With the recent completion on the 2013 SWATCH Freeride World Tour by The North Face (FWT) in Verbier, Switzerland (March 22), the FWT determined which athletes would advance and earn spots on the 2014 tour, and simultaneously said goodbye to others. While some have now exited the 5-star FWT, new up-and-comers are fighting their way through the ranks of the Freeride World Qualifiers (FWQ) in Europe (Region 1) and the Americas (Region 2).
This year was a pivotal turning point for big mountain freeride competition with the global unification of the highest caliber of freeride events— the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour, The North Face Masters of Snowboarding, and the SWATCH Freeride World Tour. One true men’s and women’s world champion emerged for the first time from both skiing and snowboarding. Drew Tabke (USA) and Nadine Wallner (AUT) were crowned ski champions while Ralph Backstrom (USA) and Elodie Mouthon (FRA) were crowned in snowboarding.
April 11-13, 2013, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort’s big mountain freeride terrain sets the stage for the final stop of the 2013 Subaru Freeride Series (SFS) and FWQ season. This weekend’s event will conclude a three-stop tour, which has touched down at Moonlight Basin, Montana, Crested Butte, Colorado, and finally Snowbird, Utah. After the conclusion of the Region 2 FWQ season at Snowbird, seven athletes will advance, out of the 80-plus field of competitors, to the 2014 FWT.
“Snowbird’s terrain is legendary when it comes to big mountain freeriding and competitions”, stated FWT announcer Max Kuszaj. “Silver Fox and North Baldy have been the ideal competition venues for over fifteen years. It has become a proving grounds for top athletes in the freeriding game. It only makes sense to have the final competition of the Subaru Freeride Series at this resort to determine who will be advancing into next years Freeride World Tour from Region 2.”
The FWQ is designed to help qualify and filter the next freeride athletes into the top-tiered FWT events. Snowbird will feature top ranked SFS men’s and women’s ski athletes, such as current series leaders Francesca Pavillard-Cain of Crested Butte, Colorado and Conor Pelton of Alpine Meadows, California. Also in the competition mix will be 2013 FWT athletes, like female skier Ashley Maxfield USA who finished fourth overall all in the 2013 FWT, and former Snowbird event winners like Nick and Rick Greener and Ben Wheeler.
“This season has been amazing. I have been skiing with some awesome skiers and really pushing my limits!” stated SFS Crested Butte women’s ski winner Francesca Pavillard-Cain. “Snowbird is one of my favorite mountains to ski and compete. I am just looking forward to skiing with some shredder girls and trying some new difficult lines.”
While Francesca Paviallard-Cain is definitely one to watch in the women’s category, no one can rule out the talents of the winner in Moonlight Basin, Hadley Hammer of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Sasha Dingle of Bozeman, Montana with her third place finish in Crested Butte, Colorado and second place finish in Moonlight Basin, Montana.
In the men’s field, Connor Pelton is certainly the Region 2 athlete to chase, with athletes in the mix like Patrick Baskins of Vail, Colorado with a win at Moonlight Basin, Montana, and JFT graduate, Ian Borgeson of Dillon, Colorado coming of a strong competitive season on the Region 2 FWQ circuit.
Snowbird, Utah is a top destination and location in North America and has deep roots within the freeriding world and with the evolution of big mountain freesking and snowboarding. For 15 years the former Subaru Freeskiing World Tour would use Snowbird’s off-piste terrain as it marquee stop for the season.