Powder Editor John Stifter planned to grill hotdogs with Drew Tabke’s dad while watching the best big mountain competitors in the world get rad for the
Kirkwood Snowbird stop of the Freeride World Tour. When that didn't work out—an eight-foot crown on the intended venue will do that—Stifter was relegated to the couch with me and a (sometimes buffering) webcast at POWDER HQ while mitigating the snark of the immediate (not too well thought out) reactions that live tweets tend to produce. Now that we've had a little more time to process, these are our takeaways from the event.
1. Logistics, Logistics. Putting on this event is effing hard. We're talking about a live webcast at 9,000 feet, scrambling from mountain face to mountain face, day to day, because snow conditions and weather at that altitude change really fast, and avalanches with an eight-foot crown are really scary. The ASP surfing tour doesn't have avalanches of death to deal, just sharks and Huntington Beach douchebags. But that said, the webcast needs to look more professional. Where's the running score ticker, the interviews between every run while the judges deliberate, the slow-motion replays, the close-up of the guy who drank too much Fireball and passed out next to his Hibachi? I don't know how any of this stuff works—I can barely figure out how to operate a microwave—but it seems like this could improve and grow the sport. Yes, make big mountain contest skiing nearly as important as the X Games, flat brims and energy drinks not included (please).
2. Laying Down the Hammer. Apparently Hadley Hammer has had hucking on her mind. Maybe she always has hucking on her mind, in the same way that I always have sandwiches on my mind, but she seemed to take that craving to another level recently, kind of like when I'm in Portland and have to get Bunk's cubano. Last week, while we were in Jackson Hole for Powder Week, Hadley Hammer sent one of the Bastards (Smart, I think). I only saw photos and the bomb-hole, but it was probably like 50 feet of air time. It was big. Then, in the middle of her run on Silver Fox, she went bonkers again, sending one of the biggest airs of the day of any of the divisions. She couldn't hold on, and thus finished tenth, but you have our attention Hadley Hammer. Thank you.
3. Paaso's on the Dollar. We know there's more to a run than sending it, but we're going to talk about sending it some more, because it's fun. For the same reasons we loved Hadley Hammer's line, we've always appreciated Jackie Paaso. For people to pay attention to this sport, it has to be entertaining, and Paaso always is. Sometimes she sticks her aggressive line and wins (like in Chamonix) and sometimes she sends a 20-footer to rock and completely blows up (like yesterday). She's like that friend who's kind of a loose cannon, especially when he drinks. You never know what's going to happen, but the fact that you know something is going to happen is the best part, and why you always invite them to happy hour.
4. Teeth are Overrated. There are only a few sports—hockey, bare-knuckle boxing, gelande quaffing—where it seems normal to see champions missing teeth. We like Lars Chickering-Ayers for a lot of reasons—his CAST binding system is pretty cool and so is his van—but his big toothless grin, especially on top of the podium, is especially endearing.
5. Judges? This is another thing that is probably really hard. I had to judge a pie contest once, and it was impossible. There were so many great pies! I've never judged a ski event, but I'm sure there are just as many variables as the tenderness of a cobbler. (And is a cobbler even a pie?! Don't get me started…) Still, we were really surprised by Julien Lopez' score—his back flip from the top lip really set the tone for one of the more brazen and entertaining lines of the day—and Drew Tabke's result. Sure, Tabke bobbled his entry 3, but it was a pretty minor thing in an otherwise perfect line that nobody else skied. He finished 17th. That felt weird. Lastly, Patty Baskins had a sweet hand-drag three and then stomped a 5 off a 25-foot cliff. He skied it out, but ultimately got hooked up in some chunder, you know, because he was skiing backwards! You got to reward that, and yet he finished 20th, and then all of Summit County vowed to never watch an FWT event again. Again, this is good for the sport! C’mon Hugo Harrisson (he’s the head judge for ski). We all idolized your crash-free stomp-fests MSP segments, but skiing needs to reward creativity rather than just hard-charging aggressive line choice. Neverthless, Patty if you’re reading this, get your hands up and ski like the big mountain ripper you are.
6. Frenchman Sage Cattabriga-Alosa. Yeah, we know he's no Francophile, but the production team put a French flag next to his name so we're going with it. Plus, it kind of works. He has a place in Portland, which has a lot of bread, and cheese and elitists. Sage is no snob, but Portland is kind of like the France of Oregon. I've already spent too much time on this topic… On a different note, it was really exciting and fun to have Sage in this event. He's one of the best skiers ever, and his style is all his own. Seeing that in a FWT event was one of our highlights. We're really curious to know how he would have done if he would have stuck that across-the-hill 3. Regardless, we hope he comes back again.
7. Garrett Altmann for President of Everything. Who got Garrett Altmann stoned? Because the last time I threw that many sweet tricks from the 20th century it was mostly because I got pretty loose while skiing in jeans during A.S.S.F.A.R.T. (All Ski Something Fast Awesome Rad Together) Day at Powder Week. Altmann was probably just excited to have another day off from his job studying climate change at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and felt he should express himself with a monster cosack and other top tricks from his mogul competition days. Regardless, that guy was having more fun than everybody else yesterday. I'll have what he's having, and can't wait for the twister-spread at Revelstoke.
Go to the Freeride World Tour for more photos, videos, tour standings, and information.
1. Lorraine Huber (AUT), 85.00 points
2. Nadine Wallner (AUT), 80.25 points
3. Pia Nic Gundersen (SWE), 79.00 points
1. Lars Chickering-Ayers (USA), 90.25 points
2. Jeremie Heitz (SUI), 88.75 points
3. Sam Smoothy (NZL), 86.50 points
The SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR BY THE NORTH FACE® continues its competition in Revelstoke, Canada, March 10 where the final athlete cut will be made for the Xtreme Verbier final championship competition in Switzerland on March 22. The stakes in Revelstoke will be extra high as athletes tackle of infamous Mac Daddy face. The remainder of the schedule includes both men's and women's ski and snowboard competition.