Event News

The Freeride World Tour season kicks off, Hakuba style

By: Ethan Stone January 20, 2018

Words & photos: Mark von Roy

For the first time in its history, the Freeride World Tour has a stop in Asia, more specifically the powder heaven of Hakuba, Japan. Needless to say, everyone—From riders and judges to organizers and the media—is pretty damn pumped on it.

The competition had been scheduled for today, but an unfortunate rain event over the last few days forced the organizers to use the weather-window option. It rained up to 2000 meters and the entire competition venue spontaneously avalanched, resulting in a 20-meter high avalanche debris pile in the valley! Luckily the weather window is open until the 27th of January, and with 20–40 cm of new snow forecast every day, starting on Monday, there is no doubt the contest is going to be one hell of a show (as long as the weather provides an opening).

It is an exciting time of year for the FWT, with a heap of rookies who’ve advanced through the Freeride World Qualifiers and are now looking to make their mark in the big league, as well as veterans hoping to solidify their position. I had a chance to chat with rookies Berkeley Patterson, Griffen Moller and Craig Murray, and they all echoed the same sentiment: they are massively honored and stoked to be here, they can’t wait for the powder to arrive, and they are pretty keen to send it! Veterans like Lorraine Huber and Arianna Tricomi are just as amped to be in Hakuba. They are both glad simply to soak in the unique and wonderful Japanese culture and stunning surroundings of Hakuba, which stands in stark contrast to the Euro and North American ski scene.

A few thoughts on Hakuba: this place is magical. There are mountains here that are drop-your-jaw awe-inspiring; it’s the Alaska of Asia. The potential here is immense and with a touring setup, you can spend days exploring the backcountry. Not to mention the plethora of tree skiing options directly accessible from the resorts. The Japanese hosts have been incredibly gracious and are hugely honored to have the FWT here; at the opening ceremony, the Vice-Major said he would like to see the FWT come to Hakuba for the next century! So the people here are pumped, the riders are pumped and if the weather plays its part, we are going to be in for a freeride show for the history books.

Stay tuned for more updates from the field, and although the time difference makes for quite the awkward livestream timing for European audiences (if the contest starts at 9:00am Japan time, it would be 1:00am Central European Time) it’s definitely going to be worth checking out. So grab your mates, grab some beers and snacks, start a betting pool and have a late-night livestream session. The ladies and dudes are going to send it. Stay up on the Downdays Instagram for live updates.