Sierra-at-Tahoe IFSA Freeride World Tour qualifier concludes Saturday (with video)
8:30 a.m. Venue inspection
10 a.m. Finals start
4 p.m. After-party happy hour
5 p.m. Awards ceremony
TWIN BRIDGES, CALIF — Conditions may have been spring-like, but that didn’t seem to slow anyone down on the first day of Sierra-at-Tahoe’s inaugural Huck Cup big mountain freeride competition.
“The first day was a huge hit,” resort director of marketing Steve Hemphill said.
More than 50 skiers and snowboarders from around the West took to the gated backcountry steeps at Sierra Friday, Feb. 26, for the ski area’s first competition in Huckleberry Canyon.
“Being our first event back there, it’s really opened our eyes to the possibilities,” Hemphill said.
For Sierra local and sponsored pro Colby Albino, it was a chance to compete on his home turf.
“This is my favorite playground,” he said after a run that included a 30- to 40-foot cliff drop.
“It’s always been our dream to have something here,” the 25-year-old athlete added.
The International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association competition is a two-star qualifying event for the Swatch Freeride World Tour. Star ratings are based on size of the course (elevation gain) and technical difficulty.
Winners in each category of this weekend’s event will share $5,000 in prize money and be given the opportunity to compete the following weekend in Taos, New Mexico, in a four-star competition.
“If they do well in New Mexico, then they are definitely on the fast track toward earning a spot on the Swatch Freeride World Tour,” said Tom Winter, America’s manager for the tour.
The elite level global competition annually includes some of the most extreme mountain terrain around the world.
For Sierra, this qualifier showcases both the mountain and the region’s more technical side.
“Having a (Freeride World Tour qualifier) stop at Sierra means we’ve been put on the map for big mountain skiers globally,” said resort spokeswoman Thea Hardy.
The 320-acre venue includes sizable cliffs, boulders, chutes and other natural features with 35- to 50-degree slopes. It’s only limitation as far as a freeride rating is its 400 to 450 feet of vertical drop.
“The number of lines for the athletes is great,” Winter said. “There are a ton of choices and the freedom to do a lot of different things, which allows for a high level of creativity.”
Freeride competitors are judged based on line choice, technique, style and difficulty.
The competition will conclude Saturday with finals starting at 10 a.m. Friday’s qualifying results were not available at press time.
WHERE TO WATCH
The event is free to attend, although lift access is recommended. Spectators are welcome to take in the action from either the viewing area deck at the 360 Smokehouse on the mountain’s summit or from below the venue. Gate 3 will be open to spectators to reach the base-viewing area. Full competition results and a link to a live stream of the event are available at http://www.sierraatahoe.com and on the resort’s Twitter page.
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