Five Stops on the Ski the East Freeride Tour
The Ski The East Freeride Tour is the east coast’s first and only Freeride Competition Circuit. Before Ski The East founded the Freeride Tour in 2010, there were some individual Freeride competitions held at various mountains in Vermont, but they were completely independent of each other. They sought to integrate each event into a collective tour, which became STEFT. This year five Gould students, from Ninth Grade to Twelfth Grade, competed in the tour. Here is a run-down of how the season went.
Stop 1: Mad River Glen
Fayston, VT | February 18
We left Bethel and headed over to Mad River Glen on Friday morning. With some recent snowfall at home and in Vermont we knew we were in store for good snow conditions. A necessary stop was The Waterwheel Diner in NH, a place coaches, athletes and the locals really enjoy. After a Mt Jefferson breakfast we hit the road and headed toward the Mad River Valley, arriving around noon. Half-day lift tickets and a quick stretch and we were off, exploring the double chair first, to get our legs warmed up before heading over to the famous single chair. The gang and I explored around the mountain, finding some untouched snow here and there and eventually made our way to the competition venue. Took a run or two on the course so they could familiarize themselves with the trail before the competition on Saturday (You only get one inspection run on comp day, so this is why we go a day early). Then went off and continued to explore the challenging terrain that Mad River Glen has to offer.
The competition day was beautiful, with blue skies and temps in the 20’s building into the 30’s as the day went on. It being a Saturday, and the beginning of Feburary vacation for many people the lift lines were out of this world (especially when everyone is waiting for a single chair). Despite that everyone made it to the start for their runs on time, and even got some free Cabot cheddar in the lift line. We saw some really strong skiing from all of the competitors, with awesome airs and equally as brilliant crashes. Everybody on our team skied well, and had stand up runs. We all lounged in the sun at the bottom of the course and enjoyed the show as we waited for our fellow competitors to take their runs.
Stop 2: Smugglers’ Notch
Jeffersonville, VT | March 12
Even thought it’s been a good winter for snowfall, the beginning of March was a bit of a dry spell for the northeast. Despite less than ideal snow conditions, the snowmakers at Smugglers’ Notch pulled it together and held the comp on a very brisk Sunday in early March. As usual, we headed over the night before and stayed in an AirBnB not far from the mountain.
The competition day was one of those beautifully sunny but terribly cold days, where you don’t want any exposed skin. The course was on a challenging groomer trail that had quite a bit of snow blown on it the night before. It wasn’t quite whalebacks, but it was interesting, with a few jumps built here and there for the competitors to launch.
After inspection it was right into the lodge to warm up and get breakfast sandwiches. With some time to kill before our guys’ runs we braved the cold to do some exploring around the mountain, make some turns, and keep legs warm. The competitors threw down some impressive runs on the course, making it look easy without mogul fields to manage. All had lots of airtime, and multiple 360’s were thrown on the course’s platform senders. Our athletes; Colby Snow ’17, Luke Hayward ’19, and Dylan Rivard ’20 all had a good time despite the cold, along with stand up runs and solid results.
Stop 3: Magic Mountain
Londonderry, VT | March 18
Winter storm Stella came through the northeast March 12-15 and left us with a much-needed blanket of snow. Everybody (myself included) was really excited to head over to Magic Mountain for their competition. None of us had ever been there before and they haven’t had enough snow to host this competition for a few years. We headed over to the Snowdon Chalet in Londonderry on Friday evening, grabbing dinner on the way and crashed out for the night.
The comp day was seriously unreal; we were very lucky with the weather on the tour this season, Sunny and warm started to seem like a common theme. The Magic competition venue was on a long, and challenging trail. The comp went of without a hitch, with athletes sending it in the sunshine and showcasing their skills.
