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Hanover Teen Krass Thrilled for Surprise Berth

  • Hanover's Julia Krass, who qualified for the Winter Olympics in Slopestyle, a discipline of Freestyle Skiing, chats with face-painted friends during a sendoff party at Whaleback Mountain in Enfield, New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 21, 2014. <br/><br/>Rob Strong

    Hanover's Julia Krass, who qualified for the Winter Olympics in Slopestyle, a discipline of Freestyle Skiing, chats with face-painted friends during a sendoff party at Whaleback Mountain in Enfield, New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

    Rob Strong

  • Hanover's Julia Krass, who qualified for the Winter Olympics in Slopestyle, a discipline of Freestyle Skiing, speaks with a member of the press as an admirer looks on during a sendoff party at Whaleback Mountain in Enfield, New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 21, 2014. <br/><br/>Rob Strong

    Hanover's Julia Krass, who qualified for the Winter Olympics in Slopestyle, a discipline of Freestyle Skiing, speaks with a member of the press as an admirer looks on during a sendoff party at Whaleback Mountain in Enfield, New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

    Rob Strong

  • Hanover's Julia Krass, who qualified for the Winter Olympics in Slopestyle, a discipline of Freestyle Skiing, chats with face-painted friends during a sendoff party at Whaleback Mountain in Enfield, New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 21, 2014. <br/><br/>Rob Strong
  • Hanover's Julia Krass, who qualified for the Winter Olympics in Slopestyle, a discipline of Freestyle Skiing, speaks with a member of the press as an admirer looks on during a sendoff party at Whaleback Mountain in Enfield, New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 21, 2014. <br/><br/>Rob Strong

Enfield — At 9 years old, Julia Krass enrolled in Whaleback Mountain’s first Core Team youth skiing program. Seven years later, she’ll be a founding member of a much more prestigious outfit.

Krass on Tuesday was named to the inaugural U.S. slopestyle skiing Olympic team, a coaches’ discretionary selection after winning a U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix event in Park City, Utah, on Saturday.

A discipline beckoning tough tricks and soaring amplitude off rails and jumps, slopestyle skiing has been popular at ESPN’s Winter X Games for years and will be an Olympic event for the first time next month in Sochi, Russia, along with halfpipe skiing.

Krass, of Hanover, is one of four women’s slopestyle skiers named to the U.S. Olympic team. She joins automatic selections Devin Logan, of West Dover, Vt.; Minnesota native Keri Herman and Montana native Maggie Voisin.

Voisin is currently Krass’ roommate in Park City, where the pair are stationed with Team Axis, a training outfit. Voisin was also a discretionary pick.

In her first season as a full-time World Cup-level athlete, Krass, 16, needed two podium finishes to qualify for the Olympics automatically. After a strong showing at Dew Tour events last month, her first Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo., on Dec. 19 saw her finish a disappointing 30th.

Krass regrouped during the holiday break, returning to the Waterville Valley, N.H., training center where she’d spent time each of the last three winters. Gaining new comfort in difficult tricks such as the cork 900 tail grab — grabbing the rear end of her skis while twirling 21/2 times in midair and landing backwards — she entered January with renewed confidence.

Krass placed 19th at a Grand Prix event in Breckenridge, Colo. on Jan. 8 before catapulting to fifth last Friday at the first of two days in Park City.

In a make-or-break scenario to be in the running for an Olympic berth Saturday, Krass trailed Herman after a conservative first run but executed a number of eye-catching tricks on her second, completing the weekend by landing the cork 900 tailgrab to the delight of judges.

The performance came just in time to become a last-minute addition to the U.S. Olympic team.

Krass, a Hanover High junior who’s taking classes online while training in Utah, didn’t even necessarily have the Olympics on her radar this season. She was back in the Upper Valley on Tuesday for a one-day, one-night trip in order to renew her passport and visa.

Krass flies back to Park City today, then heads to Sochi with her compatriots next Wednesday.

“(The Olympics) were in the back of my head, but I was really focused on the Dew Tour at the beginning of the year,” Krass said in the Whaleback Mountain lodge, where an impromptu send-off party was organized after news of her selection came in.

“I knew that the Grand Prixs were going to be qualifiers, but I didn’t have a good day on the first one.

“It was really after I came back on Christmas break, using the airbag jump at Waterville Valley and really getting down some new tricks, that I knew I was going to be confident and get after it. At that point I pretty much knew anything could happen.”

Friends, family and former coaches greeted Krass on Tuesday night, wishing the best to an athlete who first trained under Whaleback Core Team coach Evan Dybvig, a Tunbridge native and two-time U.S. Olympian (1998, 2002) on the men’s freestyle moguls team.

Dybvig addressed the gathering of about 50 before calling forth current Core Team youngsters for photos with Krass.

“We’re proud of you and we love you,” he said. “There are no expectations or pressure, we just want you to do the best you can at this time of your life and enjoy representing your country on this world stage.”

Lest Krass forget her roots, Dybvig presented her with a Core Team T-shirt and patch to bring overseas.

“Thank you so much, everyone,” Krass told her audience.

“I’ve been skiing here since I was 2 years old, and now I’m going to the Olympics. It’s pretty special.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.