The mood at the opening ceremony for the second stop of the 2019 Freeride World Tour in Golden, B.C. is rather chipper. Riders like Tanner Hall and Markus Eder mingle with the young aspiring freeriders, while the Mayor of Golden, Rob Oszuzt (who also is a paramedic in town) chats up the snow safety team from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (the venue for the actual competition).
Chief Alfred Joseph from the Akisqnuk Community takes to the stage of the small auditorium to make an opening statement, giving his blessing for the Ktunaxa land that the event will be on.
Next, FWT CEO and Founder Nicolas Hale-Woods speaks about the connectivity of Golden’s community with the FWT. It is slightly surprising how small the crew of the FWT actually is, but one thing is evident, the FWT thrives off the support of each community they visit.
The quality of the product that FWT produces – their live broadcast, their televised programs and general online presence – rivals other sporting events with 50 times the budget. Unlike a freestyle ski competition or a ski race, the FWT has to create their own production infrastructure in rather precarious conditions (e.g. on top of a mountain ridge).
And the planning involved to make this happen is its own adventure. From avalanche safety and mitigation, to predicting weather windows, to actually getting the video gear and crew up the mountain, are just some of the logistics that are involved in creating the flawless FWT events you see on the screen.
That all being said, here are five things that you might not know about the FWT …
There Are No Set Competition Dates
The FWT has no set date for the comps but does have a weather window of seven days. The mountain safety team (from the area where the comp is being held) will make the decision on which days will be held. For example, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has been preparing the slope called Ozone all winter as conditions dictate. It is KHMR mountain safety who will let FWT know when the slope is safe for the comp.
From there, the FWT core team (consisting of the event manager, operation manager, producers, director, two mountain guides, and a doctor) will continue to work with KHMR and consult extra meteorologists for the best day for visibility.
The Athletes Bootpack to the Start Gate (and So Does the Whole Film Crew)
Contrary to popular belief, the athletes do not get to the start gate with a heli or sled. This has only happened on rare occasions where the start gate is not accessible by bootpacking (or too dangerous). FWT uses only one heli for filming purposes. Of course, if there were an emergency situation that deemed a heli’s help, that’s another story. But other than that, the athletes and film crew will bootpack up to the start gate.
The Tech Crew Sleeps in a Tent (a.k.a. Control Room at the Start Gate)
Unlike a freestyle comp or a ski race, the Freeride World Tour comps are off-piste on huge mountain faces. They can not just park a truck at the base of the hill and set up shop. They actually have to bring their equipment up by sleds or a snowcat.
Once they set up the tent which is really their “control room,” they will have to stay there until the comp happens to ensure that none of the equipment malfunctions. The techs will literally sleep in the tent on top of some of the gnarliest ridges where the comps take place.
Every Rider Starts With 50 Points If They Make It Out of the Gate
Every ride starts with 50 points just for making it out of the gate. From there, each rider’s run is judged on a 100-point scale. Points are added as the rider does their run.
The riders will be judged first in their line and how fluid they are and how much control. Next, they are judged on their air, style, and technique.
“If they do take risks in places where there is more consequence, they will be rewarded in their line choice – but if they don't land it, they will be penalized,” Head judge Berti Denervaud tells ASN. “But, the riders are not trying to take huge risks that are going to put them in danger. In other words, they are not looking to injure themselves.”
This is the coolest part about the FWT, all of the riders have different backgrounds from ski racing, to snowboard cross to freestyle. The more varied the rider can be with their run, the higher they score. It isn’t just about hucking massive air.
You See What the Judges See … Live
As slick as the FWT production looks, there are only a handful of cameras including the Cineflex heli camera. Director Aurelie Monod-Gonin specifically positions her two long-lens cameras next to the judges.
Since the FWT does live broadcasts, they have to cut and edit in real time. It is important for the viewers to see what the judges see so there is no discrepancy.
“We have to be objective and give the viewers the same vision as the judges,” Monod-Gonin tells ASN.
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