Subaru Freeskiing World Tour competitors battled it out over two days on Snowbird, Utah's legendary Silver Fox and North Baldy venues on sun-affected, wind-buffed snow with Silas Chickering-Ayers and Tour newcomer Kaylin Richardson nabbing the top spots.
Chickering-Ayers, who opted out of skiing on the Freeskiing World Tour since this summer in South America, decided at the last minute to enter the Freeskiing North American Championships at Snowbird, his current backyard. "I'm here," Chickering-Ayers said. "I might as well." He skied into fifth place by the end of day one on the wind-blasted venue on Silver Fox.
Coming in to day two's venue, the 1,400-vertical-foot face of North Baldy, Chickering-Ayers had no expectations. "When I inspected [the venue], I thought, this snow is hard. So I knew I'd just have to make some hard turns and charge," said Chickering-Ayers, who grew up skiing at Mad River Glen, Vt. He charged out of the gate, throwing a massive 360 to open his run, pioneered a giant air above the Blond Rocks cliff band and topped it off by sending an air in The Amphitheater deeper than anyone else to finish, earning himself a Sickbird nomination in the process.
Past North Face Young Gun Spencer Brinson took home second place, laying down a solid run on North Baldy that wasn't quite enough to maintain his first place status from day one. Fellow Mad River Glen skier Tom Runcie, now of Crested Butte, Colo., moved got third overall with his characteristic smooth, hard-charging style. Runcie's run was capped with a giant double stage cliff drop that earned him his second Sickbird nomination of the weekend, which was good enough to take home the coveted award.
In the women's field, Tour newcomer Richardson laid down high-speed, hard-charging runs to finish on the top step of the podium every day in her first-ever big mountain competition, including the qualifier day on Thursday. "Each day I just had a plan, and that was to ski my line and ski like I know how," Richardson said after learning she'd won. "Today was definitely my sort of venue -- the snow was hard and you could just sort of give 'er."
Richardson raced for the U.S. Ski Team in the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Games. Her run definitely showed her racing background as she arced the fastest turns of the day down North Baldy's Field of Glory before center-punching a straightline through the Amphitheater. Her performance edged out Tour powerhouses Crystal Wright, of Jackson Hole, Wyo., who finished in second place, and Alta/Snowbird local and FWT defending champion Angel Collinson in third.
Said Freeskiing World Tour announcer Frankie Alisuag, "We may be seeing a changing of the guard here."
The final stop of the Freeskiing World Tour takes place at Kirkwood, Calif. on April 4-9.