Colby Snow ’17, one of our freeride athletes (and recent alpine convert) who competed in every stop of the tour, had a really good showing at Magic. Putting down a solid run she earned herself a 6th place finish, which was her best result of the season. Noah Grammas ’18 also earned himself a 6th place finish in the men’s field. He is a strong skier in any discipline and while he doesn’t always pick the most technical line, he skies with a certain grace and creativity that can’t be missed. Aidan Ryan ’20 came along on this trip, and he was a welcome addition to the crew. Aidan is a mogul skier with very strong legs and while spending the majority of his time training on the mogul course; he still enjoys other aspects of the sport. He was stoked to be doing something different and we were happy to have some fresh energy within the team. He ended up having a solid result finishing 13th in the men’s field.
Stop 4: Sugarbush
Warren, VT | March 19
After the Magic competition, we hit the road and headed north to Montpelier where we had some awesome burritos at the Mad Taco and then spent the night. Sunday we headed up to Sugarbush for fourth stop of the tour, once again we were fortunate with weather, and had sunny skies and relatively warm temps.
The competition was held underneath the Castle Rock Chairlift, which was exciting because we haven’t had the snowpack for that in years. The trail was as challenging as it was long, with huge moguls, exposed rocks and cliff drops to navigate. With a huge field of competitors, we were there for most of the day watching the craziness ensue. Colby, Noah, and Aidan all had stand up runs, making it to the bottom of the course in one piece, which was impressive all on its own. This course was more of an endurance test than anything, with competitors collapsing after they crossed the finish line.
Stop 5: Jay Peak
Jay, VT | March 25-26
Jay Peak was the final stop of the tour, and a two-day event. Athletes competed on Saturday to qualify for the finals on Sunday. Colby, Aidan and I headed over to Jay on Friday evening to spend the night before the comp. We hustled right to the resort to catch some waves at the indoor water park at Hotel Jay. After getting totally pitted on the artificial wave, and raging some waterslides, we headed down to Newport to have dinner and spend the night. Saturday we woke up to cloudy skies with 6 inches of new snow on the ground.
The comp venue was on a trail called Green Beret, which is just past the Face Chutes off the top of the tram. The trail resembled a wide snake run with lots of technical lines and airs. The fresh snow made for poor visibility, and after a few course holds due to fog, the competition went smoothly. Aidan and Colby both had strong showings and qualified for finals on Sunday. STE cut about half the field of competitors to make the finals more manageable for the judges, and to ensure the course wouldn’t be completely skied off.
Sunday was one of those bluebird days that you dream about. After fresh snow the Face Chutes were in amazing shape. The Face Chutes are directly underneath the top of the tram, and offer seriously challenging and technical terrain. Skiing these lines is a right of passage for serious skiers and riders who come to Jay and we were lucky to be able to enjoy this venue for the finals.
Colby dropped first for the girls and had some of the best snow. She picked a technical line navigating the tougher terrain up top and had to traverse across a good portion of the course while still controlling her speed. She had a tough time controlling speed on her traverse, due to it being very narrow with trees on one side and rocks on the other. Her legs got away from her, and she ate it pretty hard on her transition from the traverse into the next part of the course. Luckily she was fine, didn’t lose a ski (if you lose a ski you’re automatically disqualified) and finished her run with a smile on her face.
Aidan had a solid stand up run, he picked a medium difficulty line, which was still technical. He got a little squirrely in the top section when he sent a ten foot cliff into the middle of the course, but kept his composure and continued down to the finish, finding stuff to jump off on the way.
Unfortunately, neither Aidan nor Colby made the cut for super finals. Ski The East made the call that they had time to make another cut and run the top five females and top ten males for another run. We grabbed some food and then made our way back to the bottom of the course to watch a truly insane level of competition ensue. Afterwards we took some runs exploring some of the terrain and tree skiing that Jay has to offer and shortly thereafter headed home.
The Tour was an amazing experience for all of our students, and I am really impressed with how they pushed themselves and took every run hard. Already looking forward to next season!