Featured Image: Dom Daher/FWT
The first stop of the 2020 Freeride World Tour (FWT) took place in Hakuba, Japan, last weekend and, despite some mixed snow conditions, riders on the men’s and women’s side of the competition were ready to jump out of the starting gate. With the South Bowl of the resort’s terrain open to each skier’s interpretation, the sprawling course brought out a variety of styles and line choices. In the end, American and former FWT Andorra winner, Drew Tabke, and Norway’s Hedvig Wessel, a former mogul skier-turned big-mountain rider, took home first place for their impressive performances.
It had been two years since Tabke sat atop the podium and he barely edged out New Zealand’s Hank Bilous—who scored less than a point lower—for first place, and was audibly excited following the win. “Japan is dreamy stuff… the reason I’m still competing is for destinations like [this],” Tabke said to reporters after the event.
Impressing the judges with an enormous, laid-out backflip on his first hit and technical skiing throughout his run, Tabke’s line choice proved the best of the day. Sweden’s Reine Barkered placed third, rounding-out the podium, while first-timer Tim Durtschi finished eighth and “Ski Boss” Tanner Hall, a sophomore on the competition circuit, crashed into a no-score.
On the women’s side, Wessel reigned supreme thanks to a backflip off of a hit in the middle of the course that no other competitor skied, and a fast, fluid run overall; reigning FWT champion, Italy’s Ariana Tricomi, placed second and Switzerland’s Elisabeth Gerritzen run put her in third place. Americans Jacqueline Pollard and Jackie Paaso placed seventh and eighth, respectively.
“It feels amazing to win, obviously, and to be done with the first event,” Wessel said. “It’s always so nerve-racking, but now to be done and celebrating with everyone is so cool!”
The next stop of the FWT will take place at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, a gnarly venue in the heart of British Columbia, Canada, in early February.