It was a day of surprise wins and American victories at the Freeride World Tour stop at Kirkwood, Calif., on Wednesday.
In the men's ski division, Vermont native Lars Chickering-Ayers, who hasn't landed on the podium all season, took first place. Then, Lake Tahoe local Ryland Bell, a wild-card entry into the contest, rode to the top of the men's snowboard division. For the women, Squaw Valley-based skier Jackie Paaso and current tour leader for the snowboard women, Margot Rozies from France, both earned their first victories of the season.
The contest was held on an area at Kirkwood called The Cirque, a steep, rocky face that's traditionally closed to the public. Although the Tahoe area hasn't seen much recent snowfall and the venue was more barren than in recent years, the competitors made the most of the bleak conditions.
Men's ski winner Chickering-Ayers skied one of the hardest lines of the day, airing into a narrow and highly exposed chute, then straightlining at high speed to another large air toward the bottom of the venue. Ski judge and Canadian pro skier Hugo Harrisson called Chickering-Ayers' run "technical, calculated and well-executed."
The last time Chickering-Ayers competed on this venue at Kirkwood was in 2011, when his close friend Ryan Hawks died from injuries sustained during the contest. Chickering-Ayers said he was thinking about Hawks a lot during the day.
"It was tough to come back to Kirkwood; I have a lot of memories from here," he said. "I've been coming off injuries earlier this season, and this is the first comp of the year that I really felt like I could go for it, and it just worked out."
France's Julien Lopez and New Zealand's Charlie Lyons took second and third, respectively, amongst the male skiers.
In men's snowboarding, winner Bell threw three 360s over the course of his run, adding that freestyle tricks are "the future of the sport." Bell beat second place's Sammy Luebke, from the U.S., by seven points. Switzerland's Emilien Badoux took third.
The women snowboarders started the day off, and Rozies, wearing the yellow bib indicating her top overall ranking on this year's FWT after two second-place finishes earlier this season, came out on top. Rozies was battling illness and said she almost didn't get out of bed to compete on Wednesday.
"Since I woke up really sick, I didn't have any pressure at all," Rozies said. "I just wanted to put down a safe run and stay on my feet and make it to the bottom."
France's Elodie Mouthon took second, followed by American Shannan Yates in third.
In the women's ski division, winner Jackie Paaso -- who crashed in the previous two Freeride World Tour stops this season -- initially picked a harder line, but once she dropped into the venue and felt the variable snow conditions, she decided to ski a more toned-down line.
"Having crashed at the last two stops definitely gave me some extra motivation today," Paaso said. "I needed to have a solid run for once and not worry about sending it."
Norway's Pia Nic Gunderson and American Ashley Maxfield rounded out the women's ski podium in second and third, respectively.
The Kirkwood contest is the fourth stop of this season's Freeride World Tour (the third for the women) and the only U.S. location. In the heated contest for the overall world title, there are just two stops left: Fieberbrunn, Austria, on March 9, and the finale in Verbier, Switzerland, on March 23.
In the race for the overall world championships title, Drew Tabke, Ralph Backstrom, and Margot Rozies retain the overall leads they had coming into Kirkwood. The only change in overall leader is in the women's ski division, with new leader Nadine Wallner taking the top spot from Christine Hargin.
2013 Freeride World Tour Kirkwood: Men's Ski Results
2013 Freeride World Tour Kirkwood: Women's Ski Results
|2||Pia Nic Gunderson||NOR||67.00|
2013 Freeride World Tour Kirkwood: Men's Snowboard Results
2013 Freeride World Tour Kirkwood: Women's Snowboard Results