This Competition Brings Out the Best in Skiing

At the Taos Freeride World Qualifier, young world class skiers risk their knees, their lives, for the very slim chance to make it

As I stepped out of my skis and joined the several hundred people at the bottom of West Basin, at Taos Ski Valley, for day two of the 4-star Taos Freeride World Qualifier, people were freaking out. Some hollered, others rang cowbells, and two dudes in snowboard boots jumped up and down, hugged each other, and then high-fived, as one said loudly, “Holy shit that is ridiculous!”

Casey Riva had just edged along a ribbon of snow on a basically-vertical rock outcropping before turning and jumping 20 feet. He didn’t stick the landing—in fact he would finish 26th out of 26—but it didn’t matter. He gave the people what they wanted. And the people were very thankful.

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It’s likely that these freeride events—the grassroots, unrefined, unglamorous qualifiers like the one at Taos chief among them—are the best competitions in skiing. Hell, maybe the best in sport. They certainly bring out the best in skiers. In how many athletic competitions among young men and women do the competitors rush to hug and high five one another after completing their task? Where else do young world class athletes so audaciously and constantly risk their careers, their knees, their lives, for the very slim chance to make it? Even if, by the rarest of chances, they qualify for the Freeride World Tour, these skiers simply win the right to maybe barely eek out a living as a professional skier for a few years. That’s skiing for you. Anything for the chance to keep doing it as much as possible.

That’s skiing for you. Anything for the chance to keep doing it as much as possible.

On Saturday, Taos’ West Basin provided the perfect venue. The amphitheater of steep chutes and jagged, gnarled rocks rivals probably only Crested Butte for the steepest and most technical inbounds skiing in the country. It’s an area I ski regularly—if very slowly—and not at all like the skiers we watched last weekend. Where I sideslip into entrances, above you-really-don’t-want-to-fall zones, competitors straightlined or aired massive threes.

Desperately needed snowfall came in heaps earlier in the week, so while the snow wasn’t exactly blower, the ground was soft all the way to the more south-facing far wall of the basin. The skies were New Mexico blue, without wind. Some in the crowd wore tank tops, even though, at 45 degrees, it wasn’t exactly tank-top weather. Sierra Nevada provided the beers while locals passed around the bud.

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Sam Kuch, a 19-year-old from Nelson, BC, had a line that won the crowd and the event, with two massive airs that he stuck, with smooth, fast skiing in between. Near the entrance, he spun a three off a narrow, angled rock. His momentum after landing carried him into the corral, where he was mobbed by fellow skiers. “After I landed that one, I was ready for the rest of the run,” he said.

The run, as much as the crowd, reminded everyone why these events are essential for skiing.

“I think competition skiing has fallen off the map, especially in North America,” said Kuch. “It’s good to see when huge crowds come. It’s starting to make a comeback. There’s such a high level of talent here.”

Full results of the skiing events at the Taos Freeride World Qualifier:

Men’s 4-Star

1. Kuch, Sam CAN 33.73 36.70 70.43
2. Patterson, Berkeley USA 35.00 34.13 69.13
3. Major, Victor USA 32.77 35.67 68.43
4. Peiffer, Liam CAN 34.17 33.33 67.50
5. Long, Mitchell CAN 33.00 34.40 67.40
6. Moller, Grifen USA 34.03 33.10 67.13
7. Holley, Harrison USA 31.27 31.17 62.43
8. Peiffer, Tom CAN 31.17 31.23 62.40
9. Fake, Hayden USA 31.50 30.90 62.40
10. Moser, Riley USA 28.27 33.13 61.40
11. Dujardin, Will USA 30.77 30.27 61.03
12. Lord, Alex USA 29.20 30.67 59.87
13. Williams, Hunt USA 27.93 30.73 58.67
14. Banker, Ryan USA 28.30 30.30 58.60
15. Fowler, Kyle USA 28.97 27.80 56.77
16. Craddock, Brandon USA 28.57 25.90 54.47
17. Winn, Evan USA 28.70 25.30 54.00
18. Pratt, Taylor USA 29.73 19.93 49.67
19. Rumph, Andrew USA 30.57 17.27 47.83
20. McDermott, Raymond USA 30.17 15.03 45.20
21. Siegel, Isaac USA 30.60 13.50 44.10
22. Guldman, Xander USA 33.90 0.00 33.90
23. Vollbrecht, Tucker USA 32.87 0.00 32.87
24. Cooke, Trace CAN 31.77 0.00 31.77
25. Eckles, Bobby USA 31.27 0.00 31.27
26. Riva, Casey USA 30.07 0.00 30.07

