10th Mammoth Invitational headlines weekend events
Johnny Teller captains Mammoth Reservation Team to overall win for the weekend
Mammoth Mountain Ski and Snowboard Team alumni including: Geordie Lonza; Tyler Wallasch; Chris Benchetler; Carly Marguiles; Clifford Mann; Eric Mann; and Olympians Greg Bretz, Jr.; Johnny Teller and Stacey Cook joined forces with other local and visiting sports celebrities for the 10th Mammoth Invitational held April 6-8. The event titled “Everything That Glitters is Gold” was a weekend of on-snow activities and Saturday Gala and Auction. Unfortunately, the weather made a drastic change for the worse on Friday and by early Saturday morning “Plan B” was put in place. “Plan B” involved canceling the “Atmospheric River Tubing” event, making some adjustments to the “Selfie Scavenger Hunt” and moving the Biathlon competition inside.
One thing the weather couldn’t put a damper on was the “All That Glitters is Gold Gala and Auction” held Saturday evening. And on Sunday, all the inclement weather was gone, leaving the mountain glowing under bright blue skies and warm temperatures. It also allowed the GS race and Big Air Competition to continue as scheduled.
In the GS former MMSST racer Teller, who competed in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in men’s ski cross, took the win in the “best of two race” over 2018 Olympian Mark Engle from Truckee, Calif. Teller, who was captain for the Mammoth Reservations Team, only took one run, but he made it count with his time of 27.78 seconds giving him a .16 second lead over Engle. Local Master racer Mike Braun placed third for the men. Coming in third overall and first for the women was Teller’s former teammate Lonza. In the women’s category, Lonza, who is currently a student at The Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at The University of Vermont, was followed by Mammoth High School Ski Team’s Mallory Podosin in second and current MMSST U12 racer Maya Eisner in third.
The other event for skiers and snowboarders was the Big Air Competition held at the bottom of Andy’s Double Gold. Three athletes tied for first in the event including: Bretz, and two Mammoth Reservations Team members Jaeger Bailey and Nick Miles. Taking second was Maddie Bowman and third place went to Ben Stranger. Tying for fourth were Faye Gulini and MMSST’s Eisner.
The highly competitive Mammoth Reservations Team had Teller and Brian Murphy’s win in the GS race team competition along with Bailey and Miles win in the Air Bag comp, TJ Schau’s second in the Indoor Biathlon and the team took first place for the Selfie Scavenger Hunt giving them the win in the Overall Team Competition for with the weekend. Teller’s group beat out 19 other teams for the coveted title.
Giving Teller and his team some stiff competition were other well known Olympic athletes who were team captains including: Liz Stephen a three time Nordic Olympian; Gulini a three time snowboard cross Olympian; and South Lake Tahoe’s Olympic gold medalist Bowman.
1 161 Mr. Johnny Teller Mammoth Re 27.78 (1) DNS 27.78
2 136 Mr. Mark Engle Chucks Gol 28.10 (2) 27.94 (1) 27.94
3 84 Ms. Geordie Lonza Mizu 29.72 (3) 30.05 (3) 29.72
4 166 Mr. Mike Braun Miramar Br DNF 29.86 (2) 29.74
5 132 Ms. Mallory Podosin Chile Heli 31.40 (4) 32.79 (4) 31.40
6 164 Mr. Brian Murphy Mammoth Re 33.14 (5) DNS 33.14
7 138 Mr. Dave Melton Chucks Gol 33.19 (6) DNS 33.19
8 149 Mr. Ben Stranger Head Skis 34.35 (10) 33.44 (5) 33.44
9 133 Ms. Maya Eisner Chile Heli 33.49 (7) 33.90 (7) 33.49
10 135 Mr. Brad Podosin Chile Heli 33.67 (8) 33.76 (6) 33.67
Mammoth Invitational introduces Snow Volleyball to Mammoth
Andy Benesh crowned “King of the Snow”
Snow Volleyball made its inaugural appearance as a sport in Mammoth, and quite possibly in the U.S., during the Mammoth Invitational held April 6-8 at Mammoth Mountain. The volleyball event was the result of the joining of forces between the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation and local resident Stephen Ascher, Jr. who has a long history with the sport of volleyball.
