Erika Vikander at the FWQ in Crested Butte
After calling Colorado my home for the past four seasons, I thought that I had explored the best parts of it. Making my way through Summit County, Telluride, and the city, it seemed as though there couldn’t be anything more amazing to see. However, I was wrong. Crested Butte blew all of those places out of the water, and not just because of the skiing.
Take a step back in time, to 1960 to be exact. When men were real mountain men, there were no traffic lights in town, and skiers came to be skiers. Thats how Crested Butte still feels. The energy of this place is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. Nestled away in the Colorado Rockies this massive peak of Crested Butte has a Matterhorn-like aura resonating through the town. You feel as if you could literally check out from the outside world and get lost here until you realize how forward thinking this place is.
Crested Butte is one of the birthplaces of Freeskiing and it is clear why. The terrain here is extreme, steep, fast, and technical. It has bred some of the best skiers and snowboarders in the world. I was fortunate to not only witness the madness in person, but also get to participate in both the 2* and 4* Freeride World Tour Qualifying events here this past weekend. Nothing could have prepared us for the venues that were selected for the contest, however, I am glad that I grew up snowboarding in Montana, because it was downright intense.
The 2* contest started on Hawks Nest, a venue that is relatively mellow in comparison to the 4* venues. It was a one and done type of deal, meaning there was no qualifying round. Simply take one run through the course and the judges will decide the winners based on that one run. Watching my other competitors maneuver through the course really excited me, and I felt that I found a very original line choice. The skier women dropped first , and absolutely crushed the course, they are such phenomenal athletes and ski so fast through the icy mogul fields, it is really exhilarating to watch. After the skier women dropped, I was the first of the snowboard ladies to take my run. I came out of the starting area feeling very confident about my line choice and run. After making my way down through a few features that I had picked out, I came to my last air, which had a couple of moguls in front of it, into an air through some tight trees into another mogul field. I jumped, landed, then unfortunately caught my edge just before the finish area. I stopped, took a breath and collected myself to watch the rest of the ladies make their way down the course.
The rest of the field picked their way down the icy mogul run, doing what they could to stay on their feet, which is the name of the game at most of these contests. Unfortunately a lot of the field fell (myself included.) There were two girls who made it all the way down the course with fluidity and no falls and took first and second! Congratulations to Morgan Shippen of Durango, CO and Whitney O’Bannon from Jackson, WY for taking the top two spots! I was very honored to sneak a 3rd place podium finish even with my fall in the run.
The following day was qualifying for the 4* event, the sun was shining, the weather was sweet, and we were ready to move our dancing feet. We loaded the chair at 8am Saturday morning, and made our way to Headwall where the qualifying venue was located. Due to the enormous amount of sunshine the past couple of weeks here there were ample rocks all through the venue, making an already challenging course, a little more challenging. When maneuvering through steep icy moguls with “sharkfins” everywhere, you have to be so concentrated on each turn, never letting your guard down. The moment you do, the course will eat you alive. I’m incredibly proud and honored to ride this course with so many talented female rippers. It was not easy, and at the end of the day we can all pat ourselves on the back for handling this course and coming out unscathed.
There were 11 girls in the event, 8 of us moved onto finals. Finals took place the next day on a different venue than we had previously planned for. Myself, and a couple other competitors unfortunately did not hear that the venue had been changed from Staircase to Sock-it-to-Me until after we were already off the hill that day, which is less than ideal given the current state of the snow.
We mentally prepared ourselves the best we could, finding photos of the venue from whoever we could and studying them like we had a finals exam the following day. Blessed with another absolutely bluebird Colorado day, we made our way up for inspection at 8:30am. Thankfully, we were able to squeeze in two runs for inspection so we could make our line decision before the contest started at 10am. The skier women started the day again, and blew our minds with some incredible skiing. Next up was our category of snowboard women. Again, I am amazed at the caliber of riding that all of the women displayed and the decision making was impeccable. It was so fun to watch everyones runs, in particular Mary Boddington from Crested Butte who dominated the qualifying round on Saturday, and was sitting in first place going into the finals event. The conditions were tough, and the course took out a lot of good riders.
At the end of the day you have to stay on your feet, and the riders who were able to do that came out on top. Randa Shahin rode solid through both events, coming from 7th position in qualifying all the way to 3rd place on the podium with a great finals run. Mary boddington took the win with some mindblowing riding both on qualifying and finals day. Mary had a very original line choice, and made it clear that she can handle this terrain, no problem! Both Randa, and Mary are incredible athletes, and genuinely wonderful human beings, and I was honored to be standing in 2nd place next to both of these ladies after the two day event. Congratulations to all of the competitors including Lynn Neil, and Robyn Borneman rounding out 4th and 5th position on the podium! Special thank you to Crested Butte Mountain Resort for putting on this great event and sharing “The Last Great Colorado Mountain Town” with us. I can’t wait to come back next year. Another huge thank you has to go out to the FWQ16 staff, judges, volunteers, and spectators for putting on a stellar event! Thank you also to all of my sponsors for your support in getting me here, especially OUTDOOR TECH, and XS HELMETS!
Posted by Kelly Vance on 03/09/16