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Ashton on top of freeskiing competition

WB Freeride Team also on podium at Crested Butte

In December, Pique readers voted Jennifer Ashton as Whistler’s favourite athlete for 2005, largely based on her results in local mountain bike events that summer as well as her past status as a Canadian and world freeskiing champion.

Last weekend Ashton proved she’s still one of Whistler’s top athletes with a strong first place showing at the 15 th annual Crested Butte U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championships. Her score of 152.8 over four runs was almost 17 points more than hometown hero Wendy Fisher, who was last year’s champion. Third place behind Fisher went to another Credted Butte local, Carri Jo Chernoff.

Ashton also earned the top score on the first run of the finals, outscoring the men to win the Athlete’s Choice Award.

Ashton didn’t intend to compete – she was there with three of her students from the Whistler Freeride Club, Whistler’s Lonnie Wake and Erin Kerr, and Ariana Stufano of Pemberton. She decided to enter at the last minute.

"It went great," she said. "It was chalky, kind of edgy snow, that I kind of like, and the terrain was really fun."

Ashton’s top run was in an area called Body Bag, which is a steep slope with a lot of obstacles and a mandatory air section at the bottom. Ashton doubled a couple of the drops. "It was a fairly big line. The top guy that day took the same line, but I got more points for it – I don’t know if the judges gave me some extra girl points, but I was stoked that I managed to stomp it and ski out."

For her performance Ashton won a $6,500 U.S. prize purse, and a trip to any Club Med in North America, given to the athlete’s choice winner.

As for her junior skiers, Ashton was impressed by their performance. Using the same terrain as the adults, only Wake didn’t make it to the three-girl final event. Kerr and Stufano then went on to finish second and third overall behind a local girl.

Ashton doesn’t have any plans to enter more contests, but is looking forward to making more trips with members of the clubs.

"The junior category is really taking off at these events, and the level of skiing is just amazing. I was really proud of the way the girls handled the terrain and had fun with it.

"I think the top junior guy would have won the men’s event, he was just an amazing skier," said Ashton.

Kerr won $350 U.S. for her efforts, as well as a new pair of skis. Stufano won $250 U.S. and a new helmet.

Ashton’s win comes less than a month after Whistler’s Laura Ogden won the U.S. Freeskiing Nationals at Snowbird.