Words and Photos By Banks Kriz
On Saturday January 20th, 2018 the Western Freeride Team embarked on the longest trip of the year to ski three different resorts and to compete at two Freeride World Qualifier events. The team traveled with 21 athletes, three coaches, and an absurd amount of luggage. To accommodate everyone, they had two vans along with an SUV. To say the least the team was loaded down being the largest number of athletes Western has ever taken on a Freeride trip before.
1/20/18 To start off, the team left around 12 p.m. on Saturday for the first leg of the drive to a small resort called Whitewater, located just outside of Nelson, BC. The drive took about 20 hours with stops including breakfast in Washington just before crossing the border. As the team entered Canada, the scenery started to look more and more like winter with each kilometer that passed by. From the glow in everyone’s eyes, one could tell they were excited to ski in great snow conditions that they have been missing in Crested Butte.
1/21/18 As the caravan of vehicles pulled into the parking lot at Whitewater it was go time. The team rushed to get their gear on to go rip some fresh snow at the Canadian resort.
For most athletes it was their first time ever riding in Canada, but for Crested Butte local (Stoked) Joe Hayes it was the third ski resort he had ever skied. Needless to say, he was in for a treat.
For the first half of the day at Whitewater athletes were getting used to skiing terrain they had yet to ski this year but once they found their legs it was time to shred. Here Parker Clarkson lays out a nice cork 3.
After a long day of riding everyone met back at the vans around 3pm for the next leg of the trip to Rossland, B.C. The drive was only two hours allowing everyone plenty of time to get unpacked and settled in for the night.
1/22/18 The following day started with inspection for athletes at their first comp of the year, the Red Mountain Canadian Open Championships FWQ 2*. This was a first-time experience competing in big mountain for new teammates but for the more experienced riders it was just another day. The conditions at Red were arguably better than Whitewater and it was consistently snowing throughout the day.
1/23/18 Following inspection day was qualifying runs but due to the poor visibility caused by the inversion, the judges decided to implement split judging and try to get through the entire field of competitors. Even though the conditions were varying, Western’s athletes had solid qualifying runs with only a few falls allowing for most of them to advance into finals.
1/24/18 Through the night, Red Mountain got hammered with around 30cm of snow leading to unreal competition conditions for finals day. A few riders even wanted to skip their inspection runs just so they could take advantage of the snow conditions. First to Drop was Ellie Ore, Western’s only female snowboard competitor who took 3rd place with an overall smooth run. Following that was men’s snowboard. 2nd place competitor Zach Bare, had great overall run cruising through the pow and stomping some sizeable airs. 3rd place Josh Hirschman, threw a decent 180 riding out switch through the middle of the venue, reverted hit some more airs and bombed to the bottom. 4th place Noah Mattes, had a solid overall run with great control and style. Snowboard men crushed the field with three athletes on the podium.
As visibility continued to become worse, men’s ski started to drop. 11th place competitor, freshman, Dylan Wood had a smooth run with no falls. Tied for 13th was Ouray Walker and Canyon Mueller both of them had solid runs. Sadly, quite a few athletes crashed and some backslaps from massive airs caused point reduction in the control category. For some riders going from skiing groomers at Crested Butte to deep heavy pow was a huge change. Either way everyone was loving the fresh tracks and free refills all day.
1/25/18 On the fifth day the coaches decided to have it as a travel day compared to previous years trying to drive directly after the comp and getting in an inspection day for the Grand Targhee FWQ 2*. The drive to the house in Driggs, Idaho was 10 hours giving athletes a bit of rest time during the travel day. Joining the team for Grand Targhee were four athletes who competed in the Revelstoke FWQ 4* comp a few weeks back, Dom Rinaldi, Tucker Vollbrecht, Rhianna Borderick, and Elle Truax.
1/26/18 Women’s ski qualifier kicked off the first day at Grand Targhee with the venue being untracked with fresh snow. Inspection started at 8am and competing at 10 a.m. First skier to go for Western was Rhianna Borderick. Rhianna had an awesome top section hitting a few cliffs and getting in some nice turns all the way to the base of the venue until she hit an ice chunk that was broken loose from controlled blasting earlier that day, it knocked her down sadly throwing her run away ending up 24th. Next up, placing 7th was Elle Truax. Elle had a controlled run, using her racing background to execute a solid qualifying placing.
Following women’s ski was men’s snowboard qualifying. Placing 2nd, Benjamin Thorneycroft crushed his qualifying run, showcasing some of the best seen from him all trip. Fourth place competitor Josh Hirschman laid down another solid run following what we saw at Red Mountain, showing consistency with back to back comps. 10th place competitor Zach Bare was the one who everyone had their eyes on. Looking to take the win at Targhee like he did a few years back, Zach came into the comp with determination. He had an excellent run until his bottom air where he tomahawked landing in the deep snow.
1/27/18 The next day of competing was held only for the men’s ski field with around 70 skiers attempting to compete. Luckily there was eight fresh inches of blower pow to set up for a deep day of competing. Qualifying in 8th was Tucker Vollbrecht. Tucker sent what I would like to call a classic Tucker qualifying run. Smooth, modest and in control which is just what the Targhee judges wanted to see. Following Tucker was Dom Rinaldi 9th place, once again taking a conservative run to make sure he had a spot in finals. Placing 13th was Parker Clarkson who had one of the most stylish runs.
1/28/18 For most of the day, the upper half of the mountain was socked in with fog and ski patrol decided to cancel finals leaving competitors with their qualifying results. With that, all the athletes got to take advantage of another day of powder skiing.