Julia Krass competes at the FIS Freeski World Championships on Feb. 2, 2019 in Park City, Utah.
PARK CITY, Utah -- A week ago, freeskier Julia Krass was in Italy, where she stepped on the podium for the first time at an FIS World Cup event after finishing third in a slopestyle event. Saturday night in Park City, she did it again, only this time as the world championships silver medalist in big air skiing.
Krass, the 21-year old from Hanover, New Hampshire, gave an incredible show at the FIS World Championships with her 173.75 score. That mark was just 11 points behind Tess Ledeux of France, who took home gold. Isabel Atkin of Great Britain was third with 168.75 points.
“I was really happy with how it went,” said Krass, who was competing in her first FIS big air competition. “Luckily I had the speed totally fine. In training yesterday I was able to dial in the tricks that I wanted.”
Training paid off as Krass landed her first jump “really clean” with a 88.75 score, which gave her two more tries to nail her second trick. She did just that on her third attempt, scoring 85.00.
“That was perfect that I got those two shots on it,” Krass said.
Considering how little time Krass had to prepare for the event, her performance is perhaps even more remarkable. She clinched her first world cup podium in Italy on Sunday, then landed back in Park City on Monday. She said she learned on Tuesday that she’d be competing in big air at the world championships.
“And then we had training on Friday,” Krass said. “It all happened pretty quick.”
The turnaround was so fast that Krass said she started feeling jet-lagged just before the big air finals. But a cup of coffee later, she felt great and went on to give a medal-worthy show.
It was an astounding performance for a young star on the rise, in front of a crowd that blew away all the athletes Saturday night. Before the event started, Utah Governor Gary Herbert claimed during a press conference that more people would watch the 2019 FIS Snowboard, Freestyle and Freeski World Championships, which take place through Feb. 10 at three Utah resorts, than tomorrow’s the Super Bowl. Though that is yet to be seen, Krass was nonetheless thrilled with the live turnout on Saturday.
“I had no idea how many people really watch,” said Krass, a 2014 U.S. Olympian in slopestyle. “This is like a crowd that would be at X Games, maybe even bigger. Usually at world cups we’re not at night like this, so, yeah, it’s a much bigger crowd out here.”
Krass’ medal was the second in two days for U.S. athletes at the world championships, after Olympian Mick Dierdorff got things started on Friday when he became the first U.S. man to win a snowboardcross world title in 14 years.
Fellow Olympian Maggie Voisin joined Krass in the women’s big air finals, finishing eighth overall.
On the men’s side, Alex Hall represented the Americans with a fourth-place finish. Hall is an Olympian who took home his first X Games medal last weekend when he won the slopestyle competition. Two-time Olympic medalist Nick Goepper also reached the big air finals but only took his first jump and finished 10th overall.
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Hall looked like a lock for third until Canadian Alex Beaulieu-Marchand edged just past him. The men’s finish was tight, with Hall scoring 180.50, Beaulieu-Marchand posting a 183.25, Sweden's Henrik Harlaut scoring 184.00 and the winner from Switzerland, Fabian Boesch, scoring 186.00.
“I’m stoked with how I skied,” said Hall, who competed in the 2018 Olympics in slopestyle. “The guys who podiumed just skied a little better than me, so I’m stoked for them. I landed everything I wanted to just like I wanted to, so I’m stoked.”
Hall, a Utah native, said he enjoyed skiing at home but didn’t feel that it made a difference in his performance. Like Krass, he was more impressed with the size of the crowd on hand.
“It’s just sick to have a huge crowd out here,” Hall said.
When Hall heard how many people are expected to watch the 2019 world championships, he said he too was blown away. For both Hall and Krass, they see this event as an opportunity for the sport to grow even bigger.
“I’m hoping this sport is being showcased to more and more people, because it’s a really cool sport and we all love doing it,” Hall said. “I think it’s really unique. As many people as possible should be seeing it.”
Krass echoed his sentiments, saying that she hopes more “people watch it throughout the years. It’s an incredible show, what we put on. I hope more people fall in love with it and watch it.”
The sport is poised for more exposure. Big air skiing is on the events list for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, following the successful launch of big air snowboarding at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist and novelist from Utah. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.