By L.R. Fielding
The commonly confused Nissan Freeride World Tour and Subaru Freeskiing World Tour—the FWTs—are finally making it a little easier on us for a couple of days by coming together in Kirkwood, Calif., for a dual North American Freeskiing Championship event. With the best freeskiers from around the world convening for the first time together on Kirkwood’s Cirque, it’s sure to go off. Plus, the forecast is talking in terms of feet, not inches (and Day 1 has already been pushed back till tomorrow, Saturday).
Mountain Sports International, the company that owns and runs the Freeskiing World Tour, made the collective decision to combine forces with Freeride World Tour nearly a year ago, in order to accommodate scheduling conflicts between the two. (And for clarity: The Freeride WT is the (mostly) Euro circuit, founded in 2007, while the Freeskiing WT, established nearly 14 years ago, is the (mostly) North American operator.)
Despite sharing a similar name—an ongoing topic of debate, naturally—and celebrating the same sport—big mountain freeskiing—they are very different tours. The Freeride WT is invitation-only and only allows athletes to “visually inspect” venues before competitions, while the Freeskiing WT is an “open” event, and encourages “slip” inspection of venues.
“The more we can work together, the better it is for the sport and the athletes. [Both FWTs] support big mountain freeskiing, and are both passionate about growing the sport,” said Adam Comey, president of MSI.
Of course, also, several “top Freeride [World Tour] athletes are former Freeskiing World Tour Champions,” said Sara Waldman of the Freeskiing WT. These include: Seb Michaud, who started competing on the Freeskiing World Tour in 1998 and placed ninth in Whistler at the Canadian Freeskiing Championships in 1999; Aurelien Ducoz, first in 2004 at Kirkwood, sixth in 2005 at Snowbird, and tied for first with Drew Tabke in 2007 at Snowbird; Tim Dutton, a two-time Freeskiing World Tour champion with wins in Kirkwood and Alaska in 2009; Sverre Liliequist, who has been competing on the Freeskiing World Tour for years and a perennial top-ten competitor with a fourth place at Snowbird in 2000; and Adrien Coirier, who was second in 2006 at Snowbird, first in 2007 at Telluride, first in 2007 at Squaw, second in 2007 at Jackson, and fourth in 2007 at Kirkwood.
Since the North American Freeskiing Championships is MSI’s event, the judging will remain consistent with IFSA’s format and criteria. All athletes will be scored one to 10 in the following categories: line choice, control, fluidity, technique, and a new category, style, which was created to give athletes who could throw tricks some incentive to give ‘er.
With five feet of snow expected in Lake Tahoe, Day 1—on the 1,500-vertical foot cliffy playground known as the Cirque—has been postponed until Saturday, Feb., 26. And we all know what deep snow means for a big mountain competitor: bigger drops, more air, more spins, more flips, more give ‘er, etc. Combine that with a level of competition that has never been seen in the freeskiing world, this Kirkwood “FWTs” spectacle will certainly be worth watching. (Thursday’s qualifying round results, wrap up and video here.)