A beautiful, high pressure, bluebird powder day in the Canadian Rockies set the scene for the third event of the 2023 Freeride World Tour. A recent coating of snow blanketed the imposing Ozone face, a sentence that feels obligatory whenever writing about the Canadian FWT stop.
Full Replay | Freeride World Tour 2023 Kicking Horse (YouTube)
Seriously though, the venue looked so good, it was downright disrespectful to those enduring this year's European winter, yet another season plagued by high-pressure systems. As Downdays' resident Italian-dweller, comparing Max Hitzig’s and Megane Betend’s hot-tub landings in meters-deep pow with the zebra-stripe, grassy brown patches of Val d’Aosta was a frustrating reminder of the climate change-driven realities of winter in the year 2023.
Fortunately, the skiing out of Kicking Horse provided enough insane backflips, crashes and high-octane skiing to shock the most jaded freeride correspondent out of their climate dread.
After less than optimal conditions in Spain and Andorra, FWT competitors finally got to enjoy a powder romp in Kicking Horse. Addison Rafford didn´t hold back.
Coming out of Andorra, less than a thousand points separated young guns Max (Chabloz), Max (Hitzig) and Max (Palm) for the overall lead—a testament to the strength of the Freeride Junior Tour program. If the stakes weren’t high enough, only 11 of the 21 ski men could proceed after the Kicking Horse event, the rest getting cut. The snow proved tricky, taking out close to half the field; six skiers received no score, with another handful finishing despite crashes.
Coming off his win in Andorra, Valentin Rainer was the first to put together a complete run. The young Austrian connected a buttery 360 off the top cornice and floated a massive backflip off a cliff near the bottom. His time in the hot seat was brief, however, as Whistler local Marcus Goguen immediately unseated him. The tour rookie (who earned a wildcard spot just before the Andorra event) threw a big 3 into the face, rocketed through a chossy chute and stomped an authoritative backflip within the span of a few seconds.
Marcus Goguen on his way to a second-place finish.
However, the undisputed king run belonged to none other than Max Hitzig. The young Austrian blew everyone’s mind with his dominant backflip off the so-called Rodney Pyramid, easily the biggest feature of the day. The man was in the air for a full four seconds of airtime, and could not have landed cleaner. Only two other riders have ever hit the feature—probably the single largest viable cliff on the Ozone Face—let alone thrown a clean backflip off this monstrosity. Hitzig's stomp will doubtless be talked about for years to come, another admirable entry into the FWT's hallowed halls of the most massive stomps ever.
Max Hitzig sent this backflip into the next area code.
Max Hitzig´s winning run | Freeride World Tour 2023 Kicking Horse (YouTube)
Finn Bilous and Andrew Pollard just missed the podium with highlight-reel 360s, while Carl Regner-Erkisson put together one of his more complete runs for sixth. Oh, and Xander Guldman threw a screamin’ seamen 360—a man of culture!
In the overall standings Valentin Rainer moved into first place, followed by Max Hitzig and Maxime Chabloz, who held onto third place overall despite a crash on a big cork 720 attempt. Also, a huge congratulations to snowboarder Liam Riviera for being the first rider from Mexico to win an event!
Men´s ski podium: Max Hitzig up top, flanked by Marcus Goguen and Valentin Rainer.
After the ski men wrapped up, ten ski women took the Ozone face. Molly Armanino was first out of the gate and started her run with a heater of a straightline, but got caught up on the variable snow and crashed. She was followed by Canadian mogul convert Justine Dufour-Lapointe, who traversed across the venue before opening up her run with cliffs and cutbacks, stomping a massive closeout feature to put her stamp on the day. Olivia McNeil put together a strong run with a rowdy, cross-channel double.
The heat kept ratcheting up, with Chamonix local Megane Betend putting down the run to beat. She linked fluid skiing up top with a bold straightline into a triple-cliff drop. The French rider held on to the hot seat despite a strong bid from tour rookie Addison Rafford, who weaved into a technical zone and ripped a double-drop for third. Former FWT champion Elisabeth Gerritzen put forth another challenge for the top step. The Verbier local flowed between technical sections, tight trees, and cliff drops, following a similar line as Megane Betend, ultimately landing in second.
Megane Betend charged her way to her first FWT victory.
Regarding the overall picture, Addison Rafford moves into first, while Molly Armanino, despite a crash today, holds onto podium position in second. Meanwhile, Justine Dufour-Lapointe sits in third. Elisabeth Gerritzen and Megane Betend fill out the rest of the top five and have qualified for the FWT finals.
Megane Betend´s winning run | Freeride World Tour 2023 Kicking Horse (YouTube)
The women´s ski podium: Megane Betend, Elisabeth Gerritzen and Addison Rafford.