By JILL PARKER
Ketchum's Conor Davis, 20, faced many challenges during the March 23-28 Telepalooza World Competition at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska—and the 1,000-foot hike to the top of The Headwall was one of the most challenging tasks.
A magnificent view of Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet greeted competitors as they reached the start gate. Bluebird skies assured good visibility. And the snow, well, the stats are 240 inches of new snow, 100 falling in the last 30 days, and 684 inches of snow for the year.
Davis, a 2007 Community School graduate and former Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation alpine and cross-country skier, made the most of it.
He made the Telemark Super Final and finished sixth. He earned the "Tough Guy Award," for hiking up The Headwall six times and skiing down after an amazing crash.
Telepalooza originally began as a teleskiing competition and this year became the seventh annual Jeff Nissman Memorial Telemark Festival. The event incorporated skiing, teleskiing, and snowboarding contests for mountain lovers. This year's theme was Space Odyssey 2010.
Hosted by Alyeska Resort, the three-day event narrowed the field of competitors each day for a shot at the podium, money and prizes during Saturday's Super Finals.
< Big Mountain skier and telemark ambassador Davis entered both ski categories and was a top contender in each field, making the Super Finals Saturday. A hometown crowd of myself and Ketchum legend I.M. Chauncy cheered Davis through the exciting finals.
After his fourth hike up the Headwall in the Telemark Super Final, Davis pioneered a gnarly line, billy-goating down a narrow, 65-degree rocky face named the "Headstone."
From the Headstone he dropped into a chute, and then skied back into exposure and hit a few features on the spine on the left side of the chute. Continuing down into the skirt, he made fast tele turns through the sluff/avalanche debris fields, stomping the telemark super final run.
Unfortunately, a bobble/hipcheck from the day before kept him from reaching the top spot, but he ended up solid, in sixth place.
The alpine super final didn't go as smoothly for Davis, who was the top-ranked telemark skier in the 2008-09 Canadian Freesking Open.
After skiing the same line down the Headstone (with much less snow), Davis made his way to hit the other, higher-scoring spine on the right-hand side. After airing a small feature near the top, he got highsided, tossed and began rag-dolling over rocks and down the steep face, finally using his pole to self-arrest after having it break three times.
Thanks to his helmet, spine guard and mouth guard, he only ended up with a broken pair of goggles, a broken pole and a few cuts on his face!
All of this led him to win the "Tough Guy Award" for both hiking up the headwall a total of six times and getting himself together and skiing down after his crash.
Davis' trip to Alaska for the World Comp was funded by donations from the Sun Valley Ski Patrol. He is sponsored by Sun Valley Resort and is an ambassador for Black Diamond Equipment.
On the Web site conordavis.com discussing his goals, Davis wrote, "I want to tear down the traditional views of telemark skiing.
"With ever-evolving gear and technology, there are more possibilities to push the sport than ever before. I strive to ski faster, go bigger, get in the park and invent new tele-tricks, and ski better than my alpine companions, and have an amazing time doing it."
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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.