The Freeride World Tour has become must-see-tv for skiers in every corner of the globe. The five-stop tour takes the best freeskiers (and boarders) to dramatic mountain faces around the world to square off in front of live spectators and everyone watching the web stream. Even if you prefer the choreographed and edited films most professional skiers use to highlight their skiing, the drama and adrenalin of live skiing on the edge is easy to get wrapped up in. When competitive athletes get one run to show the world what they are capable of, it gets exciting.
all photos courtesy of the Freeride Wold Tour
The FWT is billed as “The best freeriders competing on the best mountains,” and it usually lives up to that hype. The contest venues are closed for a month before the events to ensure the best powder conditions, and each contest has a weather window in which to pick the ideal day. This year the tour will be hitting up:
- (NEW) BAQUEIRA BERET, SPAIN - January 22 - 28
- ORDINO ARCALÍS, ANDORRA - January 30 - February 5
- KICKING HORSE GOLDEN BC, CANADA – February 12-17
- FIEBERBRUNN, AUSTRIA – March 15-20
- VERBIER XTREME, SWITZERLAND – March 26 - April 3
Alberta skiers can watch the first two events online at Freerideworldtour.com and make plans to be at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, BC, in mid-February to see the show live on the Ozone Face.
Here’s the 2020 Kicking Horse contest to get you excited:
The Ozone Face at Kicking Horse is usually the shortest venue on tour. That means athletes have to squeeze every ounce of excitement out of it and go for broke on the features it presents. Freeride coach and FWT announcer Derek Foose tells us, “The Ozone face is interesting. It does tend to produce some great riding and really creative takes on the terrain. That’s always been one of the hallmarks of this event. You see people do things in a way that’s always exciting. It’s really cool action because it’s so non-stop. There’s no downtime on the face. It’s so compressed. It’s non-stop, which makes for good viewing, and it makes it challenging on the riders.”
We asked Foose why the tour keeps coming back to Golden and keeps it as the only North American venue, “The snow is really reliable first off. The tour management definitely likes coming to Kicking Horse because the resort and the local community get super behind it. They get a great crowd out on the Stairway Ridge to watch because it’s just the ultimate viewing spot.”
This year spectators can cheer on the reigning world champions Elisabeth Gerritzen (Swiss) and Kristofer Turdell (Swedish), who also won Kicking Horse in 2020. Logan Pehota and Jessica Hotter are past event winners who will also be back this winter. Foose gave us an idea of who to watch for, “Some different styles of riders have won here. Smooth style has won, and going huge has won. In 2018 you had Logan winning with your classic Kicking Horse attack, charging super fall line and going huge. But it’s wide open. Any type of skiing could take it.”
There are a handful of Canadians to root for; he says, “Olivia McNeill is a rookie, but she won almost every junior contest held here. She’ll be psyched to run a home. And Logan Pehota (who is only doing this one event this year) will be hungry.” Cooper Bathgate is another young Whistler athlete who’s had success on the Ozone Face in the past in a Qualifying Series contest. As part of the main tour now, it will be interesting to see how he does.
Adding to the drama this year, the tour’s field of 20 men and 11 women will be cut down after the Kicking Horse event, with the top half qualifying to compete for their world championships in the final two events of the year. Another format experiment on this year’s tour will be in Fieberbrunn, Austria, where instead of the usual one-run contest, athletes will get two chances at the face with their best single run counting. It’s a format that seems destined to create incredible skiing and dramatic crashes.
For those unfamiliar with freeski contests, competitors each choose their own line down a face or contest area. They are judged on overall impression and five other criteria: line difficulty, control, fluidity, jumps and tricks, technique. They need to go big and ski fast, but to score well, they also need to do it in control and with style.
After watching the action, you’ll be inspired to pick up a big, burly ski for your next big, burly run. Try the Line Vision 118