Snow Volleyball is catching on with many European ski resorts as an alternative sport for their guests. The sport has grown so much that 17 European countries are now hosting national Snow Volleyball tournaments that are similar to the beach version. To prove how popular the sport has become, there was an exhibition game played on Valentine’s Day at this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. The hope is it will lead to the sport being included in future Olympic games, but truthfully the earliest the sport could make the Games would be 2026, providing that it becomes a demonstration sport in 2022. Historically, the IOC has tried to keep the Games to single season sports, but volleyball could possibly be the first sport to be included at both the Winter and Summer Games.
The beach and snow versions of volleyball differ in a few important areas making the crossover a little more difficult than just a name change. Air temperatures, high altitude and the fact that one is played on fairly stable sand, while the other is played on snow that can change with a number of variables including what the players themselves do to the medium. Snow can break up or it can quickly become solid ice with continuous pounding. But one thing is definitely a constant they both maintain the same lively party atmosphere.
Ascher attended Cal Berkeley where he played NCAA and club volleyball. Additionally, he is known for founding Sideout® Beachwear out of his Berkeley frat house. He said he was introduced to Christopher St. John “Sinjin” Smith at a tradeshow in Los Angeles called “MAGIC.” And then tells how in 1983 he set off on a surf trip with Smith that “would forever change his life.” Ascher, who also founded the Sideout® lifestyle brand, eventually incorporated the King of the Beach® and Queen of the Beach® brands in the mix. He felt, “the idea of starting a beach lifestyle company around board riding and beach volleyball, two sports loved by many, would be a sure hit.” Ascher made an initial $5,000 investment from his father, and the process was started.
Then came the crown, combined with Smith’s legendary success, and the dual brand relationships with King of the Beach® and Queen of the Beach™ were born. The King of the Beach idea incorporated the beach lifestyle and the philosophy of the times, “It’s good to be King”, said Ascher. “This energy has created an enlightened state to support this lifestyle and way of thinking.” The journey of passion into the global surf, volleyball and beach lifestyle that still resonates today, with the addition of “King of the Snow” and “Queen of the Snow.”
In the early years, Ascher traveled with “King of the Beach” Smith and other Sideout® sponsored athletes on the beach tour around the world. Great journeys to the World Championships of Beach Volleyball in Rio de Janiero, Brazil lead also to amazing surf adventures. Smith and Randy Stoklos together dominated beach volleyball at the World Championships, together winning over five World Titles, earning the perpetual reputations and title of “The Kings of Rio.” Smith went on to become one of the greatest beach volleyball players in the history of the sport. His accomplishments as a player earned him a place in both the International Volleyball Hall of Fame and the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame. He and longtime partner Stoklos won more professional beach tournaments as a team (114) than anyone before or since and Smith’s 139 career victories rank second all-time among individual players. He has won multiple World Championships, “King of the Beach” Invitationals, Manhattan Beach Opens and has represented the United States in the Olympic Games.
Smith played for the USA Indoor National Team for four years and was a collegiate All-American at UCLA where he won two National Championships and a finals MVP for the Bruins. He was the second volleyball player ever inducted into the UCLA Hall of Fame. In his youth, Smith was a fixture at legendary Sorrento Beach where he learned the game from pioneers like Ron Von Hagen and Gene Selznick. Smith is a longtime resident of Pacific Palisades where he lives with his wife, Patty, and the couple’s three children, Hagen, Stanton and Sinjin, Jr.
On Friday evening Hagen and three of his Southern California beach volleyball friends, Cole Fiers, Andy Benesh and Eric Beranek ventured out in the pouring rain, onto the snow to play the first “King of the Snow” volleyball exhibition in Mammoth. Other Mammoth Invitational participants including MMCF Executive Director Lindsay Barksdale, and Olympians Maddie Bowman and Stacey Cook eventually joined the four pros. The group stayed out in the cold, wind and rain playing well into the evening. When it became too dark to see the ball, the mountain provided a snow cat to light the playing arena. Event guest braved the same weather to watch the athletes play in the trying conditions.
Saturday the weather only got worse, but by Sunday the skies cleared and the four pros were back playing in front of the Tusk Bar with the mountain as their scenic backdrop. Other beach volleyball enthusiasts joined in to play including Invitational racers in their ski boots, helmets and goggles. Later in the afternoon, the title game took place with the winner Benesh being crowned the “King of the Snow.”
PHOTO GALLERY by SUSAN MORNING