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"It's a good week to be a freerider," someone said in the back of the room.
No one would dare argue that statement in Revelstoke, B.C., where it started snowing Sunday and has hardly ceased four days later. The Freeride World Tour has been on a weather delay since Monday, but on Friday morning, the long-anticipated competition will take place on the Mac Daddy face, which has been loaded by three feet of snow this week.
More than 70 of the world's best big-mountain skiers and snowboarders have been getting after it for nearly a week. The lift line at the Stoke chair has resembled a helmet-sticker trade show. Add to that local luminaries like Greg Hill, Chris Rubens and new resident Dane Tudor, who's currently living in Revelstoke and filming his Real Ski Backcountry X Games segment this winter. Last week Tudor broke his front five teeth landing a 180 off a 60-foot cliff (it didn't stop him from skiing).
Throw in the judges, a group that includes Hugo Harrisson, Tom Burt and Temple Cummins ... and you get the idea. A good week to be a freerider, yes.
To say the anticipation is high would be a bit of an understatement. The competitors aren't allowed to inspect the face in person, but they were hoping to get a chance to view it from a distant ridge on Thursday (heavy fog in the alpine zone made visibility tough). An athlete meeting took place Wednesday night, where tour director Bryan Barlow said a forerunner was being chosen to ski the face prior to the finals.
"It will likely be one of the head judges," Barlow said with a grin, as numerous hands in the crowd volunteered. "Hugo likes skiing powder. We might go tandem."
In other news, a cash purse of $63,500 (U.S.) is on the line here, with $8,000 going to the men's ski winner, $5,500 to the women's ski/men's snowboard winners and $3,000 to the women's snowboard winner.
It's hard to peg any distinct advantages among the field, but reigning Freeskiing World Tour champ Josh Daiek offered this: "Obviously the Euro guys are used to skiing in more exposed terrain all the time. I think they maybe have a little of the upper hand because they're used to visual inspection only, and used to being in those positions. But what it all boils down to at the end of the day is skiing, you know?"