STRATTON MOUNTAIN, Vermont ??вЂќ Based on a suggestion from his own teen-age son, Stratton’s Manager of Competition Programs Mike Racz started crafting a progressive program to teach young skiers how to be savvy in the snow park. Racz had also noticed that kids who return to Stratton every weekend during the winter were spending more and more time in the park sliding on rails, trying big jumps, and skiing in the halfpipe. This season, there are 22 kids enrolled (doubled from last season) in Stratton’s innovative freeskiing program.
“They’re another type of kid,” says Racz. “They’re street smart. Much more chill. It’s really a chill scene out there.” In the past six years, since the invention of the twin-tip ski (that allows skiers to ride and jump backwards, or “fakie”), the popularity of freeskiing has taken off. Mike Nick, X-games medallist and Stratton skier, says, “Skiing is what snowboarding was 15 years ago, the outlaw sport??В¦the fresh movement??В¦I’ve actually met kids who think skiing was invented after snowboarding. It’s amazing.”
Racz and other pioneers of Stratton’s program knew they needed great coaches that the kids would look up to. He chose Matt Iovanni, a 22-year-old professional freeskier, to be head coach. “I knew Matt was the right guy,” says Racz, “when all of the kids knew who he was from his freeskiing film appearances. They were pumped.”
The Stratton program is inspired by the enthusiasm of its participants. They trade freeskiing movies, make their own films, and ski on features on and off the mountain in the Stratton Mountain Resort area. Coach Matt Iovanni is also inspired by their enthusiasm, “Now I’m competing against an 11 year-old that I taught to ski for the first time this winter.”
Racz is proud of the Stratton tradition to support the changing currents of skiing and riding. He believes that freeskiing will now become what snowboarding has been to Stratton since the 1980s. Just like when Jake Burton Carpenter tested his snowboard prototypes at Stratton over 20 years ago, today Matt Iovanni and other local coaches are teaching kids to slide down rails, take big air, and sail above the half-pipe on twin-tip skis.
Thanks to the new freeskiing program and several high-profile freeskiing events hosted here, Stratton has become a hub for the movement in its early stages. Throughout the season, the Cold Wars series draws amateurs and pros who compete in four missions from a Rail Jam in the Village to the Slopestyle Showcase on February 18.
Stratton also hosts the culminating event of the Siver Young Gun Open on March 11. The Young Gun Open is an opportunity for amateur freeskiers to receive exposure and to win prizes including a contract with several gear and apparel companies
The competitive season builds to the Vermont Freeskiing Open, staged from March 22-26 at Stratton Mountain. More than 100 top freeskiers compete for prestige and a piece of that $25,000 cash purse in the Vermont Freeskiing Open, the largest event of its type in the East.
For more information on freeskiing, Stratton’s No. 1 rated parks and Superpipe and the full slate of events and competitions, check www.stratton.com.