Fresh off a three-day, 5-foot snow dump, the best conditions were saved for the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association's final South Shore Series event Sunday, March 4, at Sierra-at-Tahoe.
The slopestyle event was even pushed back a day to take advantage of bluebird skies on the Upper Main trail.
Almost 100 competitors came from South Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes, Sacramento Area, Zephyr Cove, Bay Area, Davis, Placerville, Truckee, Houston, Texas, Minturn, Colorado, and Gardnerville to compete in the freeski and snowboard discipline.
The competition was fierce in several divisions, including the 14- to 15-year-old boys in snowboard and freeski and 10-11 boys' snowboard.
South Lake's Kai Collins prevailed in a close five-way battle to win the 14-15 freeski event. Collins scored a 92 on his third of three runs to average 87.67 to take the top spot.
South Lake Tahoe friends and competitors Josh Bull (84.67), Ty Loughlin (84.00), Finn Abiko (83.00) and Dalton Drum (78.00) made it a close top five.
South Lake's Anthony Piccinonno put up one of the highest scores of the day, a 91.00, to best Placerville's Angelo Ferreira (87.00) and Pleasanton's Joseph Senner (75.00) in the 14-15 boys' snowboard.
South Lake's Graydon Ross beat three other challengers to claim first in the 10-11 snowboard boys division.
Ross' 84.00 bested Jace Knight, of Houston, Texas (80.00), and his best friend Luke Leal (78.33) and Kai Rennie, of Stanwell Park, Australia (76.00).
The 10-11 snowboard girls produced maybe the closest four-way race for first. South Lake's Lily Weitzel prevailed with a 79.67 to edge Fairfield's Ayla Su (79.00). South Lake's Neveah Verduzco and Freya Hammerlein were third (76.67) and fourth (76.00), respectively.
Sebastian Kilgore, of South Lake, won the 12-13 boys' freeski division with an 84.67, beating Owen Burns, of Carmichael (80.00), and SLT's Forrest Jones (76.67).
Zoe Loughlin, of South Lake, won the freeski 12-13 girls' division. Kellan Azevedo brought home another win for the South Shore in the boys' 10-11 division, scoring a 77.00 to edge Mammoth's Emile Painter (75.33).
Nate Mitchell (81.33) topped Baker Broadhurst (80.33) in a battle of South Shore residents in the 12-13 boys' snowboard division.
SLT kids went 1-2-3-4 in the 12-13 girls' snowboard class with Sage Marie Smith (81.33) beating Isabelle Wilson (80.67), Krystyna Schembri (77.67) and Veda Hallen (76.33).
SLT's Devon Smead put up a solid 85.67 to win the 8-9 boys' snowboard division.
Denver Orr, of South Lake, put up the overall highest score, a 91.33, to win the open class.
Truckee's Dick Schulze, the oldest competitor, won the 60-plus division and received special mention from Roger Ashton, President of the Sierra-at-Tahoe Education Foundation, a volunteer group that works with resort management to manage the competition-level teams.
"He is the oldest competitor in our series and one of the oldest competitors in the country, although he does not seem older," Ashton said. "He competes in all disciplines at nationals every year. He knows the handful of athletes that he will complete against in Colorado. He is a Northstar snowboard instructor and competes in every USASA South Shore Series event. He is a great athlete to have in our series."
Now the athletes wait to find out if they receive an invitation for the 29th annual USASA Nationals at Copper Mountain in Colorado.
Athletes from 32 different regional series areas and over 100 resorts with more than 5,000 USASA members will be invited to attend nationals. The snowboard events will take place from March 31 to April 6 with the freeski events to follow from April 6-11.
Qualifiers for nationals will be first-place athletes from each age group division in both men's and women's for each discipline, slopestyle, rail jam, boardercross / skiercross and snowboard slalom and giant slalom. Athletes can also qualify based on their national rankings.
"We want to thank Sierra-at-Tahoe so much for holding all of the South Shore Series USASA events this season," Ashton said. "General manager John Rice and park staff and competition services director Dan Moore all helped to make it happen. We also want to thank the South Shore Series directors Bridjet and Joey Orr and their sponsors for all that they do to make these events happen. This is where the Olympic Freeski and Snowboard athletes start to get to the top."