Words and Photos: MSI
Rolling clouds hung high over Moonlight Basin’s Headwaters big mountain competition venue on the first day of the 4-star Subaru Freeride Series Freeride World Qualifier competition. Eighty-two athletes took on the challenge of this steep, technical and exposed venue with the hopes of advancing to the final competition day. Approximately 50 percent of skiers will advance to the final day of competition. Combined scores from the two days will crown the Moonlight Basin champions Saturday, March 16.
“We saw really strong and fluid skiing from both the men and women,” noted Event Head Judge Eric Schmitz. “Saturday’s finals venue has more playful elements, which should be fun for the skiers, but we hope to see the same caliber of athleticism executed today. The judges love to see solid and smooth skiing. Competition runs should look just like something you would see in a ski film.”
Highlights of the day included Hadley Hammer’s incredibly unique looker’s right-to-left line, which she charged without hesitation. Hadley currently rides out of Jackson Hole and is positioned first for the ladies. Following her in the current event rankings is Francesca Pavillard-Cain out of Crested Butte, CO, the only woman to completely straight-line the Hell’s Half-acre area of the venue. Pavillard-Cain serves as a definite contender for the women’s podium as she recently clinched the ladies’ title at Taos. Local Montana shredder Sasha Dingle is currently sitting in the third women’s spot as the result of an incredibly burley line on the looker’s right hand side of the venue.
Defending 2012 Moonlight Basin Champion Kyle Taylor continued to defend his title with the best men’s run of the day. Taylor crushed four unique airs at the top of the venue and was the only competitor to cleanly link turns through the “Little C” straight-line near the bottom. The judges were impressed by his ability to maintain control at consistently high speeds throughout the mountain.
Closely following Taylor’s lead, Christian Boucher of Whistler stomped a huge air in the middle of the venue. He was also the first to enter a clever straight-line near the bottom of the venue, which was christened in his honor “Little C” straight-line for the remainder of the competition. Currently sitting in third, Patty Baskins—riding out of Vail, CO—screamed out of the starting gate ripping a huge mute grab in the highly technical Hell’s Roaring Bowl section. He continued to mach through the Hell’s Half-acre straight-line earning the fastest time of the day at only 53 seconds.
Several competitors were also nominated for the infamous Sick Bird award presented by Backcountry.com. “Tomorrow’s conditions look to be rather similar to today and promise another incredible show of progressive big mountain skiing,” said Event Director Jeff Berman of Mountain Sports International.