The opening event in the newly unified Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face welcomed a fitting winner Friday in American Drew Tabke, who dominated a deep international field in Revelstoke, B.C. Not only is Tabke one of the only skiers to have followed both the European and North American tours over the past decade, he fell a whisker shy of winning the overall championship last year and has made it a mission to move up from second place this year.
After snowstorms pummeled British Columbia for four days earlier in the week, on Friday, Revy's aptly titled Mac Daddy face started in a powdery glow and ended in a shredded, shaded mess. Tabke coolly flashed a line no one else challenged: a series of three large cliff drops with a high-speed, airborne exit down the middle of the face. His score of 91 points was significantly higher than that of Swiss runner-up Jeremie Heitz (79.67) and third-place finisher Julien Lopez of France (73.00).
"With the combined tours and this list of athletes on this face, without a doubt it's my biggest win," Tabke said. "I've competed with everybody here and I've skied this mountain, so as far as my day to day here, it was just another comp run. But as far as the history of our sports coming together and you look at what this represents, it's a proud moment to be in this spot."
The 28-year-old Seattle resident said he built his line from the bottom up, only deciding to ski the upper portion of the face once he knew he could end the run with an air. After falling one place short in last year's season finale, the Verbier Xtreme, and losing out on the overall title to Sweden's Reine Barkered, Tabke said he will test his limits more often this year, knowing that only four results out of six events will count toward the tour title.
Heitz skied one of the most exposed lines on the face with fighter-jet speed, sticking a double-stage cliff drop and straightlining the rest of the run. Lopez, on the other hand, earned his first podium in two years by milking Mac Daddy for six poppy airs in a thickening fog.
The 31-year-old Lopez, a charismatic and outspoken Frenchman from Tarentaise, helped open the lines of communication between both tour chiefs Adam Comey and Nicolas Hale-Woods three years ago, a crucial early step toward unification. "I was telling them, 'You should work together, guys.' So we organized some meetings and for two or three years we were talking about it," said Lopez, who followed both tours for much of his career. "It was funny to have a drink with them the other night and remember all the e-mails and secret meetings we were doing in Squaw Valley."
Among other highlights, Seb Michaud and John Collinson landed a massive backflip and 360, respectively, wowing the binocular-toting crowd on its distant viewing ridge. Barkered, the reigning tour champ, crashed in his run as did pre-event favorite Aurelien Ducroz of France.
The women's ski field went last of the four divisions and was forced to navigate a hacked-up venue that made clean runs hard to come by. Defending tour champion Christine Hargin of Stockholm, Sweden, did enough to earn the win with a 65.00 -- seven points better than Norway's Nadine Wallner and nearly 10 ahead of Aussie Nat Segal. Only four women out of 10 cracked 40 points on the 100-point scale.
"It was really hard conditions, a steep face and I was really nervous in the start," said Hargin. "My run was not amazing or charging, but the conditions were hard so it was the perfect run for these conditions."
2013 Freeride World Tour Revelstoke: Men's Ski Results
1. Drew Tabke, 91.00
2. Jeremie Heitz, 79.67
3. Julien Lopez, 73.00
4. Laurent Gauthier, 72.00
5. Charlie Lyons, 70.33
6. Griffin Post, 68.33
7. Sam Smoothy, 66.33
8. Nicolas Salencon, 62.33
9. Markus Eder, 59.00
10. Wille Lindberg, 56.33
2013 Freeride World Tour Revelstoke: Women's Ski Results
1. Christine Hargin, 65.00
2. Nadine Wallner, 58.00
3. Natalie Segal, 53.33
4. Pia Nic Gundersen, 40.33
5. Ashley Maxfield, 12.00