By Peter Manka
Explore Big Sky Contributor
ALTA, Wyo. – The culmination of the International Freeskiing and Snowboarding Association’s Junior Tour takes place every April at the North American Championships.
This year’s event was originally scheduled for Squaw Valley, Calif., but was moved to Wyoming’s Grand Targhee Resort April 8-12 for better snow conditions. The 160-athlete field represented the season’s top-ranking competitors from around the U.S. and Canada, and included many of the best junior freeride competitors in the world.
Based on excellent results throughout the season, Big Sky Freeride Team athletes Hayden Gall, Tobias Rosenberg, Gracely Speth and Jasper Vanspoore were invited to compete at the three-day event.
The competition venue at Grand Targhee is a steep, demanding pitch with narrow chutes and several large cliff bands to showcase athletes’ skills. The qualifying rounds featured soft snow, phenomenal skiing, and intense competition, with three of the Big Sky athletes qualifying for the finals.
Snow conditions during the final round were much firmer than in the qualifiers. Rosenberg, an 18-year-old snowboarder, was challenged by the conditions in the finals. While he dropped out of the top five for the competition, Rosenberg still managed to score enough points to claim second overall in the IFSA North American male 15-18 division year-end rankings.
Speth came into the finals in fourth place, but a small slip-up on the landing of her first feature dropped the 16-year-old skier into eighth place. Vanspoore, 17, skied the conditions with poise and fluidity. She laid down an amazing run hitting multiple large cliffs with style and precision, while skiing fast and aggressively throughout.
When the dust settled, Vanspoore overcame a two-point deficit from the qualifying rounds to emerge as the North American Champion. The win also earned her enough points to land third place overall in the IFSA North American year-end rankings for the female 15-18 division.
The competition concluded a banner year for the Big Sky Freeride Team as they brought two second-place finishes in the overall North American rankings as well as a North American Championship trophy back to Big Sky. With 14-year-old Joe Olson’s 11th place finish in February in the 18 and Under World Championships in Grandvalira, Andorra, Big Sky’s junior freeride skiers are making a big splash on the international stage.
Peter Manka has lived in Big Sky since 2008 and has been coaching the Big Sky Freeride Team for three seasons.