The infamous Santa Teresa venue will become the stage for the best freeskiers in the world in the coming days. PHOTO: MSI

The infamous Santa Teresa venue will become the stage for the best freeskiers in the world in the coming days. PHOTO: MSI

We will be hosting a live webcast of The North Face Chilean Freeskiing Championship. Watch the first Freeride World Qualifier of the season in El Colorado, Chile on Friday and Saturday at 4pm PST/7pm EST.

Early this week, skiers began arriving at Chile’s El Colorado ski resort to compete in the first Freeride World Qualifier event of the 2014 season – The North Face Chilean Freeskiing Championship presented by Crystal Light. The event is to be held in the legendary Santa Teresa area of El Colorado, not used in competition since 2010, and the prime location for lift-accessed big mountain skiing in the region. Around 50 skiers representing 12 countries will be on hand, with the women’s field in particular looking to make an especially strong showing with more than 20 competitors.

This year’s event represents the fifth year of worldclass freeride events made possible by the support of title sponsor, The North Face Chile. During the first four years, the freeskiing event in Chile served as one of the now-defunct Freeskiing World Tour’s events. Since last year’s merger of the Freeskiing World Tour with the Switzerland-based Freeride World Tour, the Chilean event is now part of the Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ). With its four-star event ranking, it is one of the most prestigious events in the world for athletes trying to win a spot on the Freeride World Tour. It is the only FWQ event on the South American continent, so the pressure is high for local athletes for whom this may be the only chance to gain points – and money – that would carry them to other four-star events.

Event director Bryan Barlow ordered this storm on Wednesday. Should do the trick. PHOTO: Jason Eder/MSI

Event Director Bryan Barlow ordered this storm on Wednesday. Should do the trick. PHOTO: Jason Eder/MSI

Until this week the Andes had received minimal snowfall, making it the fourth consecutive year of below-average conditions in the central zone near Santiago. Even Nevados de Chillán and Pucón (areas south of Santiago, comparable to the Pacific Northwest of the United States), typically blessed with a much deeper snowpack than the central zone has also experienced below average snowpack. But, arriving seemingly as though it was requested by event organizers, a very large winter storm began to impact the region around the El Colorado ski on Tuesday night, and intense snowfall continued throughout the day Wednesday and into the night. With the dominant wind direction and substantial snowfall, there will likely be near a meter of new snow deposited into the competition venue.

“It just doesn’t get any better than this,” said event director Bryan Barlow. “The way conditions are setting up, this event looks like it is going to one of the best we’ve seen.”

Snow safety professionals from Philippe Bouteille’s Whiteworld guide company are tasked with avalanche control and event safety. They will control the venue when the storm clears on Thursday, and depending on the results, athletes will either have an on-site inspection, or a visual-only inspection from the finish area. The weather is forecast to clear for the scheduled competition days on Friday and Saturday. Sunday and Monday are reserved for weather days in case of continued inclement weather.