It’s hard to say exactly what is the best part of the Bearfoot Bistro dining experience: Maybe it’s the exquisite food. Or is it the Belvedere Room? Chilled to 13 degrees below zero, lined with walls of ice, lit a fluorescent blue and filled with top-shelf vodkas; visitors are given goose down jackets to wear while inside. Perhaps it’s the extensive wine cellar—one of the biggest in all of Canada—where patrons are given instructions on how to open bottles of champagne via the art of sabering. My point being, Bearfoot Bistro is decidedly first class. There’s hardly a better spot to host the annual AFP awards banquet and dinner—a celebration of the year gone by, and of the accomplishments of the world’s best freeskiers.
While you may find it hard to picture upwards of fifty rambunctious freeskiers occupying one of the fancier restaurants in all of British Columbia, the athletes remind us that they can, in fact, behave like adults now and again. Sweatshirts and baggy pants give way to collared shirts and dresses. Even the occasional blazer and tie! And as we gathered on Monday night in Whistler Village, the tone was certainly fun, but also serious. This was a night to pay tribute to the individuals who excelled in slopestyle, halfpipe and big air, and to crown the overall title winners—recipients of the Sarah Burke Trophy, awarded annually to the male and female who rank first on the tour for performance across all disciplines.
The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour at the Bistro bar. Attendees greeted one another while servers ran to and fro, putting the finishing touches on the dining tables. Near the center of the room lay 20+ snowflakes of steel—the coveted AFP awards.
Amid the wolfing-down of the various hors d’oeuvres, AFP board member Mike Atkinson joined AFP General Manager Steele Spence, front and center, to introduce the 2013 World Champions. They are as follows.
2013 Men’s Slopestyle World Ranking:
1. Nick Goepper (4529.80)
2. Russ Henshaw (4455.23)
3. James Woods (4318.30)
“He’s a machine.” That’s the resounding comment muttered by competitors as they watch Goepper stomp run after run, time and again. How does he do it? On the one hand, it’s natural ability. On the other, Goepper’s success stems from a strong work ethic. He spends more time on the hill than most—the repetition of tricks clearly paying dividends. But more than just “skiing a lot,” Goepper displays a commitment matched by few on the circuit. Just this past weekend, I witnessed him going from feature to feature on the AFP World Champs slopestyle course in Whistler—along with Mike Hanley, head ski coach at Windells Academy—studying the layout and the terrain, long after most others had retreated back to Whistler Village for a little après fun. Of his eight top-10 finishes this season, the two standouts are wins at X Games Aspen and the Dumont Cup at Sunday River.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was just a wee lad to do well in this sport,” said Goepper. “To come second [in the slopestyle rankings] last year, and to be first this year, it’s just fantastic. I couldn’t imagine a better season.” Recalling all of the ups and downs of his season, Goepper cited his X Games win as the high point. “X Games was the best,” he explained. “There’s so much time for practice on the course… it’s just, like, skiing the best park ever with your friends for five days in a row. It’s so awesome.”
2013 Women’s Slopestyle World Ranking:
1. Kaya Turski (4603.35)
2. Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen (4473.07)
3. Dara Howell (4364.70)
She’s our Skier of the Year in both 2011 and 2012. Her name is synonymous with winning. This season, Kaya wracked up five top-5 finishes. Among them: A win at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, a silver medal performance at X Games Aspen, a victory at the FIS World Championships in Voss, Norway and another win at the X Games Tignes. This marks Kaya’s fifth straight AFP slopestyle title—a testament to her continued dedication and top-level performance.
2013 Men’s Halfpipe World Ranking:
1. David Wise (4630.18)
2. Torin Yater-Wallace (4545.65)
3. Mike Riddle (4261.31)
In 2011/12, Torin Yater-Wallace nudged David Wise out of the top spot in the AFP superpipe rankings at the final event of the season. Determined to reclaim the top spot, Wise amassed seven top-5 finishes on his way to the 2013 title. Wise’s accomplishments include a fifth place finish at Dew Tour; a bronze medal performance at Copper’s Grand Prix; a big win at X Games Aspen, followed up by another victory at Grand Prix in Park City; a fifth place finish at the Olympic test event in Sochi; a win a the FIS World Champs in Norway and a silver medal showing at X Games Tignes.
