Headwaters Spring Runoff showcases rising local, regional athletes

By Scottie Williams EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – The next generation of freeride athletes put on an excellent show in the Headwaters venue at Big Sky Resort, during the International Freeskiers & Snowboarders Association Headwaters Spring Runoff on March 10 and 11.

Athletes aged 10 to 18 descended on Big Sky for the regional event, hoping to earn points to qualify for the IFSA North American Junior Freeride Championships, scheduled for April 11-14 at Snowbird, Utah. Big Sky Freeride Team members and other local athletes topped the podium in many of the age groups and categories, with some of the competitors making their first sanctioned event one to remember.

Philadelphia native and part time Big Sky resident Claire Rubenstein won the girls’ 12-14 Ski division, skiing the Obsidian face with grace in her first ever competition. Rubenstein is an independent athlete coached by Freeride World Tour veteran Francesca Pavillard-Cain, and they do much of their training on Pioneer Ridge at the Yellowstone Club. Rubenstein has a bright future in freeride should she choose to pursue competitive skiing, as it’s only one of her many athletic interests.

The girls’ 15-18 Ski division was won by Big Sky local Nehalem Manka, who skied with fluidity and control on the final day of the event to earn her place on top of the podium.

Teton Valley-native Kai Jones, the son of Teton Gravity Research co-founder Todd Jones, had a standout performance in the boys’ 12-and-under Ski division. Jones spent an incredible week in Big Sky leading up to the competition, when the 11 year old became the youngest person to ski the Little Couloir.

Jones displayed a high level of talent for an athlete of his age, hitting every feature he could with superb style during both days of competition and taking first place in his division. Jones said that he and his brother Cam plan to continue the TGR legacy long into the future, which is good news for ski film fanatics.

The boys’ 15-18 Ski division was won by Bridger Bowl Freeride athlete Charlie Steele, and the top finisher for Big Sky in the category was Harry Schreiner, who skied with power and technique to improve on his day one score, moving into fourth place for the weekend. Schreiner can do it all, from super G racing to impressive big mountain skiing, a combination that will take him a long way in the sport.

Big Sky snowboarder Holden Samuels showed off his experience with excellent riding during both days of competition, winning the boys’ 15-18 Snowboard division. Samuels ripped up the Obsidian face on day one, linking together a number of large features with style. On day two, Samuels locked down his win in the Three Forks venue with big airs and a technical line selection. Samuels will be traveling to the IFSA Freeride Junior World Championships in Austria later this month.

The 18 year old will be competing in his final junior event in Austria, as next year he’ll move up to the big leagues, where he’ll compete with local snowboarding success Chance Lenay. Samuels has the skills and the bag of tricks to succeed-held back by IFSA bylaws, he cannot do inverted airs in junior competitions. The rules will change for him at the world level, and he plans to use his talent in the air to try and land podium spots next season.