Cover Photo – Jeremy Bernard
Kicking Horse DELIVERED! Similar to stop number one of the 2023 Freeride World Tour, the heavily anticipated Golden, British Columbia venue was coated in a fresh blanket of snow and accompanied by blue skies over head. While much of Canada has seen below average snow falls this year, the faucet was turned on in advance this past week, and the riders were all the more thankful for it. This stop saw some see it to believe it type of action, and with freeride veteran Sam Smoothy making a return, this time in the commentators box, the full replay is well worth the watch. However if you don’t have an hour or two to spare, we’ve compiled a comprehensive run down of the Ski Men’s and Women’s fields complete with results, notable highlights, videos and captivating photos from the day.
In the Ski Women’s field there was an abundance of speed and style; more than enough to go around. The day belonged to the French phenom Megane Betend. The 28 year old rookie had a relatively slow start at the first two stops of the year, finishing 10th and 5th. However, she came out of the gate in Golden ready to rumble. Dropping sixth in her field, behind both Men’s Ski and Snowboard posed significant challenges. With the course significantly tracked it was up to Megane to find a crafty line through, and find she did. She powered her way with large, clean turns into the trees and rocks halfway down her run, and proceeded to point herself off an incredible three cliffs in a row. The wild triple air and incredible control earned her a mighty score of 82.00. While no one else in the Ski Women’s field would be able to achieve such top tier appraisal from the judges, some came very close.
Coming in second, third, and fourth on the podium were Elisabeth Gerritzen, Addison Rafford, and Justine Dufour-Lapointe, respectively, with the rankings separated by no more than two points each! It’s so surprise that with scores this close the riding from all three was as technical and impressive as it gets. We saw incredible airs from each, with Elisabeth taking an impressive and very similar air to Megane. Justine might have had the highlight of the day, as she ventured into a low traffic zone and stomped a massive cliff under the pressure of a tricky run in and sliding snow to her right. With her third place finish, Addison Rafford secured the top spot in the field heading into the finals.
“I knew I would have to finish first or second to qualify for the finals, so I said to myself, ‘go big or go
home!’ I am stoked that it worked.” – Megane Betend
In the Ski Men’s field, this may have been the biggest highlight filled stop of the tour. We saw Xander Guldman toss a fiesty screamin’ seaman 3, Max Hitzig with arguably the biggest and most incredible looking backflip ever seen in the Freeride World Tour, Finn Bilous with a laid out and nearly corked 3, and the resident Canadian Marcus Goguen holding on to a jaw droping line that included a massive 360 and a backflip. These few highlights are just the tip of the iceberg, as the performance by these riders was mostly impeccable. (Huge shoutout to Leif Mumma for even attempting to fly off the iconic Logan Pehota hit with such low tide and walking away in one piece.) Among all this glorious ripping, there were however those who stood victorious. Max Hitzig was alone atop the podium thanks to his practically flawless GIGANTIC backflip off the pyramid feature lower down on the face. His run also included a solid 3 from the cornice and a stable air at high speed through a very technical section. This all amassed him a near perfect score of 97.67 from the judges.
In second was the young stunner Marcus Goguen showing the visitors how a true Tim Hortons connoisseur lays it down. His run was maybe the quickest of the day, but it left our friends in the commentary booth laughing with astonishment. Lacing a step down 3 from the top cornice, holding on as he rocketed into the following chute and pinning it to his left into a fast thinking backflip off an untouched cliff. It was speed, style, and grace all rolled into one. Valentin Rainer stamped his ticket to the FWT finals with a third place finish. He was guaranteed to make the cut heading into the event, but that didn’t stop him from going all out. His creative line took him all over the hill, as he was able to hang onto a gutsy transfer air and a large backflip in the following section.
“I wasn’t sure if it [the backflip] was going to work. I saw Yu Sasaki send the pyramid cliff three years
ago, which is why I went for it today. I’m so stoked!” – Max Hitzig
With stop three in the books, the FWT Finals Cut has been finalized. Moving on are the top 5 women and top 11 men, as they’ll get a chance for the title in the finals in Fieberbrunn and Verbier.
Ski Women’s Podium
- Megane Betend (FRA)
- Elisabeth Gerritzen (SUI)
- Addison Rafford (USA)
Ski Men’s Podium
- Max Hitzig (GER)
- Marcus Goguen (CAN)
- Valentin Rainer (AUT)
For the official FWT recap of stop three, click here. Stay tuned for the fourth stop of the 2023 Freeride World Tour in Fieberbrunn, Austria. With only two comps to go, this is the home stretch, baby!
Images courtesy of the Freeride World Tour
Photography – Jeremy Bernard & Dominique Daher