Words: Griffin Post
Historically, The Cirque at Kirkwood has held some mystique for many competitive big mountain skiers: a permanently closed area, only open to a select few, one day a year. In other words, no matter what the weather patterns in the weeks leading up to the contest, competitors were guaranteed an untracked face. As big mountain competitions have advanced and untracked faces have morphed from a privilege to an expectation, the exposed, roped off area just beyond the Kirkwood boundaries has managed to maintain its allure. The terrain is challenging, the snow pristine, and the options seemingly limitless. A historic favorite amongst athletes on the Freeskiing World Tour, Wednesday's Freeride World Tour event promises to deliver.
"The cirque has lots of options, it's one of the better venues in North America. There's some steeps, some pepper, some cliffs—it's really a classic venue," says former Squaw Valley Freeride World Tour winner Jackie Passo. "It's definitely one of the more intimidating venues in the states."
While The Cirque's features deliver year after year, the snow conditions on the venue can differ drastically, and anyone that has been to Tahoe recently can attest to the high pressure the area has been under. "It's variable, to say the least. I don't mind firm snow or anything like that, but I prefer when it's consistently firm, it's much more difficult when it's variable," says Sweden's Reine Barkered, who is currently 3rd overall in the men's standings. "Considering how it's been over (in Tahoe), it's decent, and the coverage is pretty good, there's just not that much new snow. Regardless, it's going to be fun." With a game changing dump between now and contest day unlikely, Wednesday's event is definitely going to be a contest that favors technically sound skiers. Large hucks are unlikely, and fast, fluid skiing with some trickery will likely prevail.