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By Doug Hare EBS Staff

BIG SKY – During the 12th annual Headwaters Spring Runoff at Big Sky Resort on March 10-12, freestyle skiers and snowboarders from near and far demonstrated their technical abilities on the difficult, tight lines of some of Big Sky Resort’s steepest terrain.

Divisions for the junior event were broken down into girls and boys, skier and snowboarder sections in three separate age groups: 10-12, 12-14 and15-18 year-olds. 

Big Sky athletes came out in force. Riley Becker and Nehalem Manka took home first place in the girls 15-18 year-old division and 12-14 year-old division respectively. Skylar Manka claimed first in the 10-12 girls ski division, and Maria Lovely took third in the 15-18 girls ski division.

Holden Samuels, last year’s North American champion for 15-18 year-old snowboarders, had the highest-scoring run in his division on Sunday, but finished in third place. Big Sky Freeride athlete Isaac Singer took home first place in the 12-14 boys snowboard division; followed by Duncan Gentry, another Big Sky Freeride athlete, in third place. Elijah Singer won the 10-12 boys snowboard division.

The under-12 competition kicked off March 10 on the Obsidian terrain. The following day, the older divisions began competing on the cliffs, gullies and couloirs of the Headwaters cirque. The unique topography and steep terrain allowed riders to showcase their creativity and imagination while skiing technical, high-consequence lines.

Spectators were gathered in Stillwater Bowl to cheer on the athletes all weekend as they watched from an ampitheatre-like venue. On Sunday, most of the highest scorers from the older divisions had a chance to impress judges with lines down Hell Roaring and Firehole, which have some slopes approaching 55 degrees. The older sections were judged based on the cumulative score of two runs, one from each day.

“We were kind of worried about the conditions. It got warm and kind of rained a little bit on Friday, which was inspection day. But the temperatures cooled off, we got a little bit of fresh snow, and the venues were in great condition both days,” said Big Sky local Peter Manka, whose daughters cleaned up in the competition. “The Hellroaring venue on Sunday was wind-buffed and smooth and the kids were skiing very fast and fluid.”

The event was sanctioned by the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association and freeriders earned points toward national IFSA standings. Riders are judged based on line choice, control, fluidity, technique, style and energy. Cash prizes were awarded to the top three finishers from each section. 

Manka said the IFSA tour is slated to wrap up in early April.