While Jillian Vogtli competes in the Sprint U.S. Freestyle Championships that end Sunday in Killington, Vt., she has a bit of a home course advantage.
That's because the mogul skier from Ellicottville will be racing on a course built by Richie Morgan of Eden.
Morgan said he is one of three people in the United States with the certification and the knowledge to build World Cup caliber moguls and aerials courses.
"It takes two weeks [to build a course]," Morgan said by phone on the eve of the competition. "Three days with a groomer and the rest is done by hand. It requires 12 guys to maintain a course because you must reshape and manicure or resurface the jumps."
The course at Killington is 265 meters long with three lines of bumps with two jumps in each line. The skier gets to pick his or her line but must stay in that line. Top skiers can get 20 feet in the air on jumps and carry 60 feet down the hill. And their tricks have gotten so much bigger that Morgan said he has had to "do a lot of learning new techniques to keep up."
Morgan was a diver at Eden High School and played soccer at Hilbert College, but he is self taught in freestyle skiing. The 38-year-old started coaching in 1991 at Kissing Bridge and moved on to HoliMont before being recruited to work at the Olympic site in Lake Placid.
In seven years as a course builder there, he set up seven World Cup courses, six pro moguls courses and 13 regional courses.
"I spend 130 days on snow with a shovel in my hand, six to seven days a week," he said.
He returned to Western New York this winter, worked at HoliMont and hired himself out as a private coach: he's certified at the top level in moguls and the second highest in aerials.
After the U.S. championships, the self-described golf fanatic will head to Tampa, Fla., and to Tuscon, Ariz., to spend time on another kind of course. Then it's back to Lake Placid for work on the water ramps.
"I'm a single man who can go at a moment's notice," he said. "I live out of a duffel bag and my best friend is a shovel. The blisters on my hand can prove it."
>Martens wins age group
Colin Martens of East Aurora won the J-V division (10-under) of the Francis Piche Invitational Ski Race at Gunstock, N.H. held March 17-18. Colin's twin brother Peter finished eighth. The 10-year-olds are in the fifth grade at East Aurora Middle School.
They were the top two qualifiers from New York for the event for skiers from eight Northeastern states. Ben Gordon of Orchard Park finished second in his second run in J-III (ages 13-14), but the 14-year-old did not complete his first run.
>Around the slopes
* Holiday Valley made snow last week and plans to stay open until April 9. It has 29 slopes and eight lifts in operation. Among this weekend's activities is a Dekdebruns rail jam at the rail park at the base of Mardi Gras on Sunday at 10 a.m. Participants may demo next year's snowboard equipment, which will be supplied by Tech 9, Batallion, 32 Boots and Smith Optics. The Annual Ford Slush Cup will run Friday through April 2.
* Andrew Boorman, who runs the Western New York Snowboard Series for the United States of America Snowboard Association (USASA), was named the Alpine coach for the USASA All-American team earlier this year. Boorman and 45 riders from the local series will be taking part at the national championships at Northstar-at-Tahoe in Truckee, Calif., starting Sunday. Boorman, a Java native now living near Rochester, then takes the All-American team to Switzerland.