We recently recieved the following post from beloved former freeride team member and Western alumna, Francesca Pavillard-Cain:

The Swatch Freeride World Tour (FWT) is every freeride skier and rider’s ultimate dream. It is the highest level of freeride competition.  In order to qualify for this cut-throat tour, athletes must successfully compete on the rigorous and highly competitive Freeride World Qualifier Series (FWQ). Only 12 athletes in the world make the cut for the FWT annually, just 6 of whom are from the America’s Region.

I won the overall FWQ in 2013, which has allowed me to compete on the 2014 and 2015 FWT. Often I am asked what gave me my competitive edge over other athletes fighting to make it on the FWT. The answer: Western State Colorado University. Western provides its athletes with the support of coaches and teammates; it even makes it more affordable than competing solo. Western offers the structure of great academics as well as a world-class skiing program, giving Western athletes a big competitive advantage.

Francesca showing off her technique. Photo from FWT.

My claims have been proven true by some amazing results during the 2015 season. Freshman Max Durtschi won the overall FWQ earning himself a spot on the infamous FWT. As if this was not enough, sophomore Sierra Sawyer and alumna Kaytlin Hughes were on the cusp of qualifying for the FWT in 2015. The proof is in the podiums; Western makes top notch, world class Freeride Athletes. Recently I took some time to talk to these amazing skiers who agree that Western is a key element of their success.

Max, at just 19 years old, made a big splash on this year’s FWQ and Collegiate Freeride Series. He describes Western’s support by saying, “Western has given me every resource I could have possibly wished for to help me achieve my skiing goals. In the fall I took part in dryland training, which was well run and very beneficial. Having a team to ski with has been awesome, riding with a group of good skiers really pushes me to progress my own skiing in new ways. The coaching has also been very helpful.”


Max enjoying spring conditions at Crested Butte.

Sophomore Sierra Sawyer added to Max’s description of Western’s support by saying, “Western has helped me with my skiing career more than I could have imagined. The Mountain Sports Program helps me travel to all the competitions; which I would not be able to do on my own. All of my professors are very understanding and accommodating. Western and the Mountain Sports Program have helped get my foot in the door of the competition scene while still working towards my degree.”


Sisi showing off her trademark smile.

Both Sierra Sawyer and Kaytlin Hughes were within striking distance of making the FWT this season. As Kaytlin puts it, “making the tour has been a goal of mine for the last two years. Traveling to Europe and competing with some of the best skiers in the world is any competitors dream. Unfortunately, I have narrowly missed making the tour for two years in a row. But my successful results have helped me gain confidence and I have more motivation and determination to compete and qualify for the tour next year.” Both athletes will continue to work hard so they can eventually make it on the pinnacle of Freeride competitions.


Sawyer powering through her Collegiate Freeride Series run at Grand Targhee.

Alumna Kaytlin Hughes graduated in 2012 with a degree in Cellular Biology and a minor in Chemistry and Exercise and Sports Science. One may think the course work alone would be more than enough for Kaytlin, but she has been excelling in Freeride competitions since 2010. “It was at Western that I started my competitive skiing career. The fact that I had coaching for three years of competing while in college jump-started my success.” This is a perfect example of how Western provides academic support and structure while making some of the best athletes on the Freeride circuit.

Korey Kaczmarek

Kaytlin Hughes at home in Snowbird, UT. Photo Korey Kaczmarek.

Max finished up our chat by summarizing his successful season, “Making the tour means I get to travel to Europe to ski in places I’ve only seen in ski movies with some of the best skiers and riders out there right now. I am very excited to have this opportunity… All in all, without Western it would have been much harder for me to have achieved what I have.”

Eric E. Sales

Hughes airing it out. Photo Eric Sales.

I have to agree with Max, Western makes competing more affordable and making the FWT more attainable. Western’s one of a kind freeride team speaks for itself. Within the last two years, Western has had two FWQ champions and currently has two Freeride World Tour athletes, an accomplishment that no other University can claim. The other amazing results are too numerous to add, but safe to say that Western is the Mecca for freeride competitors seeking a degree. Keep an eye out for the Western athletes during the 2016 winter season. It is safe to say that we can expect big things from our freeride athletes both on the FWQ and FWT.

– Francesca Pavillard-CainFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin