04:12 28-02-2013 by Curtis Olson
The fourth stop of the SWATCH Freeride World Tour by The North Face 2013 (FWT) concluded today on The Cirque at Kirkwood Mountain Resort under warm and sunny skies with variable snow conditions. The stop is the only Freeride World Tour event on United States slopes this season.
The picturesque day started with women's snowboarding on the untouched venue. Current women’s snowboard tour leader Margot Rozies from Pyrénées, France finally managed her first top podium finish of the season. Rozies had an incredibly fast and fluid run. She linked smooth and technical turns together the entire length of the venue. The judges awarded her with a solid score of 64.00.
“I felt a bit sick today actually, but think that removed some of the pressure,” said Rozies. “I woke up this morning and considered not competing actually. However, I managed to get myself pumped for competition. It couldn’t have gone any better.”
Continuing on the women's snowboard podium in second place was another French snowboarder from Annecy, France, Elodie Mouthon. Mouthon linked two airs at the top of her run and chose a creative line at the bottom of The Cirque. She narrowly missed the top spot on the podium taking second place with a score of 63.67. Shannan Yates, the American rider out of Snowbird, Utah, chose a unique line compared to the rest of the competitors, which landed her the third place podium spot with a score of 61.33.
Next for the day were the female skiers. Topping the field for women's ski competitors was Squaw Valley, California local, and a crowd favorite, Jackie Paaso. Paaso needed to earn a podium position to improve her overall ranking on the tour and potentially progress to Verbier. She skied a very smart and controlled run linking a number of airs through technical sections of the venue. Her performance was awarded with a score of 71.67.
“I have had a number of crashes this season and really needed a win. It feels great to come out on top,” exclaimed Paaso. “I took my run down a notch this time because I needed to stay on my feet. Making it to the finish line was the best part for me.”
Rounding out the women's podium in second place was Pia Nic Gundersen of Ånstadblåheia, Norway with a score of 67.00. Gundersen carved technical, polished turns through a tight tree section and managed to stay on her feet through a series of airs. Finishing out the top female skiers of the day was Ashley Maxfield of Jay Peak, Vermont who hit a nice air off the top ridge and continued to lace a number of features together landing a score of 63.00 for the third place.
The highly competitive men’s ski field was chomping at the bit to demonstrate their skills on The Cirque’s many features and steeps. At the end of the day, it was Lars Chickering-Ayers out of Mad River Glen, Vermont who claimed the Kirkwood title. Upon entering the venue, the announcers noted that Chickering-Ayers “skis best on the current conditions due to his east coast background.” Chickering-Ayers smoothly navigated a very rocky section at the top of the venue and charged through an incredibly technical chute on the bottom looker’s right side. He maintained control throughout all of his run and was rewarded a winning score of 75.33.
“I wasn’t really planning to win here,” remarked an elated Chickering-Ayers. “I just came out to spend time with family and have fun. I have skied these types conditions in competition in the past and knew how to deal with them. The skiing was my favorite part of the day.”
Julien Lopez of La Plagne, France took the men’s ski second place spot by skiing a fluid run, which linked a number of creative airs which featured one of his signature giant back flips eaerning a score of 73.00. With this second place finish, Lopez is now currently ranked third in the overall tour rankings. Representing the Southern Alps of New Zealand, Charlie Lyons landed the third podium position with a playful run consisting of a big air off the top and several significant airs throughout the venue. Lyons score was not far behind Lopez at 72.00.
“The riders chose really smart and safe lines. There were a
lot of open cornice airs at the top. We saw many 360s. It is nice to support
the progression of skiing by supporting those air and style moves with points,”
judge Eric Schmitz.
The male snowboarders faced the most difficult conditions of the day as the afternoon brought low light conditions and firmer, settled snow to the venue. Wild card recipient Ryland Bell, currently out of Squaw Valley, California, was happy he accepted the special invitation to compete at the event. Bell earned first place with a score of 87.67. His run scored very well in the air and style category as he maneuvered several spins including a backside 360 at the top of his run, a frontside 360 in the middle and another backside 360 with a grab toward the bottom of the venue.
“This was my first win ever,” beamed Bell. “My stoke level is really high. I wanted to do tricks, try to flow and have fun.”
Also out of Squaw Valley, California, Sammy Luebke finished in second place launching a method at the beginning of his run. He continued with high speeds into the middle rocks of the venue hitting a number of airs along the way scoring an 80.00. The final podium spot in the men’s snowboard category went to Emilien Badoux of Valais Alpes, Switzerland. Badoux’s run was consistent and well executed with high-style aspects, such as his rodeo 540 near the bottom. His third place finish was accomplished with a score of 73.67.
Snowboard judge Berti Denervaud explained, “The athletes handled the conditions really well. I was not expecting to see such a show. Especially the girls, they rode very well. The conditions were tough and light was tricky for the male snowboarders but they rode really hard with nice tricks and airs.”