Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, WY; Inside Access To An Awesome Kings & Queens of Corbet’s

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Two-time King Karl Fostvedt sends a 720 first hit. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Brought to you by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

The Summit of Rendezvous Mountain at the tip-top of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was wrapped in a dawn haze of shifting snow pushed by biting wind.

The day marked a hopeful window of competition for the 6th annual Kings & Queens of Corbet’s, a one-day cliff-tastic huckfest that riders describe as inspiring and fans go bonkers for.

View of 2023’s course–looking proper! Photo: P.M.Fadden

Since dropping in 2018, the Freeride throwdown has skyrocketed in credos and popularity.

But on this particular morning, gusts punch out at random, kicking-up mini meteor showers of ice spackle.

And visibility, unsurprisingly, is tricky.

Then, from the nether, a rider shoots along a makeshift runway crowded by pointing cameras. Their takeoff is a ruffly twenty-foot swan dive into the narrows of a beast-like couloir that looks deceptively serene under a blanket of powder snow.

Yuki Kadono sending from (and into) the nether. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Suspenseful silence accompanies the powder splashdown. Then a roar from throngs of onlookers below as the rider slashes from the haze to continue a line unlike any they’ve skied before.

It’s doubt met by focus and full commitment in a single moment. This is Kings & Queens at its finest.

Cam Fitzpatrick points the way for the field. Photo: P.M.Fadden

To be clear, doubt seemed to have a sure upper hand earlier in the morning. At the tram dock of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, athletes and organizers (and media) eyed the cloud mass anxiously. Somebody called it ‘chowder.’ And everybody was keenly aware that the window for the competition was short.

Arriving at the summit, the doors of Jackson’s tram open to conditions every bit as spicy as they appeared from the base. From there, all eyes stare down one of the gnarliest couloir lines in North America, Corbet’s.

Corey Jackson demonstrates the ‘gnarly’ factor to Corbet’s gradient. Photo: P.M.Fadden

The striking aspect of Corbet’s plays a huge factor in the notoriety of Kings & Queens. The average gradient hovers around 40 degrees; fresh snow or not, its entrance is a sheer (and sizeable) drop.

Add in the fickle whims of Mother Nature, and a line at Kings & Queens becomes one of the zestiest pickles in the jar.

But a tram-load of delightfully creative and amazingly skilled skiers and snowboarders haven’t come to the powder paradise of Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to stand around. They’re geared up and at the top floor, after all. Why not have a look?

Athletes and Organizers assess the day’s options. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Along a knife-edge cornice, twenty-four ski or snowboard athletes cluster around leading members of Jackson’s Patrol and Resort Administration to hash it out, an evaluation which boils down to: today’s got promise and tomorrow’s no guarantee.

Mountain Safety gives the ‘green light,’ so it’s the competitors themselves who will make the call.

In keeping with the true-grit spirit of mountain culture, the choice is put to a majority vote—cast in howls.

The safety evaluation, this ultimate moment of choice, and all the logistical hopscotch that goes into organizing a fixture event on the annual freeride calendar; are moving parts within a fantastically prepared week at a world-famous destination for snow.

The one and only Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the Teton Mountains. Photo: P.M.Fadden
Madison Blackley enjoying the scenery above Corbet’s. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Over the past year, invitations have been sent across the globe, arriving into the gloved hands of outstanding snow athletes who drop what they’re doing, pack their planks and make fast tracks to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the Teton Mountains of Wyoming.

The skiers and snowboarders approached are tapped in recognition of their interpersonal qualities as much as technical skills.

According to the organizers of Kings & Queens, the concept is to gather a crew of remarkable people who will mesh like family to enrich the mountain community overall. And the plan works tangibly.

Stoke for Bib Draw almost rivaled Comp Day…almost. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Even after just arriving, there already is an apparent electric comradery. The potential royals jostle like friends but work like teammates during the competition’s opening bib draw and subsequent daily rider briefings.

