Park City, UT – The best aerials and moguls skiers in the world return to Utah’s Deer Valley Resort once again this week for the Visa Freestyle International – the biggest FIS Freestyle World Cup of the season. Moguls, aerials and dual moguls events will take place Feb. 2 – 4, with the aerials competition on Feb. 3 marking the first qualifying event for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.
Since its inception in 2000, the Visa Freestyle International has been an athlete and fan favorite on the World Cup tour. Each year, tens of thousands of spectators congregate at the bottom of the White Owl aerial run and the Champion mogul course to watch U.S. athletes battle it out against a stacked international field. Deer Valley Resort rolls out the red carpet for all the athletes but, with a strong contingent of American supporters and friends and family in the crowd, this event holds a special place in the hearts of the U.S. team.
“The atmosphere at Deer Valley is one of a kind,” said moguls athlete Brad Wilson, of Butte, Mont. “It has the biggest crowd on tour and everyone enjoys the show we’re able to put on. They get into it, and the more they get into the event the more we feel it and the more we put on the line. I feel lucky to have this atmosphere at my home mountain because they’re support for American athletes goes even further.”
Those in attendance at Friday night’s aerials competition will witness the first of six qualifying events for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. As the site of the moguls and aerials events for the 2002 Games, and with a host of past medalists ripping around on the slopes, the Olympic spirit is alive and well at Deer Valley. That spirit will fuel athletes as they look to land one jump closer to a spot on the 2018 Olympic Team.
“Having Deer Valley as an Olympic qualifier this year is a great opportunity,” said two-time Olympian Ashley Caldwell. “The aerial site is one of the best sites we see all World Cup tour and the home field atmosphere is unmatched. From the volunteers to our team support staff, everyone works really hard to put on a great event for all the athletes.”
The U.S. team has landed an impressive 35 moguls and aerials World Cup podiums at Deer Valley, including top finishes from Wilson, Caldwell, Mac Bohonnon (Madison, Conn.), Kiley McKinnon (Madison, Conn.), K.C. Oakley (Piedmont, Calif.), Dylan Walczyk (Rochester, N.Y.) and Jaelin Kauf (Alta, Wyo.). Other top contenders competing this weekend include the aerials family duo of Jon and Chris Lillis (Pittsford, N.Y.) and a strong contingent of veteran and rookie mogul skiers ready to step it up in front of the hometown crowd.
The last few World Cups at Deer Valley Resort have been continuous preparation for the 2019 FIS Freestyle, Snowboard and Freeski World Championships. Utah won the bid for the 2019 World Championships in 2014. Since then, Park City Mountain, Deer Valley Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, City of Park City, Park City Chamber/Bureau and the Utah Sports Commission have partnered together to host multiple test events to demonstrate the region’s readiness to host a major international event.
“The Visa Freestyle International is always a highlight for the community of Park City and the State of Utah,” said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager of Deer Valley Resorts. “We’ve been a strong supporter of freestyle skiing for over 15 years and we will continue to provide world-class venues and service to these amazing athletes at the World Cups, the 2019 World Championships and beyond.”