Brought to you by Hakuba Valley
As if Hakuba Valley joining the Epic Pass wasn’t enough of a reason to go visit, being the host of the Freeride World Tour (FWT) puts it at the top of the ski destination list. Hakuba offers freeriders deep powder and unique skiing in a different environment than you’d think. Instead of the traditional steep and exposed venues, the Freeride World Tour usually hosts, Japan offers way more trees for more playful skiing, rather than cliffs and no-fall zones.
The Freeride World Tour is a series of events where skiers and snowboarders are given a steep mountain face to ride, out of lift operated areas, and choose their own lines down the mountain. The Freeride World Tour was first held in Switzerland in 1996, the Verbier Extreme which was originally only a snowboard competition, and has grown immensely since. All this changed in 2004 when ten of the world’s best skiers were invited to participate and launched the competition forward.
The Freeskiing World Tour is the oldest competitive big mountain freeskiing tour in the history of the sport, hosting extreme mountain skiing competitions in North and South America. With more passion for the backcountry and freestyle skiers and a growing fan base, the Freeride world had never been stronger. Now the Freeride World Tour, it’s the world’s largest freeride competition. It’s produced by Mountain Sports International (MSI) and is heading into its 19th year of operation.
In 2017, there were more than 5,600 players including men, women, skis, snowboarders, qualifiers, and juniors around the world, and a total of 150 tournaments were held around the world. From Europe, North America, South America, Oceania, all the way to Asia. A multi-stage event is held that focuses on advanced freestyle skiing and boarding, and the tour is returning to the same venues as their 2019 tour. The Freeride World Tour travels from Japan to Canada, the Pyrenees and the Alps with the final event in Verbier. The best riders are all vying for a spot to participate in this epic event.
Here’s the schedule for this year:
- Hakuba, Japan: January 18th-25th
- Kicking Horse, Golden BC Canada: February 6-12th
- Ordino-Arcalis, Andorra: February 28th-March 4th
- Fieberbrunn, Austria: March 7th-13th
- Verbier Switzerland: March 28th-April 5th
Four competitive categories, ski men, ski women, snowboard men, snowboard women are competing in this year’s competition. Last year’s ski winners in Hakuba were Arianna Tricomi for women and Markus Eder for men. For the boarders, Anna Orlova and Travis Rice were crowned the male and female champions in Japan last year.
The Freeride World Tour drops its athlete lineup every fall, with this year’s athletes being stacked one epic freerider after another. It’s anyone’s title for the taking, especially with last year’s male winner, Markus Eder out of the competition. Big names like Sweden’s Kristofer Turdell, Tanner Hall, Andrew Pollard, and wildcard Reine Barkered all have their sights set on the Freeride World Tour title. With the champion spot up for grabs, this should be an extremely entertaining year. For the women, everyone is waiting to see what reigning champion Arianna Tricomi will bring to the table with the previous FWT vets Jacqueline Pollard and Jackie Paaso coming in hot this season. This title is by no means in the bag for these ladies though, with wildcards and fresh faces entering the lineup looking for a title of their own.
There are no marked courses in freeride! Riders don’t compete on a time scale, rather they are encouraged to utilize the cliffs, drops, and lips in the mountain to showcase their original skills. They’re judged on creativity and how they use the mountain. The locations are chosen based on their world-class backcountry ski area terrain, making Hakuba a major first stop on the tour, naturally. The other stops on the Freeride World Tour include Canada’s Kicking Horse and Verbier in Switzerland.