March 22, 2015

Freeride World Tour Qualifier Wraps Up At CBMR


We are not going to sugar coat this one.  The Freeride World Tour Qualifier took place at CBMR this weekend, on some of the worst snow conditions for a freeride event ever.  Warm temperatures and minimal snowfall prevented CB Ski Patrol from ever opening any terrain past Million Dollar Highway, so all of the better venues were out of play.  The only open venues were Hawks Nest and Headwall, which isn’t ideal.  But with comp cancellations around North America, the IFSA was desperate to have an event, so it was on with what we had.  Then it rained, and froze.

cover photo: Joely Matuszczak, Gunnison Country Times

But the show went on.  Competitors shredded Hawks Nest’s flat landings down to a Slipper that was deteriorating by the second. By the time the men’s skiers began, conditions had warmed enough that local boys Ryan Hoynacki and Connor Michael sent the entire Slipper at once.   At the end of the day, Michelle Locke, Kele Thorsen, Brian Stenerson, and Trace Cooke led their respective categories.

Finals went down on Crested Butte’s old standby, the Headwall.  Normally a tame qualifier, this year’s Headwall was downright scary.  The storm, which started as rain and froze, left a centimeter of snow to cover the rocks of Angle Gully.  It hadn’t snowed since Headwall was shralped to bits by the IFSA Junior Nationals.   In addition, Crested Butte Ski Patrol kept Angle closed off for inspection, so competitors couldn’t see all the rocks they knew lay under the centimeter of snow.  It was a clear advantage for Crested Butte skiers, and they capitalized.

Mary Boddington, who sat in 3rd going into finals, made a valiant effort to take 1st, shredding Angle as she’s done many times in the past.  However, a bobble at the bottom prevented at the bottom halted her charge, and Michelle Locke held on to 1st place.

Western State’s Sisi Sawyer, who was sitting in 8th place, charged Angle, capping her run with a small straightline out the skier’s right.  Kele Thorsen, who had been sitting in first, skied Angle well, but could not pass over the traverse cleanly, putting a hand down that cost her first place.  The day belonged to Ashley Bembenek, who charged through Angle with impeccable style, capping her run off with a solid air at the bottom to take the victory.

On the snowboard side of things, Jonathan Penfield continued his hot streak, taking advantage of a Stenerson bobble to take first place, and probably lock himself onto next year’s Freeride World Tour.

The men’s ski field was shaken dramatically.  Practically no one who wasn’t familiar with Angle Gully went in, and the judges scored them harshly.  Trace Cook and Martin Lentz, who were in 1st and 3rd, skied Powder 8 Gully with amazing ability, but found themselves outside the top five at awards.  Max Durtschi won the day, jumping from outside the top 20 all the way to 6th place, by airing Rental Shop and immediately carving into an enormous 360 off mini-box rock.  Ryan Hoynacki jumped from outside the top 10 into 3rd place by airing Rental Shop massively.  Caleb Mullen took 2nd, also airing Rental Shop before cutting far lookers left to air large.  Andrew Rumph, who started the day in 4th, skied Angle Gully smooth, to leap frog the top three and take the competition.   In the end, if you didn’t ski Angle, you got hosed.

The tour wraps up this weekend up at Kicking Horse Resort in Canada.  Western State’s Max Durtschi finds himself in the driver’s seat for a spot on the Freeride World Tour.  Crested Butte’s own Ashley Bembenek also finds herself in a good position going into the final event.  Stay tuned.

About the Author

1. Ed Dujardin
After moving out west for college, Ed took summer school so he could spend winters in Crested Butte. These days, he coaches the Western State Colorado University Freeride Team, and spends as much time as he can fishing the incredible rivers of the area.