After months of buildup and a weeklong powder delay that only heightened anticipation, Ralph Backstrom and Shannan Yates made a statement on behalf of American big-mountain snowboarders Friday at the season-opening Freeride World Tour competition in Revelstoke, B.C.
Backstrom defended his Revy title from a year ago, with this year's win coming on a bigger and burlier face, Mac Daddy. Yates also was riding Mac Daddy for the first time. Both won by handy margins and were joined on their respective podiums by a pair of French riders.
Backstrom's score of 89.33 was 10 points better than runner-up Ludovic Guillot-Diat and 15 ahead of Aurelien Routens of La Grave. His line choice made the difference, as he landed a stairsteppy, triple cliff drop in a hard-to-reach zone then jumped a large cliff at the bottom, never losing momentum. "Stompy McStomperton!" someone called out from the ridge. Backstrom later said his phone filled up with 40 texts in the first few minutes after his run from people watching the webcast.
"Last year's win was really special to me because we were on Mac Face, and that was where my brother [the late skier Arne Backstrom] had won the year prior," Ralph said. "This one, I had a good moment at the top, thought about Arne a lot and felt like he was with me.
"I had a nice little triple lined up and I think a couple people had been in there first, but it was still really fun and I didn't land in a track or anything. The snow was super deep and it was kind of a tough stomp -- I almost went over the bars. Same with the next air too: really deep, blower pow."
The way Guillot-Diat was smiling after the competition, you might have thought he won instead of placing second. That's because he has spent much of the winter working at a bar he opened with his sister in their home village of Villard-de-Lans, instead of training. Before coming to Revelstoke, he'd ridden just five days all season, he said.
"This face is steep in the first spot and I chose to go rider's left," said Guillot-Diat, a former French national champion in boardercross. "It was a good choice. I stomped my jumps and I really liked the venue, and the conditions were perfect. Bluebird and good snow."
Because the men's snowboarders were the first to drop in to Mac Daddy on Friday, they were treated to the best snow of the five-hour competition. Stevens Pass, Wash., rider Tim Carlson started the day with an exclamation point, dropping in first and immediately entering one of the most exposed and sluffy zones on the face, then sticking a precipitous drop that stood up for fourth place. Respect for Mac Daddy ran heavy, especially once the riders had seen it up close.
"That thing is steep. Hands down the gnarliest thing I've ever ridden," said John Rodosky of Jackson Hole.
Yates, riding after the male skiers and snowboarders, didn't have the luxury of deep powder to scrub her speed. She hit two cliffs but otherwise concentrated on maintaining control and fluidity. "The conditions up top were pretty sketchy," she said. "I rode it as fast and as hard as I dared. ... It's awesome that the U.S. competitors did so well at this stop. It really showed we're skiing and riding hard, and we're able to play their game on these big faces."
Margot Rozies and Elodie Mouthon claimed the other two podium spots, with Casey Lucas and Iris Lazzereschi making it three Americans in the top five.
2013 Freeride World Tour Revelstoke: Men's Snowboard Results:
1. Ralph Backstrom, 89.33
2. Ludovic Guillot-Diat, 79.33
3. Aurelien Routens, 74.33
4. Tim Carlson, 70.33
5. Emilien Badoux, 63.67
6. Matt Annetts, 59.00
7. Joel Rouge, 54.67
8. John Rodosky, 53.67
9. Irian Van Helfteren, 44.67
10. Sammy Luebke, 41.67
2013 Freeride World Tour Revelstoke: Women's Snowboard Results:
1. Shannan Yates, 63.33
2. Margot Rozies, 58.00
3. Elodie Mouthon, 54.67
4. Casey Lucas, 50.33
5. Iris Lazzereschi, 43.00
6. Aline Bock, 40.67
7. Laura Dewey, 35.67
8. Anouck Mouthon, 33.33