By Douglas Hare EBS Staff
BIG SKY – The Freeskiing World Tour and Masters of Snowboarding competitions returned to Big Sky Resort from March 24-27, and the Headwaters terrain played host as 155 competitors entered Thursday’s qualifier round.
Only 24 skiers and snowboarders made the cut to compete in main event held Friday and Saturday, and qualifiers had one run each day, which were scored cumulatively.
On Saturday afternoon, crowds surrounding the finish gate in Stillwater Bowl watched and cheered as athletes chose impressive lines and found big air in the Three Forks venue. After the powder had settled, Forrest Jillson and Hazel Birnbaum were named the 2016 Freeskiing World Tour Champions, and Harrison Fitch and Camila Brown stood atop the podium as victors of the Masters of Snowboarding competition.
“The Masters [of Snowboarding] is unique because of the camaraderie amongst the athletes despite the high level of competition,” said local snowboarder Joshua Katz, who took 10th place. Fellow Big Sky Resort rider Chance Lenay scored a podium spot with a second-place showing.
Event Director Bryan Barlow told the official FWT website that he was pleased with the conditions for the event. The first two days brought 9-10 inches of fresh powder, and the finals were held under bluebird skies allowing athletes to show off their skills in optimal conditions.
The highly sought-after Sickbird Awards were given to Andrew Pollard from Alta, Utah, and Mica Brownlie, a snowboarder based at Utah’s Snowbird Resort.
Although there is no official criteria or point system for judges to award the Sickbird belt buckles, riders whose runs most exemplify the spirit of freeskiing/big mountain boarding take the prize home. Competitors riding the rowdiest runs that bring the fans to their feet have the best chance of joining the elite Sickbird community.
Sidney Simard, a 17-year-old from nearby Bridger Bowl, had consistent performances all three days and caught the eye of the judges. He was the only junior competitor to make it into the finals, and landed on the podium in third place. Simard also snagged the North Face Young Gun Award for his solid and aggressive performance.
Founded and run by Mountain Sports International, the Freeskiing World Tour is the oldest of competitive big mountain freeskiing events, holding competitions at the most rugged mountains in North and South America since 1998. The Masters of Snowboarding competitions have been showcasing the sport of big mountain snowboarding since 2008.