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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

FWQ 4* KICKING HORSE MOUNTAIN, B.C.



 The Canadian Rockies are every bit as magical as you may have imagined, Kicking Horse in particular is a special place. A relatively small resort compared to the mega corporations that seem to be expanding year by year, Kicking Horse Mountain has a total of 4 lifts that access some of the most incredible in-bounds terrain i've ever been privileged enough to ride. Graced by some fresh snowfall, the venue chosen for the qualifying and finals venues had every single athlete very enthusiastic to get the competition underway.


Leading the charge up the boot pack as the first athlete eager to ride this venue, I wasn't even tired at the top of the relatively short but steep hike to the top of the aptly named Terminator Peak. I was second to last to drop in and was elated to watch the rest of the field dance down the mountain in front of me. There was still quite a bit of snow left on the venue regardless of the open inspection where all of the athletes can go and "check out" their line and landings prior to the start of the contest. Due to the lack of visibility and possible weather coming in, the judges made the tough call to split the judging into 3 separate portions of the hill, instead of all collectively watching and judging a top to bottom run from the bottom of the venue. Although its not ideal to be judged like that, it was the right call to make and helped the contest run very quickly and smoothly. I was able to find my line with ease, execute my airs and keep my fluidity and speed up through my run, landing me in second place going into the Finals venue the following day.

Last year on the same finals venue, I made two almost fatal errors that were haunting me all morning while trying to choose my line. Last second before dropping in I decided to switch my entry point and chose the slightly less technical chute to ride into the main chute. Mentally I wasn't totally there, and it was probably apparent in my riding. However, I was able to make it down, ride the traverse over the rock island to the other chute on the course, and find my bottom air into the powder field below. I wasn't completely happy with how the run went, but I had a decent point lead on the competitors who qualified behind me. Its always nerve wracking not knowing exactly how you ended up until the awards, but regardless we all have to play the waiting game until later that night when they hosted the awards party at Whitetooth Grill. I am so proud of Kiana and Michelle who placed in 2nd and 1st place, and deserved every bit of it. I am also delighted to come in 3rd place knowing I could have done a little more on the finals day, now it all comes down to the last event at Crystal Mountain next week. Wish me luck!



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

FWQ 4* TAOS SKI VALLEY



New Mexico, not the first place that comes to mind when you think of big mountains, great snow, and extreme terrain. But it should be. The Taos Valley is beautifully dramatic, rising from around 6,000ft in town to the top of the peaks around 13,000ft which tower above the valley below giving expansive views in every direction.

Like the rest of North America they have been having an absolutely stellar season. Needless to say, all of the athletes were fired up to arrive for the contest knowing there was good coverage and some fresh snowfall. The day one venue for the qualifying round into finals took place on West Basin, which is a fun technical zone, including some steep rocky areas and tight chutes. I found my line relatively quickly during inspection, and was truly looking forward to riding it.


We were greeted by the warm New Mexico sunshine the morning of the contest, so warm in fact that I was able to ride in just my sweatshirt, which is my favorite snowboarding attire. Women snowboarders were the first group to go and I dropped in somewhere near the end of the pack. I put in my headphones and was fired up to drop in and ride my line. Feeling confident about knowing exactly where to go, I made quick work of the run, tried to look fluid, nailed my bottom air and I think the judges could tell I was having a ton of fun while doing so.  There were so many strong runs from all of the girls it was a great show to watch and I was elated to qualify 1st for the finals day.
We were really hoping to ride Kachina Peak for the finals venue. All of the athletes couldn't stop talking about how great that venue would be for the final and I know that the event organizers really went to bat for us trying to make that happen. Unfortunately the new CEO of Taos didn't allow it because they didn't want to shut down that venue to the public which was extremely disappointing. That being said a big thank you is in order to Kaela and Tom whom organized the event and really went out of their way to try to get that venue for us!


Another incredibly warm and sunny day welcomed us first thing in the morning the following day for finals. Again, women snowboarders were the first group to drop and I was the last person to drop in. Since we were unable to have a different venue, we competed again on West Basin, so I rode the same line I did the day before. Since I had already rode the line and scored well on it, I was feeling extra calm and excited to ride it again. The run flew by, I stayed on my feet and was so excited to have finished the day on a strong note and watch the rest of the show. Some unbelievable runs went down, and I can't say enough good things about how hard these athletes work and put themselves on the line sending it off huge cliffs, tight trees, shoots, and some relatively tough landings. The day wrapped up and awards took place around 6 pm, and I couldn't believe I was standing on top of the podium with another 1st place finish! Congrats to all of the girls for riding so hard and inspiring me to push my riding as well. Thank you again to Taos for hosting the event along with all of the event organizers and volunteers. And a BIG thank you to my sponsors for their continued support in this chase for the Freeride World Tour spot, as well as my family and friends both old and new! Off to Kicking Horse tomorrow for the next stop of the tour.



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