NEWRY — Simon Dumont’s vision has never been clearer.
When the 27-year-old Dumont started the Dumont Cup, a slopestyle event with rails and jumps, six years ago, he saw it as a way to give back to not only his home mountain – Sunday River – but to the sport that has carried him far beyond the borders of his Bethel hometown and provided him with great personal success.
Friday afternoon, it was clear that he had achieved those goals and that his early-spring event had grown up.
On one hand, you had 85 amateur skiers competing for the few coveted spots in Saturday’s semifinals. On the other hand, you had 13 of the world’s top professional free skiers – including the three Olympic medalists in slopestyle skiing – mingling with the young fans, offering advice, posing for photos or signing autographs.
“I just talk to them on the chair lifts,’’ said Gus Kenworthy, the silver medalist at the Sochi Winter Olympics who is competing in his fourth Dumont Cup. “‘What up? How’s your day going?’ They ask questions about the course, about tricks. We talk about that stuff. I ask them what they want to do. Usually those conversations are pretty mellow, just chit-chat.’’
And that’s pretty cool, especially for a 13-year-old who’s just learning his skills. “This is great,’’ said Ryan Stevenson of Washington, N.J. “I got to talk to Nick Goepper (the Olympic bronze medalist).’’
So what did they talk about?
“I just wanted to ask him if all the Olympic athletes automatically advanced to the finals,’’ he said.
Friday’s qualifying races featured 85 amateurs. Twenty-one advanced to Saturday morning’s semifinals – there was a tie for the last spot – to join the pros who made the trip. From those semifinals, 12 skiers will be selected to join the three Olympic medalists in the finals.
The only Olympian not there Friday was Joss Christensen, with good reason. After the Olympics, he traveled to Bosnia, where he was bit on the leg by a stray dog. While he had rabies shots there, he needed to begin a new battery of them (30 in all) in the U.S. – on Friday. He does plan on competing Saturday.
And don’t you think the amateurs are gearing up for a shot at the pros, especially the Olympians.
Alex Hackel, a 17-year-old from Reading, Mass., made it to the semifinals last year. He was the third-ranked amateur on Friday, with 84 points, trailing Alex Bellemare of St. Boniface, Quebec (87) and Scott Nelson of Darien, Utah (85).
Hackel has skied Sunday River his entire life. “It’s an awesome way to share with my friends where I grew up skiing,’’ he said.
He likes the new course on T72 with its big, big jumps and multiple rails. “The biggest jumps I’ve been on,’’ he said.
And he’s looking forward to seeing how he stacks up against the big guys.
“Oh yeah,’’ he said. “Competing against them makes it more legitimate. When you see your result, you see how you compare with the best.’’
Of course, not everyone advances. Keegan Kilbride, a Portland native and senior at Carrabassett Valley Academy, is leaving Sunday to compete in the freestyle junior world championships in Italy. He didn’t make the cut. But, he said, he was here “to ski and to hit the big jumps. They are really sick. It’s really fun.’’
Blake Wilson of Windham made last year’s semifinals but not this year.
He’s now a freshman at Westminster College in Utah and missed a day of class to be here. “I wouldn’t miss this,’’ he said. “It’s my home mountain, a slopestyle jam and you get to ski with the Olympians.’’ He’ll keep coming back, he said, because this is the only big event on the East Coast where his family can watch.
Amateur competitors came from as far as Nevada, Utah, California and British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast. They came down from Quebec, up from Virginia and over from Indiana.
“New England is everything I expected,’’ said Cindy Vogt, who traveled here with her 12-year-old son Nick from Fort Wayne, Ind. (the hometown of Goepper). “From the buckets on the trees in Vermont to the coastline in Maine. It’s nostalgic. Old-world buildings.
“I don’t know how else to describe it but awesome.’’
The Vogts made this more than just a ski trip. They visited the capitol of every New England state. Just for fun, they toured the campus of Brown University in Providence, R.I. “Just like I thought it would look,’’ said Cindy Vogt.
As far as her son, a good friend of Jason Goepper, Nick’s younger brother (who made his first appearance at the Dumont Cup), he wanted to watch the best.
“I just wanted the experience,’’ said Nick Vogt. “I want to learn how to get better, watch other people do stuff and take that back home with me.’’
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or: