Visuals: Freeride World Tour Kicking Horse
Luxury homes, lumber mill. Catered chalets, The Riv. Vegan soy latte, Pilsner.
Dichotomy and juxtaposition come to mind and I would casually slide them in if I were more learned, but I defer to a much simpler term to describe Golden, BC: legit. If you don’t know Golden’s story, go find it, it is out there. What it has produced is a industry-driven town holding on to its past, yet on the brink of explosion into stardom because of its glorious mountains. And damn, what mountains they are.
Now home to the 2nd stop on Freeride World Tour, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, hanging precariously steep above Golden, is the epicentre for freeride skiing and snowboarding for just a week. Veteran stars and hungry rookie competitors have shown up to throw down but in the back ground, a sleep-deprived crew of around 100 people somehow work day and night to bring it all to life. The core crew of 45, mostly from Verbier, Switzerland have been brought together by creator and owner, Nicolas Hale-Woods. Together, in Golden, they managed to throw down one hell of an event.
Sit back, relax, crack a cold one and enjoy a visual summary of the circus that is the Freeride World Tour.
The opening ceremonies, hosted by Ricky Diamonds, gave a chance for fans (and Head of Communications, Emile Lavoie) to meet their favourite rider. Even the mayor popped by during his shift as paramedic.
Production in the mountains, especially at -25C is a complicated beast. All week during the weather hold, meetings and tests are run to make sure things are dialed. Sometimes you just can’t predict every issues no matter how much you prepare.
Julien Loubiou is the Technical Manager of the FWT and manages a team of 16 people. When temperatures plummet, as they often do in February, someone has sleep on top of the mountain and manage the computers. Rumour has it that wolverines are active on top of Redemption Ridge at 4am.
Rider’s Meetings are code for pizza and beer. The start order of a competition is a stressful thing. Drop first while the judges have a tricky time setting the point scale and while you get fresh landings, you also get deep snow on take offs which can hurt your speed. Drop last and your line may be destroyed by a field of riders.
A weather delay, caused by glorious amounts of snow, gave the judges a chance to test the local freeride clubs judging ability. A number of athletes joined the kids in a mock comp and shared their experience in selecting lines and skiing safe.
Stephane “Fanfan” Dan partners with the mountain safety team at each resort they visit. He showed up a week early to immerse himself in the snowpack and to work closely with the KHMR team. Stephan shows up with another FWT guide and a doctor and joing the KHMR team of three that has been dedicated specifically to the event. Ideally, minimal explosives are used right before the event so the face remains as pristine as possible. That being said 183kg of explosives were detonated on venue in preparation by means of heli-bombing, hand charges and an Avalauncher, which fires charges from the adjacent ridge. At one point in December, the was brought to rocks by a size 3 avalanche. Lots of fresh snowfall, a big temperature drop and half a season’s prep left a stable snowpack full of hero snow for the athletes. After the storm cleared, a high pressure system forced it’s way in. Temperatures plummeted to frostbite levels but revealed the glorious Dogtooth Range residing over Golden. Needless to say, everyone enjoyed what was provided.
Production and Safety began their day in the middle of the night and athletes and media gathered at the base at 7am for a coffee and a 7:15 upload. If you’ve never watched the sunrise from the top of a mountain I would put it on your to do list. An early opening on the gondola had the public up in time to watch the first rider at 9am. As to be expected, the skiing and riding was on another level. If they were just figuring out the venue last year, they have obviously dialed it in this year. Men and women inspired all those watching and stretched the limits of our imagination.
Big thanks to Andrew Brown, Audree Duclos Pare, Magi Scallion, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort staff, Freeride World Tour staff and all the volunteers for making it happen.