m. - Men’s and women’s aerials, Krasnoyarsk, RUS - Olympic Channel