First held in 2008, the Freeride World Tour (FWT) and Freeride World Qualifiers (FWQ) are an annual series of events highlighting the best freeride skiers and snowboarders in the world, as well as showcasing the best up-and-comers in the game.
Often held in steep and gnarly big mountain terrain in places like Kicking Horse, British Columbia or Verbier, Switzerland, this year, the FWQ circuit welcomes a newcomer, Mzaar Kfardebian, Lebanon, to its calendar of events.
The Lebanon Ride4Peace 2-star Qualifier marks the first ever FWT sanctioned event in the Middle East, which is all thanks to organizer, FWQ snowboarder, and Lebanese-born Thomas Rigaudeau. Rigaudeau said the idea first came to him when he met with FWT organizer Tom Winter at a qualifying event in Antillanca, Chile.
"When I first got into the qualifiers, I imagined how positive it would be to host one in my home country Lebanon," says Rigaudeau. "Both for local and international riders."
Winter said he provided Rigaudeau with a lot information about setting up an event, and all the important things that he's learned since he organized his first event in 1999 at Berthoud Pass, Colorado.
"The key thing is that if you don't try to do too much, and keep things organic and simple, it's possible to create a freeride event with a very basic budget," says Winter. "Big sponsors and lots of money aren't really needed."
Just an hour's drive from Lebanon's capital of Beirut, Mzaar Kfardebian is the largest ski area in the Middle East. Consisting of 20 chairlifts, 50 runs, and 8,000 acres of terrain, Rigaudeau said the location is the perfect place to highlight the skiing potential in the Middle East.
Rigaudeau hopes that this event can be one that continues to happen annually and opens the eyes of international riders to the kind of terrain the Middle East has to offer.
"We hope that having this event will create links between local and international riders so that more internationals may come and visit our homeland and more locals can have opportunities to ride mountains all around the world," says Rigaudeau.
Winter said he’s proud watching Rigaudeau realize a personal dream, and that he’s excited for all the local riders in the region. "This is the start of something amazing for them," says Winter. "Hopefuly it will bring together a lot of different people who can share a love of the mountains and freeriding no matter their politics, religion, or culture."
Rigaudeau said they have riders from Lebanon, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria already registered, and are looking forward to the kind of community they can build between them at the event. "We know skiing won't change the world," says Rigaudeau, "but it can definitely bring people together."
For more information on the Ride4Peace 2-star Qualifier, you can visit the event website, here.