Do you like skiing steeps, slashing powder, dropping cliffs and finding a need for speed? You might be one of a growing population of shredders known as Big Mountain riders.
Winter Park’s abundance of snowfall and challenging terrain have made it a destination for those looking to push their abilities on snow. The Cirque Territory is a Big Mountain playground, with 399 acres of ungroomed, backcountry-style steeps and cliffs. As a result, The Cirque, as well as the expert-level Mary Jane Chutes, play host to the International Freeskiing and Snowboarding Regionals 1 and 2 Big Mountain competition. The event begins on Saturday, February 29.
What is Big Mountain Riding?
Those who ride in the Big Mountain discipline are accustomed to long, fast, steep lines along with variable snow conditions. The Winter Park Competition Center’s Big Mountain Team provides training, coaching and competitive opportunities for skiers and riders, ages 12-17, who want to progress their skills on such terrain and compete at an advanced level.
“As someone who always enjoyed finding hard lines, shredding the trees, and getting pow turns, joining the Big Mountain team seemed like a natural choice for me,” said Steffi O’Flaherty, a first-year member of the Winter Park team.
In general, the stakes, along with the opportunities to incorporate personal flair, are significantly greater in Big Mountain riding. Indeed, it’s these characteristics of the discipline that draw many athletes who are looking to push their limits.
“Big Mountain/Freeride is like no other discipline in snow sports as it combines skills across both racing, park, and all-mountain. The freedom and the luxury to plot out your own line and show your creativity leaves the options unlimited,” explained Snowboard Big Mountain Coach Matt Osborne.
As the Big Mountain discipline has developed, so has the competition circuit. Judges rate contestants on five components of their run: line choice, control, fluidity, technique, and style.
The WPCC’s Big Mountain event offers athletes the chance to utilize their skills and training to win a place on the podium. In fact, success can even mean qualification for higher-level IFSA competitions around both the U.S. and the world.
“This was the sixth year straight that a WPST rider has attended the Freeride Junior World Championships and the second year in a row that a rider has brought home a medal,” said Osborne.
See it in Action
Want to see Big Mountain skiing and riding and the Winter Park athletes send it in person? The resort will be hosting the IFSA Regionals 1 and 2 from February 29 to March 1. This year’s event will feature approximately 100 athletes each day. Moreover, Sunday will include the first-ever adaptive edition of the event, featuring 15 skiers and riders with physical disabilities. Saturday’s competition will take place in the Cirque, while Sunday’s event will go down at the Mary Jane Chutes.
The events are open to viewing by spectators. However, onlookers must be able to negotiate the advanced terrain around the Cirque and Mary Jane territories. Head to the ridges and watch some of Winter Park’s finest shredders go for glory in unforgiving expert-level terrain.
“[The Winter Park Competition Center has] produced countless athletes who have earned podium positions regionally to as high up as the world stage, and I know we will continue to do so,” said coach Taylor Merritt.
For more information about Winter Park’s upcoming IFSA competition, other contests, and the ski and ride teams, please visit the Competition Center website.