The North Face Masters got under way on Friday in Kirkwood, Calif., with warm, spring-like temperatures and some much appreciated fresh snow. The event was postponed from its original date in February due to sketchy conditions (namely variable snow on the venue), but things have definitely turned around. A consistent string of storms have blanketed the area in past weeks, with a total of 18 inches falling in the last 48 hours -- perfect conditions for a freeride contest.
Friday's qualifiers saw over 50 riders from all over North America take to the rock-strewn face in an area known as Lookout Vista. Jaime Rizzuto out of Fernie, British Columbia set the bar early for the men. His controlled descent encompassed a line that saw three cliff drops before cranking out a loft method on a wind lip near the bottom. Standard Films standout Sammy Luebke rallied into second place qualifying spot with a classically unplanned, seemingly reckless yet somehow controlled descent, while Wolf Creek's Charlie Koch took third. In the end, no one could top the crushing speed and power of Rizzuto's score of 90.6.
Mammoth's Tiffany Noel lead the women's field, charging through a line of narrow chutes and rock bands with speed and fluidity. Her stylish run earned her a 75.6, edging out Kirkwood local Casey Lucas and Squaw Valley's Iris Lazzareschi who qualified in close second and third place spots, respectively.
With the finals postponed Saturday due to what appears to be a major storm coming in, Sunday could see the ideal conditions line up for the finals -- and by "ideal" of course we mean a foot or two of powder!