Big Sky, Montana Subaru Freeride Series
All Words and Photos: Diane Harrington
Big Sky, Montana was the third and final stop of the Subaru Freeride Series here in North America. Throughout the weekend there were three different events. A two star event on Thursday qualified a few athletes for the four star event on Friday. There were two days of action for both the adults and juniors during the main events. The first day was the qualifier, then a second day of finals with a combined score determining the winner. All the events were held on the Headwaters venue which was blessed with a fresh blanket of spring snow each evening. This final SFS event was the climax of the this years tour due to the challenging terrain and primo snow conditions. The athletes were stoked on overall snow conditions, and excited to see how the finals would play out to determine who would qualify for the 2015 Freeride World Tour.
The Headwaters venue is steep, fairly long, technical, and loaded with cliff bands. This terrain is wonderful if you are an extreme skier or rider looking to jump, spin, and even backflip your way onto the podium. Furthermore, Montana has had a terrific amount of snowfall this year, so conditions were prime. This is the third year skiers have competed at Moonlight (Big Sky bought Moonlight), but only the first year for boarders. Spring weather was in full effect. There was sun, pockets of clouds rolling over releasing snow, wind, and then sun again. There were also many unexpected rocks just under the new snow surface which knocked even the best of skiers and riders off their feet.
Camila Brown from Snowbird fought her way into the four star event by winning the two star event and gaining the only spot for the women’s snowboarding division. She then finished second overall. She enjoyed the venue and all the playful features to jump off. Andrew Irwin from Squaw Valley, CA won the men’s snowboarding. He found lots of powder to slash. Alta Snowboard Team riders Justin Lattimer, Matt Carter, and John Rodosky finished in the top ten.
Hazel Birnbaum out of Kirkwood, had the highest score of the finals day for the women’s skiers and ended up second overall. Already on the Freeride World Tour Francesca Pavillard-Cain from Crested Butte was on top for the combined score for the ski ladies.
The men skiers were last to go on finals day and it was a great show. Many of the men sent the Tetris feature in the upper part of the venue, many went for the Lily Pad in the lower section, and many lost their skis or tumbled over cliffs. Despite the carnage many athletes did lay down nearly perfect lines. Forrest Jillson from Jackson Hole was the winner. His friends were stoked for him and his humble smile lit up the podium. Also on the podium in third place was 19 year old George Rodney skiing out of Snowbird/Alta.
Possibly even more important than the winners of the event were the Sick Bird belt buckle recipients. Jonathan Penfield took the Lily Pad super deep and stuck it solidly earning himself the belt buckle. He also won the two star event and finished third overall. Skier Tristan Teton Brown back flipped off a sweet diving board cliff, going huge and impressing everyone on his way to earning himself some waist bling as well. Alta’s Andrew Pollard won the two star event for the men’s skiing division but had a fall in the four star event that put him out of contention.
Many spectators came out to watch the skiers and snowboarders compete in this big mountain competition. You can watch the event online, but it will never compare to watching this event in person. The action, the suspense and the athleticism cannot be replicated. If you ever get a chance to go to an FWQ or FWT event you won’t be disappointed. Check out the webcast at subarufreerideseries.com