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Big Sky Freeride team starts season off strong

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Dawson Raden goes big off a natural feature and earns style points during a freeride competition at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort where he ended up with a fifth place finish in the competitive 15-18 male ski division. PHOTO BY COOPER RAASCH

By Wallace Casper EBS Contributor

The Big Sky Freeride team is officially in competition season and it started off in late January at Snowbird Nationals in Utah, perhaps the highest caliber IFSA event in the United States. Watching how much the level of competition has increased over the past few years is amazing. With all the developing freeride teams in the U.S., there is more and more progression within the sport as well as an overall higher standard for judging.  

Qualifying runs were held on Jan. 19 and 20 on the Silver Fox venue under the top of the Snowbird tram. Big Sky Freeride represented Montana with some impressive skiing. Nehalem Manka took a fifth place in the 15-18 female ski category. She had the highest line score out of all the female competitors, sending a 15-foot cliff drop at the top and a technical straight-line double drop at the bottom. 

Flynn Kabisch took home sixth place in the 12-14 female ski division—a very impressive finish considering this was Kabisch’s first national competition and she had terrible visibility during her run. Kabisch is a good “Jedi” skier and still managed to fluidly ski through a rocky pinch into a 5-foot drop. Luuk Mackenzie skied a big line and placed 31st in 15-18 male ski. He had a tiny bobble at the bottom of the venue which made him possibly lose a full point. This shows how competitive this category is.  

Finals were scheduled for Jan. 21, but the most intense snowstorm that Snowbird has experienced in the last seven years dropped nearly 2 feet of snow on the mountain in five hours and forced cancellation of the final runs. Results from the qualifying runs served as the final results and the Big Sky athletes and coaches were treated to some of the best powder skiing imaginable as they got face shots and launched large cliff drops into bottomless snow all morning long.

After getting back from Snowbird, 17 Big Sky athletes went to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for the IFSA regional competition. Jackson had a lot of new snow throughout the previous week and conditions were solid. This is a very competitive event because only a certain number of athletes from the IFSA Northern Region—Wyoming, Idaho and Montana—will be selected for the IFSA North American championships.

Big Sky Freeride placed many athletes on the podium, including Elijah Singer’s third place in U12 male snowboard; a third place for Blaise Ballantyne in U12 male ski; Isaac Singer’s first place in 12-14 male snowboard; first place for Duncan Gentry in 15-18 male snowboard; Flynn Kabisch’s second place in 12-14 female ski; Riley Becker’s second in 15-18 female ski; and Dawson Raden’s fifth place in 15-18 male ski. Jacob Smith got the Bryce Newcomb spirit award for his incredible feat of skiing the venue flawlessly as a nearly completely blind athlete!  

Next up for the Big Sky Freeride team is the Grand Targhee IFSA Regional on Feb. 9-10. The team is also looking forward to hosting the IFSA Junior Headwaters Regional competition March 9-10, as well as the IFSA Freeride World Qualifying adult competition March 30-31. Local adult competitors are highly encouraged to participate in the FWQ event and registration opens Feb. 15 at 5 p.m.

This event is expected to be filled within the first few minutes of registration, so be prompt and check or contact coach Wallace Casper with the Big Sky Freeride team at for more information.  

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