January 17, 2017 – Hakuba, Japan – History was made today on the the snow-stacked
terrain of Japan’s premier ski destination, Hakuba, Japan, situated in the Japanese Alps.
Fifty-six riders representing the international freeride community descended on the
renowned ski town to open a new chapter in the book of freeride as competitors faced off
during a 2 stars qualifier and a 4 stars main event.
The hallmark event presented a shining opportunity for the most talented skiers and
snowboarders of the international qualifying tour to take advantage of the venue’s abundant
snowfall and fantastical freeride terrain. After a week of intense snowfall, the skies briefly
cleared enough to provide riders with a chance to compete on the 270 vertical meter venue
featuring spines, treed sections, and intricate cliff zones.
Snow flurries gradually diminished as the day progressed which provided improved visibility
for the first group of riders which included the legend of backcountry freestyle, Travis Rice
(USA), whose incredible run featured a massive stomped 720 back and 360 front, making
him the undisputed champion of the day. It was a daunting task to challenge Rice’s run, but
local rider Shin Biyajima (JAP) held his own with a powerful run and stylish grabs.
Shredding through the dense features of the forested venue, David Vicente (ESP) came in
third place with a run that exemplified control.
The ski men category opened with lots of firepower as spectators were treated to huge
freestyle airs and flips. Not all riders were able to stomp their landings in the deep snow but
local talent Taisuke Kusunoki (JPN) held it together with a powerful run that terminated
with a stomped backflip, earning him first place and a wild card on the elite 2017 Swatch
Freeride World Tour. He was followed in second place by a strong run from Loic Burri
(SUI) who also landed a clean backflip. Kristofer Turdell (SWE) nudged Ivan Malakhov
(RUS) off the podium to earn third place with a solidly stomped backflip.
Despite slightly reduced visibility and intermittent snowfall, the women snowboarders
exemplified progression with extremely powerful runs like Anna Orlova’s (RUS) aggressive
line that put her on top of the podium. Michaela Davis-Meehan (AUS) came in second with
an authoritative line that beat Erika Vikander’s (USA) smooth riding while battling
Increasingly intense snow showers obscured the sun yet Elisabeth Gerritzen’s (SUI)
motivation and training paid off today as she impressed fans with a hard-charging line from
start to finish, earning her first place. As riders got into their rhythm, Caite Zeliff (USA)
powered through the spines and stomped a shifty in the middle of the venue. Veteran FWT
athlete Jaclyn Paaso (USA) unleashed her signature hard charging but couldn’t maintain
enough technical perfection to finish at the top of the podium.
As the historical epicenter of Japanese freeride culture, riders and spectators were treated
to the unique Japanese ambience and hospitality of the region that hosted the 1998 Winter
Olympic Games. Freeride is gaining traction among the Asian snowsports community as
evidenced by the recent rapid growth of interest in the sport. The success of this inaugural
competition has paved the way to the possibility of the expansion of FWQ, FWT, and
Junior events in the area.
« Mind blowing action in classic Japanese conditions, two Japanese on the podium,
couldn’t be a better start for Freeride World Tour in Asia. » Nicolas Hale-Woods, FWT
With the FWQ season now in full-swing, follow the competition circuit as hundreds of
promising freeriders from around the world vie for the few coveted qualification spots on the
elite Swatch Freeride World Tour. The most up-to-date competition info, rankings, and rider
news can be found on freerideworldtour.com and the FWT/FWQ Facebook page