By Emily Wolfe Explore Big Sky Managing Editor
Turns out, freestyle skiing is alive and well at Bridger Bowl. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Bridger Bump-Off, which started in the late 1970s and is set for March 23 on Bronco Face.
Held in a jam format and open to the public, the mogul event pits competitors in heats against each other, with divisions for alpine skiing, telemarking, snowboarding, juniors and adults.
The goal is to have all athletes skiing several runs, according to Mike Papke, the head Bridger Ski Foundation coach and director of its freestyle program.
“The vibe is a throw back to our roots,” says Kristin Zetzer, a mother of two BSF freestyle skiers and one of the 2014 Bump-Off organizers. “Old school mogul skiing is encouraged, and this season having a ‘super heroes’ theme should bring a nice, fun community feel.”
Zetzer explained that former U.S. Ski Team member Rusty Squire founded the event in the ‘70s, which Tom Cook and Johnny “Mogul” Mayer took over from him in the early ‘80s before BSF began organizing it. “I would love to challenge the founders to get out there and show their stuff,” she said.
The BSF freestyle teams currently have 89 athletes, Zetzer said, a number of whom train 3-5 days a week.
Statewide however, freestyle has shrunk, with the only United States Ski Association-Northern Division teams here and in Missoula, Zetzer said. Because of this, local kids travel to places like White Pass, Wash., Sun Valley, Idaho and Deer Valley, Utah to compete.
A fundraiser for BSF, the Bump-Off is also a way to get the community involved, spread awareness about the team, and to find new participants.
The event typically has had 30-40 competitors, but with recent growth Papke expects the number of participants to double.
BSF’s freestyle team has grown 63 percent in the last three years since Papke took over as director, Zetzer said, explaining that many kids come to ski under his renowned tutelage. Papke coached two-time Olympian Heather McPhie on her way to the international circuit.
The organization is currently raising money for a jump bag, which would allow them to train year-round.
Registration for the Bump-Off will be from 9-11 a.m. in the Jim Bridger Lodge on March 23, the day of the event. The competition starts at noon. Costumes are encouraged, and there will be prizes for division winners.