“I would say that this was the most competitive year ever for pipe skiing,” said Wise. “We’ve truly pushed the sport to a whole new level, not only in technicality, but also in style and creativity. It is an honor and a blast to be a part of a sport that is growing and progressing in such a cool way, and to be crowned the AFP World Champ on top of all that? Well, it just doesn’t get any better.”
While the superpipe title is typically decided following the AFP World Champs, the pipe event was absent from the World Ski and Snowboard Festival this year. “The WSSF regrettably did not have the resources this year to support the building, maintenance and prizing for the pipe,” said Jess Smith, Communications Manager with Watermark Inc, “but we are fully committed to the discipline and the athletes and will do everything in our power to have it reinstated for 2014.” Thus, the World Champions of pipe were crowned following the conclusion of X Games Tignes.
2013 Women’s Halfpipe World Ranking:
1. Maddie Bowman (4726.63)
2. Rosalind Groenewoud (4408.58)
3. Anais Caradeux (4258.07)
Finishing second in 2011/12 to veteran Roz G, we saw a role reversal this year as South Lake Tahoe’s Maddie Bowman skied her way to the 2013 title. Her impressive season included six podium finishes, of which four were wins: The North Face PPOS at Copper, the US Grand Prix at Copper, X Games Aspen and Grand Prix at Park City. With an arsenal of tricks including corked 900s in both directions, Maddie will be a force to be reckoned with in the season ahead.
2013 Men’s Big Air World Ranking:
1. Henrik Harlaut (3640.00)
2. Gus Kenworthy (3520.94)
3. Vincent Gagnier (3377.45)
Henrik Harlaut didn’t miss the podium of a single big air contest he entered this season. Starting with a win at the Relentless Freeze Festival in London in October of last year, Henrik followed up with a third place showing at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, a win at the X Games Aspen in January, a second place finish at the JOI earlier this month, and a third place finish this weekend at the AFP World Champs/WSSF in Whistler. While Henrik’s smooth style makes him the hero of countless skiers across the globe, both young and old, his nose butter triple cork 1620 at X Games gave him the “household name” designation held by few in our sport. In one word: Historic.
Henrik’s big air accolades represent just a chunk of his year. Henrik spent much of his time on traveling with the Inspired Demo Tour, and also amassed a handful of top 10 slopestyle finishes—including a second place finish at X Games. For his efforts, Henrik finished third in the overall ranking.
“I feel awesome,” said Henrik—drink in hand, big smile on his face, as always. “It definitely feels good. The title just shows that I was able to stay consistent. I was just having fun along the way… I tried not to worry too much about the competition and I ended up doing very well. I’m psyched.” Henrik also pointed to X Games as the highlight moment of his season. “It was my first X Games medal,” he said, “to take gold, it was just unbelievable.”
“It was my first X Games medal. To take gold, it was just unbelievable.” – Henrik Harlaut
After the athletes accepted their awards, it was onto the main course. Scrumptious steak for some, delectable fish for others. And as forks and knives were lay to rest a short while later, suggesting stomachs were happy, Canadian Team Coach Trennon Paynter rose to introduce the Sarah Burke Trophy.
Trennon, Sarah’s longtime coach, recalled her incredible talent and drive. He spoke of Sarah’s success in the realms of slopestyle, pipe, and big air, and of her desire to see all athletes rise to their best. Trennon explained how this legacy lives on through the Sarah Burke Trophy, which, as mentioned above, is awarded to the male and female who rank first overall on the tour—measured in performance across all disciplines. Trennon then called upon Sarah’s mother, Jan Phelan, to introduce this year’s recipients: Gus Kenworthy and Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen.