Some of these heavy hitters have filmed together; a few have shared space at start ramps like X-Games. Still, others are familiar via their eye-popping drips or full edits shared across the inter-web.

Jack Wiley and Madison Blackley (L to R) practice their penmanship at Kings & Queens poster signing. Photo: P.M.Fadden

The group quickly forms as a solid posse of friends. And for the few days preceding the competition, they sign autographs, rip powder snow—and eye forecast models like hawks.

For all the planning behind Kings & Queens, the program is fairly direct–and largely up-in-the-air. Everybody watches the weather, waiting for ‘The Window,’ which might be the year’s only chance.

And, of course, it’s not exactly cut and dry when it comes.

The morning’s teasing weather is cause enough for consideration. And the riders are honestly practical in their evaluation.

It could be a game of ‘wait and see,’ or a couple of riders could play ‘guinea pig.’ But the writing’s on the wall here. Even a single competitor hitting the course means they all will. It’s all for one and one for all once a decision is made.

At the top of the couloir, the thirty seconds permitted to riders for pondering has passed; time for that ultimate moment of choice. And there is zero hesitation.

The field howls unanimously.

Straight outta Austria, Alex Hackel gets a fist-bump for his Bib 1 kick-off to competition day. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Alex Hackel, a skier from Innsbruck, Austria, has drawn Bib 1. While he heads to the start gate, a Jackson Hole Patrolman shares that 2023 might be the best snow conditions Kings & Queens has ever seen.

Fresh powder snow covers a course that the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort crew expertly crafted. Natural as well as manmade features line the full length of the couloir. This includes two launch pad hits at high-right and center of the course plus “The Hotel,” a step-down-style mega-hit built against the rider’s left rock wall. It is so massive there are actual floors of cubby-sized snow caves built into its face. And waiting at the bottom is a three-wide formation of towering Red Bull closeout kickers that launch a rider like a flare above a mobile party station of spinning DJs and surging crowds at Tensleep Bowl.

Dual DJs spinning from the back bed of a snowcat kept competitors and onlookers amping at Tensleep Bowl. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Each athlete takes one run and has the option for a second. Choice cuts of the whole fricassee are viewable via SnowBrains or Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Instagram.

With so many unique talents gathered at a venue unlike any other on Planet Earth, judging or awarding points is a tall task. But still, there can be only one King and one Queen by day’s end, so the competitors themselves will do the crowning.

Once all lines were in the bag, the athletes met privately at the Teton Gravity Theater on Saturday, February 11th, where they shared thoughts while sifting through countless clips.

And there’s an additional honor alongside the rider-voted King & Queen. Each year fans join the action with a hotly contested vote to award the People’s Choice.

Veronica Paulsen earned a prior crown as the first Queen to stomp a backie into the couloir. This year she attempted (and nearly landed) a double backflip. Photo: P.M.Fadden

Votes for People’s Choice may be cast through 5 PM February 15th. And this award holds particular ‘shine’ as it honors a standout rider not only for astounding athletic ability but also as a champion of the fans.

The level of skiing and riding on display blew minds—and progressed both skiing and snowboarding.

The goals achieved ranged from personal firsts to first-evers for the Kings & Queens competition. And the resulting showcase of skill has etched unreal memories into the very rock of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the Teton Mountains.

A full broadcast of the 2023 competition action premiers via Red Bull TV on the national day for lovers, February 14th.

For further coverage of voting tallies and champion highlights, keep tuned to SnowBrains!

Parkin Costain going Godzilla-huge into his first line. Photo: P.M.Fadden
Every rider received a champion reception at Tensleep Bowl party HQ. Photo: P.M.Fadden
Jack Wiley punching the ‘turbo’ button off the Red Bull booter. Photo: P.M.Fadden
Cooper Branham went double-backie to start his line. Photo: P.M.Fadden

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