Going for Glory at the B Gully Freeride
A small team of Utah freerider’s heads north from Salt Lake City to enter a low-profile but high-performance big-mountain event at Bridger Bowl, MT.
The Treble Cone Triple Comp is Back
The Treble Cone Triple Comp is back in 2009 after a multi-year hiatus. On the weekend of September 25th, it went down and provided a refreshingly wide variety of disciplines in today’s niche contest world.
K2 Big Mountain Chill Series Craigieburn Valley, New Zealand
Leaving the shred-culture epicenter of Wanaka for a few days, I hit up the more isolated Canterbury club field of Craigieburn Valley for a big mountain comp put on by K2 in late September. With no expectations, we hauled north to an area chock full of small, low-key ‘club fields,’ where the infrastructure is miniscule but the terrain and friendliness is world-class.
Checking in from Treble Cone, NZ
Treble Cone, New Zealand, is a great freeriding option in the Queenstown/Wanaka area of Southern New Zealand. Contributor David Zook checks in from his season down south.
The North Face Masters, Snowbird 09
Leaving the Alta lodge for the mile-long walk to Snowbird just as the sun is hitting the sharp peaks of Little Cottonwood canyon, Utah, I brace for the biggest snowboard competition of my life, and one of the biggest freeriding comps in the U.S. My palms are somehow sweaty in the 15 degree chill. I do not see this as a good sign.
The North Face Masters at Snowbird, UT is the first in a three-stop circuit where riders are given a gnarly venue and creative control. With one run to qualify for the finals, they are judged on several factors including fluidity, creativity and the all-important line selection.
Day one's venue is Silverfox, part of Snowbird's ‘Cirque' terrain, and offers up a playground as wide as it is long from cruisers to 60-foot cliffs. Also of personal note is that I have never ridden Silverfox prior to practice, throwing my so-called home field advantage right out the door.
Going into the comp I know riders like Rob Kingwell and Cliff Dimon are there, but scanning the start list names start popping up that I usually only see in film credits Chris Coulter, Pat Moore, and what, Travis Rice? I have visions of utter failure: last-place finishing, falling, tomahawking and injury. I drink water and try to breath.
I watch the first rider, Morgan Hebert, rip the snot out of Silverfox, popping several cliffs and spinning a small but clean 360 towards the end, stomping everything. "The bar is set very high," says the announcer. This does nothing to calm my jitters.
Once on top of the venue, a gripping calm sets in. My run goes semi-smoothly: I butt-check my first drop but stomp the rest, getting through the hard pack at the bottom relatively clean and fast.
I exhale significantly, stage myself in the viewing area, and watch. Someone hucks the 60-foot smokestackp, a frontflip is thrown, Rice rides like himself and many sketchy lines are executed with finesse. Injury free across the board, how can the day not be considered a success?
Alas, I do not qualify for day 2, but didn't finish too close to last, either...
Day two's location was North Baldy, a long, shifty aspect between Snowbird and Alta. It starts steep and only picks up in intensity down the course. A burly midsection chute offers riders the choice of fast turns or a noodly Billy-goat through rocks and thick trees. Then there's the amphitheater the wide, extended cliff band that is a rider's last chance to perform. It's a near-mandatory air, with only a few clear landings not littered with rocks or shrubbery. As for the snow, two days of bluebird skies and some gusty winds relegated most of Baldy to firm chalk, and low coverage left many unwanted trees and rocks as unobstructed hazards.
In the first run of the first round, Salt Lake City's Tyler Anderson blew up the crowd by popping a back 3 onto hardpack up top, setting the stage. 34 riders and 34 hucks with varying success later, the field was whittled to 14 for the Superfinals, where Rice blew minds by throwing a switch rodeo off a hip-style rock jump and then rotating a slow backside 360 down low, but sketched on the landing. Kingwill was buttery smooth and quick, not letting the speed bumps coverage his true style. And last year's winner Cliff Dimon defined the concept of a "no-fall" zone by pulling a drop to mandatory immediate stop over a few stories of salt and pepper, and then wiggling out to safer exit.
In the end, Matt Annets of Stowe, VT, went home with the first place prize of $3,500. Ralph Backstrom took second, and crowd favorite Rob Kingwell was third. On the women's side, day one leader Shannon Yates' smooth airs and burly line pulled the $3,500 novelty check while Michelle Locke and Susan Mol rounded out the podium.
Undoubtedly, everyone present agreed that the level of riding had risen significantly in only the second year of the contest proving that, if the North Face Master's is any indicator, competitive freeriding is on the rise in North America.
Photos: Keith Carlsen, MSI