by Derek Taylor
The Snowbird stop on the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour has long had a reputation as a breakthrough event. Gordy Peifer, Ben Wheeler, Nick Greener and Lars Chickering-Ayers are among many who notched their tour victory on the slopes of Silver Fox and North Baldy. The event once again lived up to that renown, crowning two first-time champions, including one first-time competitor. In an event ripe with story lines (including Silas Chickering-Ayers following the footsteps his brother Lars laid just two years ago) it was former U.S. Ski Teamer Kaylin Richardson who stole the show.
The two-time Olympian (17th in combined in 2006 and 2010) cruised through the qualifier and dominated day one on Silver Fox, then held on through the finals on Saturday to win in her first ever big mountain comp. Crystal Wright had the run of the finals for the ladies, hitting a 15-footer to straight-line through the Ampitheater to move from 4th to 2nd, but it wasn't enough to erase the four-plus point lead Richardson had built after day one.
Richarson exhibited her World Cup pedigree, arcing fast, smooth turns and flashing the course for the second-highest score on the day and a commanding three-point margin of victory. It was such a decisive win that FWT announcer Frankie Alisuag declared during the awards ceremony, "There's a new sheriff, ladies."
Richardson, a Minnesota native now skiing out of The Canyons, Utah, wasn't so quick to agree. While she did express a desire to show that this win wasn't a fluke, Richarson wouldn't commit to competing in Kirkwood, the final stop on the 2012 Subaru Freeskiing World Tour. "I don't know. I need to talk to [director of competition Bryan] Barlow first." she said regarding Kirkwood. "I don't want people to say I won because there was no snow, or that I didn't catch any air—all of which are true. So, I wouldn't mind going into Kirkwood with no expectations again. But I don't know yet."
Meanwhile, Wright's second-place finish made the race for the McConkey Cup for the Subaru FWT overall much more interesting. The result puts her in a dead tie with two-time defending champ Angel Collinson, setting up a possible showdown in Kirkwood. It also leaves Wright with a dilemma; she currently has plans to travel to La Grave, France, and compete in the famed Derby de La Meije. She'll need to cut that trip short, or practically concede the title to Collinson.
The men's event was no less interesting. Silas Chickering-Ayers, a graduate of the Junior Freeskiing Tour and the fifth-place finisher in Snowbird last year, jumped from fourth after day one to win the North American Freeskiing Championships. Chickering-Ayers laid down a commanding run, and benefited from a conservative effort by day-one leader Spencer Brinson.
Brinson skied what looked like a safety run to finish seventh on the day. Combined with his Silver Fox run, however, it was enough to land him in second. Crested Butte's Tom Runcie moved from fifth to third with a high-consequence run that also earned him the Sickbird belt buckle. Tour veterans Guerlain Chicherit and Cliff Bennett finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Nineteen-year-old Silas is a member of Green Mountain Freeride, a collective of skiers from Mad River Glen that travels all winter competing and filming. The group boast past Snowbird champions Dylan Crossman and Silas' brother Lars. Silas, Lars and their father, John, were highlighted in the Legacy feature in Powder's 40th Anniversary issue. Last year, in his first year on the five-star circuit, Silas earned a podium finish in Crested Butte, finishing third in an event his brother won.