Women’s 4-Star Results

1. Croft, Rachel USA 30.87 32.57 63.43
2. Bembenek, Ashley USA 31.73 31.03 62.77
3. Patterson, Emma USA 31.17 31.47 62.63
4. Thorsen, Kele USA 31.47 30.10 61.57
5. Krejci, Andrea SWE 30.47 29.27 59.73
6. Riedman, Alex USA 30.27 27.90 58.17
7. Munsey, Kara USA 31.03 26.50 57.53
8. Borderick, Rhianna USA 28.97 26.73 55.70
9. Buhl, Katherine USA 27.17 26.70 53.87
10. Zeliff, Caite USA 27.83 25.53 53.37
11. Krogh, Marian CAN 27.07 25.90 52.97
12. Razinger, Tami USA 27.20 25.37 52.57
13. Elrod, Nancy USA 27.60 24.00 51.60
14. Paulsen, Veronica USA 28.33 18.17 46.50
15. Hursh, Cammy USA 26.97 0.00 26.97

Men’s 4-Star Masters Results

1. Greenwald, Daniel Arroyo Seco, NM 31.23 32.20 63.43
2. Segal, Larry Olympic Valley, CA 29.70 30.53 60.23
3. Spencer, John Breckenridge, CO 30.30 29.87 60.17
4. Seibert, John Durango, CO 25.40 26.93 52.33
5. Seely, Joseph Andover, MA 24.67 24.27 48.93
6. Saputo, Jon Martinez, CA 22.77 25.37 48.13
7. Anfield, Chuck Channanhon, IL 23.60 24.30 47.90
8. Saputo David Walnut Creek, CA 24.83 13.53 38.37

Women’s 2-Star Results

1. Munsey, Kara USA 32.47
2. Borderick, Rhianna USA 31.63
3. Patterson, Emma USA 31.33
4. Sakson, Andra USA 30.10
5. Teare, Siena USA 28.83
6. Ryan, Rachel USA 27.93
7. Garrett, Jordan USA 26.90
8. Holson, Miranda USA 26.80
9. Truax, Elle USA 26.70
10. Sawyer, Sierra USA 26.43
11. McKay, Kelly USA 26.37
12. Buhl, Katherine USA 25.77
13. Bloom, Kelsie USA 25.47
14. Byron, Josie USA 25.13
15. Carter, Lacey USA 23.23
16. Durchslag, Nina USA 22.13
17. Seibert, Katarina USA 15.17
18. Mejia, Sofia ARG 14.27
19. Roberts, Serena USA 12.90
20. Gordon, Sloane USA 12.53
21. Hyde, Christa USA 10.80
22. Baumann, Isabell NOR 0.00
23. Cooke, Stefanie FRA 0.00

Men’s 2-Star Results

1. Peiffer, Tom CAN 34.27
2. Guldman, Xander USA 34.10
3. Moller, Grifen USA 34.07
4. Eckles Bobby USA 32.93
5. Lord, Alex USA 29.17
6. Hursh, Keenan USA 28.93
7. Harding, Jameson USA 28.17
8. Lavicka, Kaison USA 27.97
9. Pech, Blake USA 27.67
10. Winn, Evan USA 27.50
11. Forbes, Robbie USA 27.33
12. Rinaldi, Dominic USA 26.63
13. Otto, Josiah USA 26.33
14. Friedlander, David USA 26.13
15. Fersch, Matt USA 25.97
16. Keeve, Andrew USA 25.93
17. Vollbrecht, Tucker USA 25.90
18. Rahn, Daniel USA 25.83
19. Vergara, Chris COL 25.50
20. Doherty, Alex USA 23.97
21. Ryan, Zachary USA 23.47
22. Lesniak, Ryan USA 22.27
23. Moseley, Zach USA 21.83
24. Patterson, Berkeley USA 21.30
25. Peiffer, Liam CAN 20.50
26. Green, Trevor USA 18.80
27. Abate, JT USA 18.20
28. McCorkel, Noah USA 18.07
29. Mora, Rome USA 18.07
30. Siegel, Isaac USA 17.23
31. Dickinson, Willem USA 14.37
32. Epper, Reese USA 12.53
33. Thibodeau, Jack USA 11.63
34. McClellan, Benjamin USA 11.07
35. Stevens, Alex USA 9.90
36. Beer, Tomas USA 9.77
37. Bathgate, Jackson CAN 0.00
38. Cook, Quintin USA 0.00
39. Walter, Benny USA 0.00
40. Lovi-Borgmann, Griffin USA 0.00
41. Ziegler, Nigel USA 0.00
42. Berger, Will USA 0.00
43. Herlihy, Luke USA 0.00
44. Long, Mitchell CAN 0.00
45. Moser, Riley 0 0.00
46. Flynn, Ryan USA 0.00
47. Kraatz, Tristan USA 0.00
48. Scully, Kirk USA 0.00
49. Bol, Nathan USA 0.00
50. Hall, William USA 0.00
51. Bembenek, Adam USA 0.00