2013 Men’s Overall World Ranking:
1. Gus Kenworthy (8067.48) *Sarah Burke Trophy winner
2. Jossi Wells (7313.07)
3. Henrik Harlaut (5690.18)
Make it three! Gus Kenworthy has locked up the AFP overall title for the third straight year—no small feat, to say the least. A contender in slopestyle, halfpipe and big air, Kenworthy wracked up 15 top-10 finishes in the 2012/13 season, nine of which were podium worthy. Among his podium finishes were a superpipe win at the SFR Tour in Tignes, France; a bronze medal performance at X Games Tignes in slopestyle; a second place finish at the Dumont Cup; a big air win at the Grand Prix in Park City; a second place showing in big air at the Dew Tour; and most recently, a second place finish in big air, followed two days later by a slopestyle victory at the AFP World Champs in Whistler. Congratulations to Gus on another season marked by consistent skiing and well-balanced performance.
“Winning this award means a ton to me,” said Gus, “partly because I worked really hard to win this for the third year in a row, but also because it is the Sarah Burke Trophy, and she’s a huge inspiration to me. To win an award with her name on it, it means the world.”
2013 Women’s Overall World Ranking:
1. Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen (4992.95) *Sarah Burke Trophy winner
2. Keri Herman (4640.05)
3. Jamie Crane-Mauzy (4578.07)
Norway’s Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen swung onto the freeskiing scene like a wrecking ball this season. While her name was on the radar of many industry insiders between 2010-12, the 18-year-old freeskier remained widely unknown until midway through this season. Banking nine top-10 finishes in 2012/13, Tiril’s breakthrough performance came at X Games Aspen in January, where she unseated three-time defending gold medalist Kaya Turski. In one fell swoop, Tiril became freeskiing’s “next big thing.” Combining outstanding skiing ability with a fierce competitive nature—not to mention an eccentric disposition—Tiril will be making waves for years to come.
“It means so much to me,” said Tiril about taking the overall title. “This has been my goal all season. I’m just overwhelmed. You have no idea how happy I am. This is the best present ever.”
Tiril also explained how she looks up to Sarah, and hopes to follow in her footsteps. “Sarah has been my idol since I started skiing. We were both on Roxy when I first began competing. Sarah did both slope and pipe, and that’s my goal… to push the sport for girls, and just have fun, smile, throw down some crazy tricks, and be as good as Sarah.”
“That’s my goal… to push the sport for girls, and just have fun, smile, throw down some crazy tricks, and be as good as Sarah.” – Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen
Following a round of hearty applause for Gus and Tiril, focus turned to a television screen in the corner of the room. The lights dimmed, and the group sat in silence watching a dedication to Sarah. Overcome with emotion, that moment of sadness was quickly forgotten as servers emerged with trays filled with vodka shots (Sarah’s favorite), enough for every person in the room. All took their feet, saluted Sarah, clinked glasses with those nearby, and knocked ’em back. The occasion marked the end of dinner, and the beginnings of a new onslaught of the Bistro bar—and from there, 80s night at Tommy Africa’s, and beyond…
And just like that, another competition season is officially in the books (not including Sammy Carlson’s Invitational in May, as it’s not recognized as an AFP sanctioned event). It’s wild to think that as we kick things off again in August with competition Down Under, freeskiing’s Olympic debut will be upon us in just half a year’s time.
On behalf of the Freeskier team, congratulations go out to all of the 2013 World Champs, and to all of the athletes for their unwavering drive to push the sport forward. Thanks to the AFP for its leadership, and thanks to all of the AFP sponsors for their continued dedication. Together, we march toward 2014—a big year for us all.
Note: Only the riders’ best five results are used in determining the individual point totals for slopestyle and halfpipe. For big air, the four best are combined to create the total. For the overall ranking, the best three results from each discipline (a total of six) are combined to create the total score. Also, season results listed above pertain to AFP sanctioned events only.