How Far We’ve Come: Comparing big-mountain contests then and now

Comments by Griffin Post/

My first big-mountain contest was nothing short of terrifying. Not because of the venue, but because of the conditions on the venue. The face, sparse with trees and speckled with small cliffs, had more in common with a coral reef than anything I’d considered “big-mountain.” While the venue was technically closed to the public, I suspect it was only a formality as nobody in his or her right mind would have been skiing teeth-chattering snow that day. With only stickers on our helmets to determine our start order, survival-skiing was the name of the game as we tried to stay on our feet all of the way to the lack-luster finish corral, filled mostly with parents and roommates. My race background served me well and I made it through to the next day, however, I opted to salvage the rest of my entry fee rather than take another run like that. This game was obviously not for me.

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Markus Eder ready to drop in at Revelstoke. Photo by D. Carlier/FWT.

Several years and a couple dozen contests later, the big-mountain competition scene has evolved beyond what Shane McConkey and the other founders of the IFSA could have likely ever imagined—at the upper echelons of competition, at least. Week-long weather windows ensure ideal conditions, lodging and lift tickets are covered by organizers and heli’s toting Cineflex cameras capture all of the action. The events no longer seem like a path to the next step, a means to an ends, but an ends in itself. Organizers are no longer trying to compete with Nastar, but NASCAR, creating an ever-more impressive final product, and here’s how they’re doing it.

Then: Organizers forgot to put me on the startlist.
Now: Your bib has your name on it, hopefully alleviating the above problem.

Then: Feeling rushed to find a vantage point, judges once set up in a place where they couldn’t see 80% of the runs.
Now: Judges have access to the live feed and monitors.

Then: Prior to the Freeride World Tour and Freeskiing World Tour merging, “World Tours” had events on two or three continents.
Now: The unified Freeride World Tour and its qualifiers have events on five continents.

Then: Not knowing where the finish line was, I once stopped at a restaurant for a snack several hundred feet before the finish line.
Now: Resorts at some stops have hired “security,” for crowd/snowball fight control at finish corrals.

Then: Junior contests: non existent.
Now: Juniors are coached and compete on several different tours throughout the world.

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Atop the Mac Daddy face at Revelstoke. Photo by B. Long/FWT.

Then: Back-slap = stomp.
Now: Back-slap = crash.

Then: The top filmed runs would surface several days after the event.
Now: The heli-mounted Cineflex captures the action live, and a complimentary GoPro on every rider captures anything the Cineflex might miss.

Then: Competitors were free to ski the finals venue up to the day of competition.
Now: Someone is hired to “guard” the finals venue, camping at the start of the hike for one month prior to the event. Seriously.

Then: For whatever reason, random people streaking the venue was fairly commonplace.
Now: Sadly, you’re not getting a free heli bump, even if you’re naked.

Then: On-slope inspection ensured traverse tracks and moguls across the competition venue.
Now: Visual inspection = pow.

Then: Some of the best skiers and best people coming together to celebrate skiing.
Now: Some of the best skiers and best people coming together to celebrate skiing.

The Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face recently rolled through Revelstoke, BC, for its first stop of the 2013 season. See photos from the Revelstoke stop of the Freeride World Tour. Next, the Tour heads to Courmayeur-Mont-Blanc, Italy. Stay tuned for freeskier.com for continued coverage.