In many ways, the Revelstoke Freeride World Tour venue is the epitome of unbridled big mountain skiing: a start gate, a finish gate, and limitless options in between. Ramps and spines, wind lips and cliffs–there’s something for every style of skiing. However there’s more to line choice than simply finding the features that are best suited to an athlete’s strengths and skiing them. The countless variables that go into chosing a line make competitive freeskiing a little more complex than “just skiing down there and jumping off of something.”
Perhaps the most unsung quality of a good big mountain skier is the ability to look at a face and ski exactly where he or she wants to on the first try. Athletes will study the face for days, but when it comes down to it there’s no way to know how big that cliff is, how soft that snow is, and how smooth that transition is. Sure, athletes will gauge cliff size from trees on the face, ski similar aspects to get an idea of snow quality, and look at the face from every possible angle in order to get a grasp on steepness, but at the end of the day, it’s all just a guess. There’s not competitor out there that hasn’t thought to him or herself, “that was bigger/harder/flatter than I thought it was going to be” after visually inspecting a venue.
The face is going to morph drastically between the first skier and the last. Intuitively, one might think the earlier the better, but both the front of the pack and the back of the pack have advantages and disadvantages. While the front of the pack is ensured the best landings and likely the best light, they also have to combat heavier sluffs and have very little beta about snow conditions on the face. On the other hand, the back of the pack might have to deal with a few more bomb holes, but they get to watch the first competitors ski, gaining valuable information on snow quality and terrain. Furthermore, line choice may change for the rear of the field if a lot of great lines are skied, or if everyone’s crashing. There’s no ideal place to start, however, the way athletes look at a face is going to change a lot depending on if they have the hole shot or if they’re running DFL.
The Mac Daddy Face
With the difficulties of visual inspection and start order in mind, athletes in Revelstoke have two main options: the more northerly facing, steeper, exposed skier’s right side, or the northeast facing, more featured and playful skier’s left side. They are two fairly different options, with the skier’s right side offering more traditional, full-throttle lines and the skier’s left side offering options for more modern, trick oriented skiing. There’s no obvious winning line, like at some venues, but I’d venture to guess that the winning lines will come from the skier’s right side, but, the majority of the top 10 will be comprised of skiers that head to the left.