2020 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International
Freestyle returns home this week with the 2020 Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International at Deer Valley Resort.
The action kicks off Thursday night with moguls under the lights on Champion Ski Run, known as the champion maker. Athletes who podium on Champion are likely those you’ll see on the next Olympic podium. One of the steepest and longest courses on the circuit, this is a U.S. Team favorite - it’s fast and it’s fun.
On the women’s side, watch for Jaelin Kauf, fastest woman in mogul skiing, as she progresses her run, with the addition of a cork 7. Deer Valley could be where she skis it well enough to add more World Cup hardware to her arsenal, which includes 13 podiums, six of which are victories. Hannah Soar is having a phenomenal season, claiming her first World Cup podium - a third place in dual moguls in Thaiwoo, China, and making four out of five finals. Tess Johnson is looking to bring the heat, as she’s been working in a new trick to her package: a heli mute grab. It’s improved at every event she’s skied and the hometown crowd at Deer Valley could be just what she needs for a major breakthrough. Rookie Kai Owens will be making her third and fourth career World Cup starts. Kai was the youngest American to start in a moguls World Cup when she made her debut in Tremblant, Quebec, and has made finals in both events she has competed.
For the men, Deer Valley athlete Brad Wilson is looking forward to competing on home snow. “The competition here is so awesome, it’s the best stop on tour,” said Brad. “Deer Valley does the best job hosting us. The course on Champion is also legendary. Almost all of the greatest athletes in the history of our sport have competed here and we get to be a part of that legacy. I look forward to ripping some runs on Champion and getting to be a part of that legacy.”
Jesse Andringa is looking to break into the finals, he’s skiing with fun and confidence and still riding the high of his awesome dual against Canada's Mikael Kingsbury in China. Also looking to break into finals are rookie Team members Alex Lewis, and Nick Page, the hometown crowd and support could just be what these two need to make it happen. These will be both Alex and Nick’s sixth and seventh World Cup starts, and their first World Cup event on Champion. Tom Rowley, in his third competition back from injury, will look to prove himself back in the top ranks. Also returning from injury is Emerson Smith, competing in his first World Cup start since 2018.
Joining the U.S. Ski Team are athletes from regional programs. As the host nation, the U.S. has additional quota start opportunities and is fielding 17 U.S. athletes. Local Wasatch Freestyle skiers Madison and Kasey Hogg will be making their World Cup debuts in front of their friends, family, and community. Steamboat Winter Sports Club skiers Maggie Ryan and Landon Wendler will also be making their World Cup debuts Thursday. Former U.S. Ski Team athlete Bruce Perry, Jr. (Squaw Valley Ski Team) is climbing his way back into World Cup ranks after taking some time off during the 2017-2018 season. Kalman Heims (Killington Mountain School) will have his fifth and sixth World Cup starts.
Competition continues Friday night with the world’s best aerial skiers launching themselves off of the double and triple kickers to perform quadruple twisting backflips. This is the first World Cup competition for the U.S. team this season as they elected not to compete in China last December and the Moscow event was postponed until Feb. 15. Competing at Deer Valley as the first event of the season sets the Team up for success with home snow advantage and a roaring crowd. The aerials’ season only has them traveling further and further from home as they compete in places like Kazakhstan and Siberia.
Leading the Americans is veteran, 3-time Olympian and 2017 World Champion Ashley Caldwell. Known for being one of the few women who jump the triple, Ashley has a multi-year plan going into the next Olympic cycle and is taking this year to compete doubles and let her body heal from previous injuries in order to make her stronger for next season. Top-ranked American Eric Loughran is amped on the Deer Valley course. “I’m feeling great, the sun was shining, it’s been an awesome day,” said Eric of the first day of training. “My jumping is going awesome. The hometown crowd is pretty sweet, seeing all of my friends up here on the landing is going to be awesome. Getting to be able to compete in front of Park City is amazing.”
Chris Lillis has been crushing it in training this extended prep period, and if he jumps like he has been, he will be a podium contender. Teammate and brother Jon Lillis is looking solid and landed all of his jumps during Day 1 of training. Justin Schoenefeld, who finished his first World Cup season last year ranked 10th, has been strong in training as well. This will be Justin’s first Deer Valley start. Veteran skier Alex Bowen has been putting in the work this season and is eager to fight for podiums. Nick Novak will look to score World Cup points. Also making his Deer Valley debut is rookie member Quinn Dehlinger, who was all smiles after day one of training, landing all of his jumps.
On the women’s side Winter Vinecki, who finished last season ranked seventh, is showing good form and landing qualities, and if she performs how she has been training, she will be a contender for super finals. Morgan Northrop is working on her Full Double Full and we may see her compete it on snow this week. Megan Nick just landed her first Double Full Full on snow last training camp and is excited to potentially perform it under the lights on the White Owl course. Madison Varmette is putting in the work on her Double Full Full. New Team members Kaila Kuhn and Megan Smallhouse are both training hard for what will be their first World Cup start as U.S. Ski Team members. This will be Smallhouse’s first Deer Valley World Cup. (Need a refresher on all-things-aerials? Check out Aerial Skiing 101)
Joining the U.S. Ski Team are two Park City Ski & Snowboard aerial skiers, bringing the total American aerial competitors to 16. Karenna Elliott will be competing in her second-career World Cup and Derek Kreuger will be making his World Cup debut.
The fun concludes on Saturday night with everyone’s favorite show on snow, dual moguls. Although a crowd and athlete favorite event, dual moguls is not competed at the Olympic Winter Games. Last year’s dual moguls night was one for the books, with three Americans medaling: Brad, silver; Jaelin, silver; and Tess, bronze. The Americans love a good duals night, balancing pushing themselves to the limit to put on a good show with keeping a competitive edge over the rest of the field.
The mogul and aerial skiers of the U.S. Ski Team are primed and ready to show their hometown crowd what they’re made of. As the only domestic stop on the FIS Freestyle World Cup Tour, this is a true homecoming event as many of these athletes call Park City and Utah home.
Bruce Perry Jr.
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Friday, Feb. 7
12:30 a.m. - Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International men and women’s moguls, Deer Valley, Utah - NBCSN*
Saturday, Feb. 8
3:00 p.m. - Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International men and women’s moguls and aerials, Deer Valley, Utah - NBC**
Sunday, Feb. 9
3:00 p.m. - Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International men and women’s dual moguls, Deer Valley, Utah - NBC**
Note: All televised events to stream across NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app, OlympicChannel.com, and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA app
Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass, available here: https://www.nbcsports.com/gold/snow.