By Scottie Williams Explore Big Sky Contributor
The 2014 Subaru Freeride Series, held from April 2-7 on Big Sky’s Headwaters terrain, also marking the end of the 2014 Freeride World Qualifier for both Europe and the Americas. The venue was in prime condition and brought talent to Big Sky from around the globe.
Riders competed in the SFS for points in hopes they would have enough to gain a spot on the 2015 Freeride World Tour.
Following the trend throughout the four-star season, event organizers Mountain Sports International, only allowed athletes a visual rather than an on-course inspection. MSI chose Zone 3 as the day one venue, an area located on the westernmost part of the Headwaters, and including the Three Forks terrain.
One skier who’s used to visual inspections was skier Ivan Malakhov of Russia. Malakhov pioneered a line down Second Fork, took a direct approach into the large exposure above the Elbow Room, and sent a 40-plus foot air to his feet and straight-lined it to the finish line.
The Russian came to Big Sky looking for a top-five finish to make the world tour for the European zone. Unfortunately, Malakhov fell victim to the Headwater’s “sharks” on Saturday, tumbling over the infamous Toad cliff, and narrowly missing his opportunity to make next year’s world tour.
Frenchman Leo Slemett made it all the way to Big Sky for the weekend. Slemett had already locked up first place on the Euro tour and his invite to next year’s world tour was in the mail, but he came to entertain with multiple backflips and a fifth-place finish.
“[It was] one of the rowdiest competition days I have ever been a part of,” wrote skier Randy Evans on his Facebook page. Evans, one back-flipping badass, took a hard crash on Saturday, but finished top ten overall.
Many athletes knew they were a win away from making the big show. Connery Lundin was one of them, but ended up taking a quick trip to the hospital after misreading his bottom air out of Firehole. Lundin returned to Big Sky in one piece that evening after telling his ER nurse he had an after-party to attend.
Kyle Taylor of Bridger Bowl and George Rodney of Alta/Snowbird, Utah left Saturday with an invite to next year’s FWT. Both skiers were already on the invite list and they punched their tickets by skiing smart and in control Saturday, finishing second and third respectively. Taylor was crowned the overall 2014 FWQ America’s Champion. Argentinian Juan Bergada will join Taylor and Rodney as rookies on the tour next season.
Only two female skiers got an invitation to next year’s FWT. Hazel Birnbaum of Kirkwood, Calif. confirmed her spot and will be joined by Vermont’s Ashley Maxfield in 2015. Birnbaum finished second on Saturday behind Tour rider Francesca Pavillard-Cain, both slicing through Hell’s Half-Acre.
Snowboarder Colin Boyd came to Big Sky after losing his spot last year on the FWT, and finished 10th, earning that spot back. He will be joined by American Christopher Galvin, who finished second Saturday, edging out third-place finisher Canadian Jonathon Penfield by a mere 50 overall points overall.
Crested Butte’s Mary Boddington was already wearing the tour crown when she showed up in Big Sky. She was here to have fun and showed just that as almost every turn she made both days included over-the-head powder shots.
Good Luck to all the riders who punched tickets to the 2015 Swatch Freeride World Tour.
Check out this link to Ivan Malakhov’s point of view footage from the weekend:
1st Place: Iris Lazzareschi, Squaw Valley, Ca., USA
2nd Place: Camila Brown, Snowbird, Utah, USA
3rd Place: Galen Bridgewater, Big Sky/Moonlight Basin, Mont., USA
1st Place: Francesca Pavillard-Cain, Crested Butte, Colo., USA
2nd Place: Hazel Birnbaum, Kirkwood, Ca., USA
3rd Place: Ashley Bembenek, Crested Butte, Colo., USA
1st Place: Andrew Irwin, Squaw Valley, Ca., USA
2nd Place: Christopher Galvin, Squaw Valley, Ca., USA
3rd Place: Jonathan Penfield, Whistler-Blackomb, CAN
1st Place: Forrest Gillison, Jackson Hole, Wyo., USA
2nd Place: Kyle Taylor, Bridger Bowl, Mont., USA
3rd Place: George Rodney, Alta/Snowbird, Utah, USA