By Doug Hare EBS SPORTS EDITOR
Over the weekend of March 30-31, judges, spectators and competitors gathered in Stillwater Bowl under blue skies and focused their attention on the Headwaters terrain. The 2019 Big Sky International Freeskiers and Snowboarders (IFSA) Freeride World Qualifying (FWQ) event had ideal weather for the onlookers, but the conditions for the riders was less than ideal.
“We were fortunate with good weather and with some smart skiing by athletes in the qualifying rounds. We were able to take 55 competitors on the world class venue that is Three Forks for the finals on Sunday,” said Pete Manka, who along with Justin Nett provided play-by-play and color commentary for the event. “We saw some impressive skiing on Sunday.”
“Snow conditions were not great. I knew that the way to win was to do as many tricks as possible,” said Chase Samuels about his approach to the event. “So in my run I hit four cliffs, off one cliff I did a 360 spinning to the left and off another cliff, I did a 360 spinning right.”
Samuels aggressive approach paid off as he finished atop the podium for male skiers. “Three Forks is such a long run. I knew that my legs would be exhausted by the bottom of my run. So I lined up three airs to hit before the bottom features. When I did my run [on Sunday], the sun was already going behind the mountain and a lot of the run was re-freezing, some turns I made were on solid ice. By the bottom of my run I could barely hold it together, on the last cliff I did a 360 and barely kept my feet underneath me.”
Local snowboarder Chance Lenay, who finished last season ranked first amongst male snowboarders in North America on the FWQ circuit, finished second in his division behind Bozeman’s Michael Mawn, who had two bold and creative runs. Lenay’s significant other, Amy Viers, one-upped him by finishing first in the female snowboard division.
“This was my very first freeride podium! It was actually only my second [competition] ever—my first one was a week earlier at Crystal Mountain, Washington, but I got sixth place. So for this competition, I decided to let go of any pressure to go big or perform for anyone else but myself,” said Viers. “I took out any features that I might have fallen on and stuck to more conservative lines. Both lines could have gone smoother, but I was ultimately stoked to just be a part of the competition regardless of where I placed.”
The competition was judged by Joe Turner, Kristen Cooper and Rob Laplar. Riders are judged by line choice, control, fluidity, style and energy. Tracy Chubb, who won the female ski division convincingly, put up the highest rated run of the weekend on Sunday.