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In the first ski competition of his life, Austin Prince, 17, placed sixth in the junior men’s category of the 2008 Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships held March 8 in Taos. The event attracts some of freeskiing’s top athletes, including competitors from throughout North America, Canada, Europe and Japan. The Los Alamos High School junior is the grandson of George Irving Bell Jr., former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Theoretical Division, who was at the forefront of LANL’s involvement in the human genome project. Bell was a world-class mountain climber who made a first ascent of 25,000-foot Masherbrum in the Himalayas and first ascents of two Peruvian Andes peaks. Taos Ski Valley hosts the Salomon Extreme Freeride Championships held on its steep terrain, with venues including the ragged chutes and cliffs of the West Basin and Kachina Peak.Competitors move through a variety of qualifying days, with top finishers advancing to the next round to ski more difficult venues. Competitors are judged on degree of difficulty of line, aggression, fluidity, control and style by a panel of five judges. The field is progressively cut until only the top athletes remain to compete on the final day.Prince scored fourth in the March 6 qualifying run against skiers with coaches, sponsors and agents.
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