Most Photos: Eben Wight/ MSI
Words: Daryn Edmunds
The 22nd Annual Extreme Freeskiing Comp at Crested Butte went down last weekend with a bang. Mostly sunny and warm weather made the thin cover on The Headwall and Staircase ski really well and competitors from all over North America and New Zealand threw down hard for both points and respect at this years third of four 4-Star FWQ events in the US.
Day 1 competition was held on the Headwall zone off the High Lift T-Bar. The zone had three distinct line possibilities. There was the fast and open lookers right side with a number of small to medium features and really nice snow. The center section which tackled the Angle Gully, nicknamed the Angle Quarry for all the rocks that appeared during inspection. Lastly there was the far lookers left side of the venue that was effectively a one hit wonder of “The Box Rock/The House Rock”. In the end runs from all three parts of the venue scored well when skiers charged it and stayed on their feet.
Conor Pelton’s big 360, unique line choice, and fast skiing landed him in the top spot after day one. Other big runs were sent by Kyle Taylor (insane double), Davis Souza (enormous backflip), Scot Chrisman (nutty 720 gap), and Ian Borgeson (“I-Borg” crazy transfer…as usual). I didn’t see the ladies field, but local Francesca Pavillard-Cain was atop the heap once again after Days 1 with Ciera Glenn, Sasha Dingle, Ashley Bembenek and Sydney Dickinson right on her heals.
There were many an epic crash on Day 1 with top honors going to Ryan Hoynacki (Backslide most of the venue), Ryan Banker ( Penguin/Chest Slide most of the venue) and Andrew Rumph ( Air to rocks, to binding rip out, to tomahawk). Everyone ended up being alright in the end which is always good news.
Head Judge Eric Schmitz liked what he saw this weekend and so did I. Day 2 was held on the classic Crested Butte terrain of the Staircase and Slot Rocks. The venue was steep and nasty with loads of rocks, trees and stumps to trip you up. Slot Rocks is a sub zone on the lower lookers right section of Staircase that is basically a gigantic pile of rocks that turns into pillowy double and triple lines when the snow is right. The sun softened the snow up and made it just right by the time the comp kicked off at 10:00am.
Competitors mostly stuck to the more open sections of Staircase and found a huge variety of airs to punch. A few brave soles went into Slot Rocks and were rewarded for their efforts. Will Dujardin was able to move from 24th place to 10th place with his big moves in the Slot Rocks. He also earned a Sickbird nomination. Conor Pelton held onto 1st place with an awesome run that included a sick rock slide entrance to the main gut of Staircase. Kyle Taylor and Davis Souza kept the pressure on finishing 3rd and 4th. The story of the day came from Kiwi Neil Williman who had the highest run score of the day and moved into 2nd place. He also won a tightly contested Sickbird Buckle for his big airs and fearless skiing. Neil will be skiing on the Freeride World Tour next Winter due to his top finishes in both the US and Europe this season. Good luck to him!
The ladies also went hard in Staircase with a bit of a re-shuffle of the top spots from Day 1. Francesca Pavillard-Cain did hold onto the top spot with her trademark quick turns and fluid skiing. Ashley Bembenek and Sasha Dingle pushed up a bit to end up 2nd and 3rd respectively. Sydney Dickinson ended up in 4th in her first ever alpine big mountain comp. Nice work to all the ladies and congrats on pushing the level of skiing to places we have not seen before!
All in all this Crested Butte stop was a huge success for the FWQ and MSI. The points race is getting interesting for who will bump up onto the FTW from the Americas region next year. More to come on that. Most importantly though skiers from all over the world got together, had a great time and shredded some of the most rugged inbounds terrain anywhere.