Photos by Bissell Hazen, Tamara Rogers, and Andy Devore
A rare occurrence in the realm of big mountain competitions, tons of fresh snow and blue skies blessed this years Silver King Freeride at Crystal Mountain. The first day of competition greeted competitors with an untouched venue off the Northway Peak. Multiple options for airs and line choice made it hard to choose with everything from billy-goat-style exposed rocky sections to aesthetically appealing powder spines with sizeable drops. Everything that could have been hit was hit with two to three airs possible on each run.
The ladies began the day with some solid skiing but due to the small number of female competitors it wasn’t long before the men began the onslaught of airs. The large cliff band at the bottom of the venue offered drops anywhere from five to fifty feet but the flattish landings made it tricky to actually stomp as many competitors either hip-checked or failed to come away with clean landings. Barry Anderson decided (accidentally) he would guinea pig an experiment to test just how soft the landings were. Choosing to ski the most difficult section of the venue filled with exposure and jagged shark teeth, Barry goes for the largest piece of rock on his bottom air and snaggs a tree branch with his pole on the take-off. Flying through the air head-first, a fifty-foot face plant is the result of his experiment. Unharmed, he snatches his ski out of the air before it hits the snow and skis away.
The sickbird award of the day went to Andy Devore who sent the diving board feature with speed and a nice backflip landing fifty or so feet down in the flats. As his run was early on in the day, it raised the level of stoke for competitors and spectators alike. Some of the more creative higher scoring lines involved gapping over a chute near the bottom and an impressive cliff-jump through the gnar-rock at the top that enabled the competitor to ski the top of the venue with perhaps two turns. This competition marked the first year the new Northway Peak venue was used and due to its vast superiority over the bear pits and snorting elk venues, it will become the staple of the Silver King Freeride in future competitions.
On saturday the Silver King was still untouched due to closure the previous day for the Warren Miller film crew that had been filming at the resort over the past two weeks. With a low snow year and lots of pointy rocks, there were less options than the Northway Peak venue in terms of airs. Shark teeth hidden under the snow claimed the first victim by taking the forerunner’s skis and sending him on some mellow tumbles in the steepest section of the upper face. Luckily injuries were avoided and the ladies skied some aggressive lines to start the day.
Seeking vengeance after finishing second-to-last the previous day, Josh Anderson skied fast and fluid through the rocky section skier’s left of pinball and then pointed it for twenty feet before throwing a lincoln loop off the largest piece of rock on the venue. Creating a bomb-hole about 100 feet below, he skied away, outdoing Andy for the coveted sickbird award.
The next competitor’s jacket could be heard flapping from across the valley as he straightlined the entire venue through the pinball chute, which included a small mandatory air in the middle of it. With a lack of medium size airs, competitors struggled to make things interesting. In the end two people straightlined the venue, a few more forty-foot size airs were taken and the incoming storm covered the venue in clouds and flat light as soon as the last competitor reached the finish area.
Due to a lack of sufficient female participants the after party could have been a bit more interesting, but spirits were high and a live band helped create a festive atmosphere. Creating his own festivities, a random guy decided to designate himself as Mr. Party for the night by providing his own version of live entertainment. Clad in stretchy pants, a pink shirt, and sunglasses with shades replacing lenses, Mr. Party made himself the animated acquantence of every person in the bar and at one point ended up groping a fellow member of the opposite sex without his pants on. A group of Australians including former pro freestyler Dave "Gravy" also provided entertaining company as they celebrated their last night of a month long trip to North America filming a TV series. Pitchers and shots abounded as snowflakes filled bomb holes from the previous two days, replenishing the snowpack for future huck sessions.