The Classic Silver Belt Competition Gets a Fresh Freeride Makeover for 2024

The Classic Silver Belt Competition Gets a Fresh Freeride Makeover for 2024

Featured Image: Jacob Banta

Buddha once said, “You must leave to return again.” Did the Buddha actually say this? It is very likely. Were those words referring to the iconic Silver Belt competition? It is not very likely. However, they can be applied to this very occasion. Last week, we saw the resurrection of a classic piece of North American ski history: The Silver Belt Classic at Sugar Bowl Resort, California. The freeride competition was greeted with a healthy storm, giving the crew a plethora of options to work with in terms of building features and finding natural hits throughout the competition venue. Over hours upon hours, the team of skiers and helpful hands built out the course by hand. They poured energy and attention into this passion project, all of which truly paid off. Held in the Silver Belt Gully, the course was essentially a creative dream come true for the freeride skiers in attendance. There’s plenty of mystery and hype surrounding this competition, so here are a few words from Sugar Bowl to give some background:

“In the 1940s, the Olympians and World Cup skiers from around the world traveled to Sugar Bowl for the famous Silver Belt Classic. A high-speed, off-piste giant slalom would test the grit of all those who crossed the starting line. Skiers pointed their long wooden planks down the 1,300’ course as it wound through gullies and chutes embracing the natural terrain.

Fast forward to 2024, an evolved Silver Belt officially returns to showcase the way today’s skiers are approaching the famed Silver Belt Gully.  From March 29 – March 31, Sugar Bowl will host top ski athletes from around the world to compete in a fun and innovative freeride competition. Up for grabs is a $10,000 prize purse split between the top males and females across 1st – 3rd of the ShapeShifter session, along with the coveted Silver Belt, which will be awarded to the best overall male & female skiers.”

The original Silver Belt course. Try riding this with wooden skis. | PHOTO: Courtesy of Sugar Bowl Resort

Back in the day, the Silver Belt was, for all practical purposes, the precursor to freeride competitions. It was a slalom race, but one that plummeted down through rolling Silver Belt Gully, built to test the very best skiers on the planet. Today we view this type of terrain as normal, but imagine skiing this in a sweater, sunglasses and 300cm of wood under your leather boot-clad feet. It would have been intimidating, to say the least. At the time, it was reportedly the fifth hardest race in North America, but since there were no grooming machines and the snowfall determined what the course would look like each time, it could be far trickier depending on the year. It was also an adaptation of the sport. The track was Euro-inspired, thanks to some of Sugar Bowl’s founders boasting Austrian roots. America had yet to see an event like this. It brought in spectators from around the country, and for years, the Silver Belt was an icon of skiing.

The competition continued for years on and off, with a recent iteration occurring in 2004. However, a decade later, the classic Silver Belt was revamped. Last week, we saw the 2024 revival of the event take the shape of a freeride competition. At the helm was former Freeride World Tour rider and recent Breakout Skier of the Year award winner Xander Guldman. What made this event stand out was the dedication from the athletes. It’s not uncommon for crews to share a vision, but here we saw riders descend into the gully and over hours upon hours of labor, bring their ideas to life. The team invited 50 athletes, ranging from world-renowned pros to local legends. As Sugar Bowl described it, the skiers were “invited to compete in a film-based competition, judged by the athletes themselves.” The invite list was stacked, with a few stand-out riders being James Woods, Leif Mumma, Piper Kunst, Jay Rawe, Ross Tester, Janelle Yip and plenty of others.

The 2024 Silver Belt Course was fittingly held in the Silver Belt Gully, with two start gates and viewing on either side.

The event lasted three days, from March 29 to 31, 2024. Mother Nature provided just what the crew needed to shape the gully.

Day One: The athletes participated in a peer-judged freeride session utilizing all the amazing terrain in the Silver Belt Gully.

Days Two & Three: Introduce a new concept: ShapeShifter. The athletes identified natural features, such as hips, cliffs and spines to be shoveled, shaped and shifted into a natural terrain park. Once the work was complete, it was show time once again. Cameras rolled as the athletes took to the transformed playground, showcasing their skills in yet another breathtaking competition, with their peers serving as the ultimate arbiters of greatness!

Overall, the event was a huge success. Both athletes and spectators were thrilled to see a new rendition of this local classic. “When you get an invite to an event as cool as Silver Belt, you don’t say no,” says Men’s Champ Jonathan Rollins. There are not many events like this around the world. Nendaz Freeride Invitational is a good comparison, and with every new competition that encourages creativity, our sport grows for the better. Check out the immersive photo gallery below to get an inside look at the mind-blowing action over three days of carnage. We hope this is far from the last time you’ll be hearing about Silver Belt, as this new rendition seems to be an instant classic.

Women’s 2024 Silver Belt Results

πŸ₯‡ Elena Messner

πŸ₯ˆ Indy Boyer

πŸ₯‰ Hannah Epsteyn

Men’s 2024 Silver Belt Results

πŸ₯‡ Jonathan Rollins

πŸ₯ˆ Jay Rawe

πŸ₯‰ Andrew Bird

Photo Gallery

All Images: Jacob Banta, Courtesy of Sugar Bowl Resort

To the victors go the spoils! Congrats to all for a great event.

Upgrade Your Inbox

Don't waste time seeking out the best skiing content; we'll send it all right to you.