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Big Sky Freeride skiers, riders take eight podium spots in home competition

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Skiers and snowboarders from across the Northern Rockies showed their best in the Big Sky IFSA Junior 2* Regional competition Feb. 10-12

By Julia Barton and Jack Reaney

BIG SKY—Junior freeride skiers and snowboarders from the International Free Skiers Association’s Northern Region took to the slopes of Big Sky Resort this weekend for three heated days of competition.

Athletes from the Big Sky Ski Education Foundation Freeride Team clinched eight podium spots, including five first-place finishes.

“The Big Sky athletes are definitely crushing it,” said Wallace Casper, head coach and director of the Big Sky Freeride Team. “The [Northern] Region has so many top-level athletes, so we saw a high level of skiing across the field.”

Family, friends and teammates gathered at the bottom of Obsidian to watch the athletes compete. PHOTO BY JULIA BARTON

There were nine divisions of athletes competing at this weekend’s competitions: U12 boys and girls skiing, 12–14-year-old boys and girls skiing and snowboarding, 15-18 girls and boys skiing, and 15-18 boys snowboarding. Friday and Saturday were qualification days and the finals for all categories took place on Sunday.

As far as snowsports go, freeride is pretty unique. All athletes ski the same venue and try to rack up as many points as possible while skiing down however they’d like. Scores are broken down into five criteria: line (the difficulty and creativity of the route), fluidity (speed and lack of hesitation), control, style (number of airs hit, tricks and airtime) and technique. Scores from both days of competition are combined to determine an athlete’s final score.

Obsidian saw sunshine in the morning, but was bathed in shade for the afternoon. PHOTO BY JULIA BARTON

The competition took place on Obsidian, a run north of the Headwaters ridge off the Lone Tree chairlift that includes a variety of challenging terrain from narrow chutes to rocky cliffs. Warm temperatures and blue skies made for pleasant viewing for the competition, and the venue’s aspect protected the run from harsh afternoon sun, leaving the snow relatively soft compared to other areas on the mountain.

“It’s a huge advantage,” Casper explained, referring to competing on Big Sky terrain. “We spend a lot of time training [on Obsidian] and getting dialed in, so it’s no surprise that they crushed it.”

BSSEF athletes came out strong on their home turf. Wyatt Cohen took first place in the U12 boys skiing category; Kira Livernois and Kennedy Cochenour, first and second for the 12-14 ski girls.

Livernois, 13, won her category by getting “a lot of air.” She told EBS she’s won all three of her competitions this year and won six last season. She placed second in the North American championship last winter, which also took place at Big Sky.

Kira Livernois sported a retro blue snowsuit for the final day of competition while she caught big air off of a cliff called “Shipwreck.” PHOTO BY JULIA BARTON

“Everyone I know gets to watch me, and at the bottom there’s a big crowd that gives me a hug,” she added.

Skiers and riders were welcomed at the bottom of the venue with cheers and hugs from family and teammates, and the audience of roughly 200 enjoyed music and hot dogs in between runs.

Livernois said the conditions were the best for a Big Sky comp that she’s ever skied, with fresh snow in the landings. 

“I hit two cliffs and went over some rocks,” she said. “Did a grab off another cliff and skied down and did a 360, which added a lot to [my] style and energy [score].”

Livernois is looking forward to this year’s North American championship at Kicking Horse, BC. Before then, she’ll compete in the Bogus Basin regional and national events at Snowbird and Big Sky.

Mac Bertelson had the second-place run for 12-14 ski boys. And, although she was the only athlete in the 12-14 female snowboarding category, local Marley Chapin put down an impressive run.

Big Sky snowboarders Oliver Liedberg and Elijah Singer took the top spots in the 12-14 and 15-18 boys snowboarding categories, respectively.

Elijah Singer airs over a band of rocks in his second run. PHOTO BY JULIA BARTON

Singer moved up to the 15-18 age division this year and this weekend’s win is his second top-step finish in as many competitions this season—he also won at Whitefish in early January.

“First day I had an unfortunate crash just due to the conditions,” said Singer, who described the snow as variable between blue ice in the shade and choppy moguls in the sun. “Second day, [I] had to keep it really solid and fast, and ended up taking home the win.”

Despite the unforgiving snow conditions, Singer said some of the skiers threw “the craziest stuff [he’s] ever seen on that venue.” That included big 360s and 50-foot airs.

“It was a fun weekend, and at least it was sunny,” Singer said. He’ll try to keep his momentum against deeper competition in upcoming national events at Snowbird, Breckenridge, and back again at Big Sky.

With 48 athletes registered, the 15-18 boys skiing category had the steepest competition. Kira Livernois’ brother Hayes, 15, landed three 360s in his finals run to secure the silver. 

Hayes Livernois comes around from a 360 off of “Shipwreck” in his qualifying run. PHOTO BY JULIA BARTON

“[I wanted] to show my ability to put my style into big mountain skiing,” he said. “I stomped all my tricks and I was really stoked on how my run went down.”

Hayes had never done a 360 off “shipwreck” in a competition before—the cliff has a downward takeoff and a flat, bumpy landing, he said—but he landed it in his qualifying and final runs. 

Jackson Hole’s Owen Smith ended up winning the category, skiing a line with similar style but different arrangement of 360s and straight air. Hayes said it was fun to ski with friends from different mountains, including Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee. 

“I’m just planning on trying to stay dialed for that [Big Sky national] comp, and train with my cliffs and tricks until then,” Hayes said. “And try to stay at the top.”

Big Sky athletes will have the opportunity to compete on their home terrain again for the Big Sky IFSA Junior 3* National competition March 9-12, which will bring skiers and snowboarders from across the country.

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