Top athletes find the edge of progression at the third-annual Kings and Queens of Corbet’s competition in Jackson Hole

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Top athletes find the edge of progression at the third-annual Kings and Queens of Corbet’s competition in Jackson Hole

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a skier’s paradise. It’s a place of legend—where names are forever remembered, etched into the history books through skiing alone. Massive cliff bands, iconic peaks and a culture that’s defined by jaw-dropping achievements mark it as one of the most fabled locales in the skiing community. 

Apart from the boundless backcountry access in the Teton Range, within Jackson Hole’s resort boundaries lies one of—if not the most—well-known steep skiing lines in North America. Corbet’s Couloir is named for pioneering ski mountaineer, Barry Corbet, who noticed the small, snow-filled opening near the top of Jackson’s Rendezvous Mountain in the 1960s. Unbeknownst to Corbet, today’s skiers and riders wouldn’t just descend the line—they’d take to the air, progressing skiing in ways even most professionals didn’t think possible. 

Corbet’s Couloir, from below, prior to the start of the event. | PHOTO: Sam Taggart

In its third year, Jackson Hole’s Kings and Queens of Corbet’s competition brought 24 of the best riders from across the globe to the iconic in-bounds run for an event that’s—hands down—the rowdiest, most unique contest in the world of winter sports. 

In short, Kings and Queens of Corbet’s pits athletes against one another in a peer-judged competition that has skiers and snowboarders send massive, stomach-churning airs into the couloir. Once the athletes enter the chute and head toward the runout and the crowd, it’s up to each individual to select the most impressive line choice, utilizing a series of man-made jumps and features constructed by Jackson Hole’s terrain park crew to further enhance their score. Most skiers “billy goat” into the couloir, hopping and skirting their way into the massive line—but during the Kings and Queens competition that approach isn’t on anyone’s mind. 

SKIER: Sander Hadley | PHOTO: Sam Taggart

“The most exciting thing about [Kings and Queens] is that everyone is going huge off the nose. Nobody’s going off the nose until this event,” noted one longtime local, an employee at the equally iconic après bar, The Mangy Moose.

Kings and Queens is the most unruly, awe-inspiring event in skiing—even the athletes were puckered by the experience. “It’s the most scared I’ve ever been,” said two-time competitor Parkin Costain, a 20-year-old young gun, who stomped a double backflip into the couloir. Sweet Protection athlete and fellow Montana local, Jake Hopfinger, also sent a double backie, but noted the scariest part was the “blind takeoff,” which the athletes manicured to have an added kick prior to the edge of the entrance. First-timer Lucy Sackbauer, a Sun Valley local who’s on the Matchstick Productions film roster this year, noted, “The event was next level. You just have to send.” But, most importantly, the event is an opportunity “to share what Jackson has to offer,” noted industry legend and event mastermind Jess McMillan.

SKIER (above left): Parkin Costain, SKIER (above center): Forrest Jillson, SKIER (above right): Sam Kuch

If one thing is certain, the highlight reel from Kings and Queens of Corbet’s stands alone as the craziest part. Takeaway moments include Veronica Paulsen’s chill-inducing backflip—the first time a woman has landed the trick during the competition, Sander Hadley’s switch entrance, Forrest Jillson’s huck on the couloir’s West Wall, Sam Kuch’s double cork 1080—which had him looking like a disco ball spinning through the air, reigning Queen Caite Zeliff’s tone-setting first run, Ariana Tricomi’s Freeride World Tour-inspired line choice, Tim Durtschi’s attempt at a huge 360 and Sackbauer’s massive straight air into the couloir entrance.

“You can feel [the energy] vibrate under your skin,” said Kuch an up-and-coming athlete on the Arc’teryx team. “As soon as one person goes, the energy is electric. It’s such a classic line and the perfect place to host an event.”

SKIER: Stinius Skotskift | PHOTO: Sam Taggart

This year, the competition was broadcasted live on Red Bull TV and the high-quality production brought the event to a global audience, even landing Paulsen and Costain on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10. Later this week, the athletes will gather to decide who will take home this year’s King and Queen crown—a coveted, potentially life-changing award; two-time champion on the ladies’ side, Zeliff, had her career skyrocket following last year’s contest. Only time will tell who will take home top honors from the third-annual Kings and Queens of Corbet’s, but everyone involved, from the athletes to the spectators, media personnel and the event’s producers, will leave Jackson Hole invigorated, knowing that the progression of skiing and snowboarding is alive and well.