The North Face® Frontier Who to Watch | Freeride World Tour

The North Face® Frontier Who to Watch

The North Face® Frontier is part of the Freeride World Qualification circuit, designed to develop the talent and skills of up-and-coming freeride athletes whose ultimate goal is to qualify for the prestigious Freeride World Tour. The score system is based on the star ranking of the qualifying events (one-four stars).

The first time in many years that a four-star event has been included on the New Zealand calendar, there has been a positive response from international as well as New Zealand athletes all eager to score early season points. The four-star event is limited to fifty riders with spots allocated using the FWQ seeding list. A wait list is in place for those eager to test themselves in top level competition whose ranking doesn’t enable automatic qualifying. Invitations will be extended to the following place getters from the two-star event: three top male ski, two top female ski, two top male snowboard and first female snowboard.

Names to watch out for in the men’s ski four-star competition include NZ athletes Charlie Lyons (Christchurch), who has competed on the Freeride World Tour for the past three seasons, and Sam Lee (Wanaka) who has qualified to compete on the World Tour for the 2017 season.

Also in the mix is 2016 Freeride Junior Tour Champion, Craig Murray (Wanaka) and Frenchman Sébastian Varlet, winner of the 2015 The North Face Freeski Open of NZ, as The North Face® Frontier was previously known. The event has been renamed in 2016 to reflect its mission to provide snowboarders as well as skiers with a top level freeride competition.

New Zealand’s Anna Smoothy (Wanaka), third in 2015, will be a favourite in the women’s ski division but GB’s Heidi Kynoch will also be looking to reach the podium after finishing fourth last year.

Rupert Smith, the only Kiwi in the men’s snowboard division, will face a stiff challenge from Sweden’s Adam Björk who is currently ranked 11th on the FWQ seeding list and already has one 4* win under his belt this season from the Roldal Freeride Challenge in Norway in April.

With winner of the 2015 women’s snowboard event, Maria Kuzma, not competing this year there should also be an interesting tussle for first place between Christina Bruno (USA), Michaela Davis-Meehan (AUS) and Genevieve King (NZL) who finished second, third and fourth respectively last year.

The event’s organisers, Snow Sports NZ, have set aside a six-day weather window from Monday 22 – Saturday 27 August to run one two-star and one four-star sanctioned event. The two-star event will run on the first fair weather day, followed by the four-star event on the next suitable day. The competition day schedule is as follows:

6:30am – Weather Update on and
10:00am – Women Snowboard
10:30am – Men Snowboard
12:30pm – Women Ski
1:00pm – Men Ski

For those who can’t make it to The Remarkables to watch, there is still plenty of opportunity to see the world’s best freeride athletes in action. The four-star competition will be broadcast on Garage Channel 77 and, thanks to sponsorship from Torpedo7 and support from Destination Queenstown, a livestream will also be available at this link:

The week will be action packed even on competition down days with the annual Dion Newport Disc Golf Invitational taking place in Wanaka and Through the Lens film festival taking place in Queenstown on 23 August. When competition wraps up on Saturday, competitors, supporters and snow enthusiasts over 18 years are invited to celebrate in style at the official After Party hosted by Champagne Mumm at Toro Kitchen and Bar in Queenstown.

The North Face® Frontier website, Facebook page and Instagram account will be the places to go for further information during the event including competitor lists, results, photos and video edits.

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Adam Dooney                                                                                        Alex Kerr                                                             

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