Words by Greg Fitzsimmons
The first stop of the newly structured Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face went down last Friday in a serious way. After waiting four days on a weather hold because of slow-moving storm that dropped 3 feet of snow on Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s 1,600-foot “Mac Daddy” face, 60-plus athletes from all over the world competed in men’s and women’s skiing and snowboarding.
With it all said and done, TGR’s Ralph Backstrom made a statement in men’s snowboarding, perennial podium-finisher Drew Tabke posted the day’s highest score en route to winning the men’s skiing title, Sweden’s Christine Hargin built on the momentum from last year’s overall FWT title with a win in women’s skiing, and Snowbird-based ripper Shannon Yates took home the hardware in women’s snowboarding.
It was clear from the first few men’s snowboarders to drop in on “Mac Daddy” that the conditions were no joke. Rider-triggered sluff exposed pepper on the skier’s right and skier’s left sides of the venue. But, creative competitors were able to find blower snow in zones unaffected by the slide activity.
Ralph Backstrom rages down "Mac Daddy" face on his way to win the first stop of the Freeride World Tour. Photo by B. Long.
Backstrom’s line perfectly exemplifies the creative approach to riding that had fans of “The Dream Factory” lauding his TGR segment and talking about his aggressive, full-on style. Being the penultimate snowboarder to drop in, Backstrom was able to observe a bit of the action before sliding into the start gate. Backstrom opted for a line on the skier’s left portion of the venue, and laced a high-speed triple drop before arching fast pow-turns through the trees on the bottom half of “Mac Daddy.” From the airs to the carefully dissected tree-line, Backstrom’s line was fluid, fast, and looked fun.
“I was a little nervous we wouldn’t have good light conditions after the past few days but was so excited to have bluebird skies,” explained Ralph Backstrom. “The super steep pitch of ‘Mac Daddy’ makes it difficult not to go over the handle bars when landing jumps. I really like the big features that exist on this terrain.”
Backstrom’s line earned him a score of 89.33, 10 points higher than runner-up Ludovic Guillot-Diat. La Grave’s Aurelien Routens rounded out the podium.
The field of men’s skiers dropped in next and the level of skiing on display in British Columbia was full-on. A lot of the chatter leading up to the comp centered around the “two dramatically different options” for line choices with the skier’s left lines described as “playful and flowy” and the skier’s right being “more gnarly and exposed, it’s traditional big-mountain skiing,” said longtime competitor Griffin Post prior to the event. No one took into account the direct fall-line approach that eventually earned Drew Tabke a mind-blowing score of 91 and a spot atop the podium.
The entire field of men’s skiers headed either right—runner-up Jeremie Heitz blasted through huge double at mock-speed in the exposed skier’s right zone—or left—third place finisher Julien Lopez skied a clean and controlled version of the triple that Backstrom rode on the skier’s left side of “Mac Daddy.” However, Tabke prospected an untouched line close to the gut of the venue, en route to posting the day’s highest score.
“When you look at the full image of ‘Mac Daddy’ face you see that if you go left your options for features ends pretty early and if you go right you have to traverse out,” says Tabke. “So, skiing the middle caught my eye. The line where I went was the most pure fall-line approach to the venue that still holds pow [and doesn’t slide].”
Along with the pow that Tabke was able to track up, his winning line included four distinct airs. “That exit air was the missing piece to my line,” says Tabke. “Once I found that air I moved uphill to connect the rest of the line. You can’t hit the first feature I hit and still get far left or far right. I think that top air is the best feature on the venue, but no one can hit it if you’re heading to the left or right. So, by choosing to do the last section I was able to get the top feature, too.”
Johnny Collinson spins a 360 at Revelstoke. Photo by J.ANTONIUK.
Aside from the top three men (Tabke, Heitz, and Lopex, respectively), Johnny Collinson’s line had everyone buzzing—in Revy and online. Collinson found a massive air on the skier’s right side of “Mac Daddy” and spun a sleepy three off of the downward takeoff. Despite augering in the landing, Collinson’s blend of big-mountain and freestyle skiing warrants mention.
On the women’s side, the female skiers and riders inherited a beat-up, sluffed-out, and debris-riddled venue after the men hammered “Mac Daddy.” The scores on the women’s side reflected the difficult conditions, with four of the 10 female skiers earning 40+ points. Defending FWT Champion, Christine Hargin, of Sweden, earned the win with a 65, followed by Norwegian Nadine Wallner and Aussie Nat Segal, respectively.
Shannon Yates stomped two airs and stayed on her feet to win the women’s snowboarding title, with French riders Margot Rozies in second and Elodie Mouthon in third.
Now, athletes are headed to the Alps for the second and third stops of the Freeride World Tour, with stops on the Italian and French sides of the Mont Blanc in Courmayeur and Chamonix. Italy’s Courmayeur hosts the second comp of the year on January 19th. CLICK HERE for the complete FWT schedule, and check back with TGR throughout the season for full coverage of the Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face.
Men's ski podium. Photo by R. SIHLIS.
Men's Ski Results
1. Drew Tabke, 91.00
2. Jeremie Heitz, 79.67
3. Julien Lopez, 73.00
4. Laurent Gauthier, 72.00
5. Charlie Lyons, 70.33
6. Griffin Post, 68.33
7. Sam Smoothy, 66.33
8. Nicolas Salencon, 62.33
9. Markus Eder, 59.00
10. Wille Lindberg, 56.33
Men's snowboard podium. Photo by R. SIHLIS.
Men's Snowboard Results
1. Ralph Backstrom, 89.33
2. Ludovic Guillot-Diat, 79.33
3. Aurelien Routens, 74.33
4. Tim Carlson, 70.33
5. Emilien Badoux, 63.67
6. Matt Annetts, 59.00
7. Joel Rouge, 54.67
8. John Rodosky, 53.67
9. Irian Van Helfteren, 44.67
10. Sammy Luebke, 41.67
Women's ski podium. Photo by B. Long.
Women's Ski Results
1. Christine Hargin, 65.00
2. Nadine Wallner, 58.00
3. Natalie Segal, 53.33
4. Pia Nic Gundersen, 40.33
5. Ashley Maxfield, 12.00
Women's snowboard podium. Photo by R. SIHLIS.
Women's Snowboard Results
1. Shannan Yates, 63.33
2. Margot Rozies, 58.00
3. Elodie Mouthon, 54.67
4. Casey Lucas, 50.33
5. Iris Lazzereschi, 43.00
6. Aline Bock, 40.67
7. Laura Dewey, 35.67
8. Anouck Mouthon, 33.33