Time to pack your skis and head south, kids. PHOTO: Courtesy FWT
Skiers hoping to qualify for the Freeride World Tour will now be able to compete as early as August. Tour organizers announced a four-event slate of FWQ events in the Andes this year, with the addition of three new stops in Chile—Nevados de Chillan, Antillanca, and Corralco—plus the return to the back bowls of Argentina’s Chapelco for a second year.
“The interesting thing about skiing is that the concept of competition gets bashed a lot, from racing to freeride, there's always someone who feels that somehow if you go out and enter an event, that you're somehow not "core" or pure enough,” says Freeride World Tour Americas Manager Tom Winter.
But if you follow the history of the sport, it's impossible to ignore that some of the most pure and intense moments in skiing's history have been when people are competing: from Toni Matt at Tuckerman's run at the Inferno in 1939 to Wayne Wong's competitive mogul runs. Sure, it's easy to look at the commercialism surrounding Winter X and get turned off by that, but I challenge anyone to enter a participatory event like La Grave's Derby de la Meije and not come away totally stoked about competing on skis. I think that's why we are seeing the growth of the FWT and it's definitely a driver of what's happening in the Andes with the development of organizations like Freeride Sudamerica and the new FWQ events this season.”
It's impossible to ignore that some of the most pure and intense moments in skiing's history have been when people are competing: from Toni Matt at Tuckerman's run at the Inferno in 1939 to Wayne Wong's competitive mogul runs.
Many skiers use their influence on social media to attract would-be sponsors, leaving some to question the relevance of competitions like the FWT, former competitor Hadley Hammer argues that the tour’s low barrier to entrance is what keeps it relevant for skiers hoping to compete.
“The FWT unifies skiers across countries and ages. It's brimming with soul, from the start gate to the finish corral, because it's made up of a group of people who love skiing enough to endure sleeping in cars, missing rent, and having to explain to their parents what they are doing with all their time and money. It's that love that will sustain its place in the skiing industry,” Hammer wrote earlier this year. Read the full piece here.
While extreme ski competitions have been largely relegated to venues across the Americas and Europe since their start in the early 90s, the tour expanded to make its debut in Asia with the inclusion of a qualifying event in Japan in 2017. With the addition of three new qualifying stops in the Andes, the FQT is making big moves toward becoming a year-round global event.
“Competition will always be relevant in skiing. We're always going to have races with our friends to the bottom, people will always try to ski a steeper line or nail a gold medal run in the halfpipe. It's how people push themselves and one way in how the sport also develops,” Winter says. “Freeriding events are part of this ecosystem. I love competition, and it's equally great to watch a World Cup downhill or the FWT event in Verbier, they're both compelling and exciting and cool.”
This year's schedule kicks off at Nevados de Chillan from August 10-13. The ski area, one of the snowiest in Chile, has open bowls, cliffs, and playful terrain on the flanks of the active volcano that the ski area takes its name from.
The next FWQ event is at the remote Antillanca volcano in Southern Chile on August 17-19. Located in Chile's Puyehue National Park and approximately 98 kilometers from the scenic town of Osorno, the area around Antillanca is one of the most spectacular landscapes in Chile, surrounded by native forests punctuated by volcanoes and lakes.
After Antillanca, the Argentine ski area of Chapelco welcomes the athletes. Now in its second year, the Chapelco event will take place on the ski-in, hike-out Back Bowls, filled with plenty of opportunities for air and an excellent south facing exposure that shelters powder long after storms.
The tour returns to Chile in August for the final FWQ event of the season at Correlco, located high on the slopes of the Lonquimay volcano.
“These competitions in the Andes are entry level freeride events, where you don't need special skis or a speed suit or to do anything else but show up and ski your line,” says Winter. “The local community of freeriders is still small, and super supportive, so if you enter one of these events, you're immediately part of that family and it's really about community and being part of something fun.”