Freeride World Tour 2022: Event Three - What to Look Out For in Skiing
Follow along as Ski Expert Michael Dobson covers everything and everyone to watch when the Freeride World Tour hits its third stop in British Columbia.
After a temporary hiatus from the tour last season due to COVID restrictions, it’s great to see the FWT back in Kicking Horse, British Columbia. Nestled in the easternmost slope of the Purcell Mountains near the Rocky Mountain Trench, Kicking Horse is known for high-quality powder and a massive variety of both freestyle and big-mountain-oriented terrain.
The mountain hasn’t seen much in the way of fresh snow in the last 7 days but still boasts a respectable base depth of 212cm, with surface conditions being packed powder. Temperatures have been hovering just below freezing and are forecast to climb above the freezing mark during the day before the competition start window, with weather fluctuating between overcast and clear. We’ll be watching to see how the weather preserves the snow conditions and see if it impacts the date of competition.
Athletes will be competing on the “Ozone” face which is littered with playful features for the riders to showcase their skills. The top two scores from the first three stops will be used to determine who makes the cut, and with many big names sitting outside of the top ten, look for the riders to go big to try to secure their spot in the finals!
Athletes to Watch
Olivia is sitting in the second-place spot in the rankings and was the winner at the first stop in Baqueira Beret. Like Jess Hotter, Olivia is almost guaranteed to make the cut for the finals. Olivia isn’t one to hold back. She has an aggressive style and loves to seek out lines with big features to huck herself off. Kicking Horse has plenty in the way of massive cliff lines and it’ll be exciting to see what she brings to the table.
Jess is coming off a big win in Andorra, and last time the FWT came to Kicking Horse, she threw down a fast fluid run that landed her on the top of the podium. Jess is sitting comfortably in third in the rankings and will most likely just need to stick a run to her feet to be sure to qualify for the finals. For the FWT Championship, the best three results of five are used to determine the final rank, so an additional first-place finish would give her an excellent shot at taking home the title this season. It’ll be interesting to see if Jess opts to play it safe and guarantee a finals qualification or if she goes for the win.
Hedvig is our current leader in the standings heading into Kicking Horse. With a second and fourth-place finish already under her belt, Hedvig is in a very comfortable position when it comes to qualifying for Fieberbrunn. This leaves her with plenty of breathing room to push her limits and go for the win. A first-place finish at Kicking Horse could give her more room for error in the finals where riders are tested on the two steepest and most technical faces of the tour.
Currently sitting in fourth place overall, Gerritzen is being carried in the standings by her second-place finish in Baqueira Beret and will need to put down a strong run in Kicking Horse if she wants to ensure herself a spot in Fieberbrunn. The women’s field has lots of talent and with Zuzanna Witych, Lily Bradley, and Juliette Willman all within striking distance, a score outside of the top five at Kicking Horse could result in her not qualifying for the finals.
Lily is currently tied with Zuzanna Witych for the fifth-place spot in the rankings, sitting just above the cut for the finals. A finish in the top three at Kicking Horse will all but guarantee this FWT rookie a spot in Fieberbrunn.
Juliette is a FWT veteran and despite sitting in eigth overall, she still has a shot at snagging a spot in the finals from one of the top six riders. She already has a fourth-place finish under her belt this season, so a top three finish from Juliette, combined with a run outside the top four from Witych or Bradley will put Juliette back in the mix.
Ross’ clutch performance in Andorra earned him a second-place finish, a sixth-place spot overall, and strong shot at landing in the finals. If he can stay on his feet and put down another top ten performance, he’ll pretty much guarantee that he makes the cut. Ross has a ton of potential as a rider, and if he can grab a first-place finish in Kicking Horse, it’ll take some pressure off his performances in Fieberbrunn and Verbier and place him in a strong position for first at the end of the season.
Things haven’t been looking so bright this year for the reigning FWT Champion. With disappointing finishes in both Andorra and Baqueira Beret, he currently sits below the cut for finals at 14th in the overall standings. You can never quite count Turdell out though. The last time the FWT stopped in Kicking Horse, Turdell put down a hard-charging run and took home the win. This season, he will want to secure at least a top-five finish if he hopes for a shot in Fieberbrunn.
The rookie phenom who took Baqueira Beret by storm struggled in Andorra and ended up with the lowest scored run in the men's field. He currently sits at fifth in the rankings, however, since the top two runs will be used to calculate who makes the finals, Max will still need a score in the top 11 if he hopes to make the cut.
Another rookie who has been wowing fans and judges alike, Abel has put on quite the show this season. Abel is the protege of FWT veteran and fan favorite Aymar Navarro. With a top ten finish at Kicking Horse, Abel will guarantee himself a spot in the finals. Judging from his previous performances, I don’t think he’ll be playing it safe. I think we can anticipate more of Abel’s unique eye for lines and hard-charging style to the third stop of the tour.
Blake currently sits just below the cut for finals in 12th place. The Kiwi rider has put together some exciting runs packed with tricks, but the judges just haven’t been impressed (possibly control issues and line selection?). Blake still has a great opportunity to qualify for Fieberbrunn though and if he can keep his skis under his feet, Blake has the skills to put together a top-five finish.
The 2020 FWT Champion, like Turdell, has had a string of lackluster performances so far this year. One can only guess that Freeland might still be recovering from his knee injury last season and perhaps is tentative about going 100%—prolonging his recovery and potential for the future. Freeland is currently in 16th overall with 11th and 12th place finishes so far this year, but if he gives it his all, he has the technical prowess and freestyle chops to put down a winning run at any of the stops. A big top-three finish could potentially propel Issac into the top 11 in Fieberbrunn.
The rookie freerider and Swiss professional kiteboarder has had a heck of a season so far, and after his win in Andorra, he has set himself up for a guaranteed spot in the finals. Not having to worry about qualification is a huge weight off a rider’s shoulders and allows the flexibility to go bigger and aim for the win. An additional first-place finish would allow for a huge margin of error in the last two stops and give him a major shot at a podium finish in only his first season on the tour.
As we head into the last stop before the finals, Fieberbrunn is surely on all of the rider’s minds as the women and men each make their calculations to figure out their way to secure their spot in the top 6 and 11 respectively. For some riders, this means a podium finish and for others, simply landing in the top half of the field will guarantee a spot.
This balance between aiming for the podium while ensuring the riders stay on their feet will surely be on display come competition. One thing is for sure, it'll be exciting to see folks finally back shredding the incredible freeride terrain of Kicking Horse.
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