Our picks for the most noteworthy moments in freeskiing in 2015.
Another year has come and past, and either we’re just getting old or things are changing faster than ever in the world of skiing—not to mention the world at large. 2015 brought us skiers both new opportunities and new challenges for our sport, from new equipment that’s changing the ski-touring market to the specter of global warming that looms increasingly over the future of the sport. Here are some of the highs, and the lows, of the past year in freeskiing.
The Nose-Butter Triple Strikes Back
To our knowledge, Henrik Harlaut had gone four-for-four on his groundbreaking nose butter triple cork 1620, landing it twice at X Games and twice at the 2014 Olympics, before his streak of luck with this seemingly impossible trick ran out in January 2015 at the X Games slopestyle.
Luckily E-Dollo suffered only a broken collarbone and a minor concussion, and was back on skis soon afterwards. But in 2015, the trick that Henrik had made look easy in years before finally showed its ugly side.
Independent Events Rear Their Heads
2015 saw a resurgence in prominent independent events making their mark on the freeski scene, from flagship projects like Suzuki Nine Knights and the B&E Invitational to newer regional efforts like I.D. (Independent Directions) and Creation Nation from the Bunch.
Unfortunately not all was rosy on the events front, with popular European fall big air events freestyle.ch in Zurich and the Freeze Festival in Budapest both stepping out this year and striking a serious blow to what we used to call “the early-season Euro city big-air circuit.” We hope that things work out to bring these events back in the year to come.
The Freeride World Tour Gets Even Gnarlier
Already known as a home for some of the hairiest, most intense skiing on the planet, the Freeride World Tour got a bit crazier last year when Julien Lopez kicked off a large avalanche at the tour stop in Kappl, Austria. that forced the cancellation of the event and prompted an in-depth review and some explanation from FWT. (http://freerideworldtour.com/news/fwt15-some-explanations-after-julien-lopezs-avalanche-kappl-austria)
Julien emerged unscathed, but the incident was a further blow to an already snow-starved FWT, and a healthy reminder to everyone else that “zero risk” doesn’t exist in the mountains, even on a controlled contest venue.
And speaking of the FWT getting even crazier, then there’s this:
Skiing is Gay? Fuck yeah we are, and proud of it
Gus Kenworthy took a big step for himself and for action sports in general when he came out as the first openly gay action sports athlete in October 2015 with a feature story in ESPN The Magazine. (http://espn.go.com/olympics/story/_/id/13942305/olympic-freeskier-x-games-star-gus-kenworthy-first-openly-gay-action-sports-athlete)
Let us just say again from our small platform: Gus, you fucking rock, and the whole ski community stands behind you. Though Gus’s coming out won’t stop snowboarders from cracking “skiers are gay” jokes,(https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/skier-gus-kenworthys-new-life-as-an-openly-gay-action-sports-star), we’re glad to live in a world where everyone can freely shred the terrain of their preference without fear of the tyranny of close-minded attitudes. Gus’s announcement was probably the most widely publicized happening in freeskiing this year.
So Long, Erik Roner
Skiing lost another of its original wild men this year when Erik Roner passed away after crashing into a tree during a skydiving exhibition at Lake Tahoe. Roner was a pioneering freeskier of his age and one of few skiers to make a broader impact in the action-sports world as a member of Nitro Circus. An avid and eventually professional skydiver and BASE jumper, he pioneered Ski-BASE jumping alongside Shane McConkey.
With a ski community already reeling from the loss of many of its heroes, Roner’s death was a further blow to all who knew or knew of him, and a reminder that life is short—shred it while you can.