Wild Wild West Adventure: part 4 – FWQ 4* SFS Big Sky 2014

Contest April 4 19:30pm – I started the long chairlift traverse to the Headwaters section on the other side of the mountain. I rode up the last chair to the hike with Rob, a snowboarder I met at the riders meeting. It was nice to share the painstakingly long and slow double chairlift. Finally at the top, I scrambled to start the hike since I didn’t know how much time I lost with all of the slow moving chairlifts and traversing. I was reassured by the shapes of other boarders just ahead of me but the hike was pretty grueling. It went along the ridge, along the rocks, over the rocks and was sometimes really super sketchy. There were footprint wide mini-ledges above the steep chutes to hike along, often with nothing to hold onto. The snow was insanely sugary and  slippery. Holding a board with the wind howling like crazy, trying to navigate this very exposed ridge with the goggles fogged up, was an experience that I really have no desire to repeat; unless there is some sick snow to be had and its worth it. Reaching the starting area was a pretty enjoyable feeling. As I arrived, the first woman started her run. That meant I would be up in about 30mn give or take. I caught my breath and check out the very narrow bumpy tongue of snow leading into the part of the face I was thinking of riding. The snow looked the best there, basically. The sky was a mix of blue and white, favorable visibility compared to the wretched flat light situation. The wait at the top went fast, there was lots of joking around and good vibes. I started getting ready for my run and noticed that my legs really felt like jello… I didn’t know if it was from the strain of the harrowing hike or carrying the full on body tension of being nervous and excited. The face wasn’t intimidating anymore, maybe the exposed feeling of the hike made having a board under my feet feel so much better. The snow, however, looked bad. It was extremely wind affected and punchy, sometimes rock hard, sometimes crusty… boah! The countdown came and I started along the narrowing ridge over to the gully I wanted on the other side of a rocky wind blown ridge. I got into the bowl at the top and the wind and crusty conditions caused the snow dust from my turns to spray up in my face the whole time. After the 3rd turn, I got snow behind my goggles. My board chattered around between my legs and the rough snow. I aimed for the trees hoping to find better snow. The section I wanted to ride looked really sharky, so I stayed in the main shoot and cut over looking for the entrance of the chute I intended to straight line (it was short enough to manage, I was convinced). I didn’t see really much anymore with the snow now melted inside the goggles. I used loads of drift turns as there was no chance to really set an edge on the snowpack. I realized I missed my chute when I entered a nice wide one. I aimed for the trees at the bottom still hoping to find some good snow but it wasn’t meant to be. The warm, soggy snow at the bottom slowed me down considerably. I pointed it as straight to the finish line from the moment I realized how much speed it sucked up. I reached the finish archway and that was all folks.
I was parched after the hike and that strenuous snow. My legs were really tired from the tense conditions of it all… I watched the last few riders come down, a Russian girl I know from the EU comps, who had a great run and even put in 2 clean jumps. Others had problems with their jumps and crashed leaving me to think there might be some chance of sneaking into the finals by default. I didn’t necessarily feel like riding that face again in that snow because it just wasn’t fun, not to mention the hike. The rest of the riders put down some wild lines and serious show for the viewers. The finish area is actually one of the highlights at a contest in my opinion… everyone hanging out and enjoying the show! Running into EU riders like the Russians or Leo Slemett, the french force on skis, made the contest feel more familiar.
I went on a drink run for the group because they didn’t offer anything for the riders at the finish line. Getting to the market and back to the finish area ended up taking ages when a main lift broke for a while. I had to take several very slow chairlifts and traverse on flat terrain to make it back. Kofi ended up with the very last starting spot because they forgot him on the starting list along with a few other riders, so we stuck it out to the bitter end. We headed straight for Whiskey Jacks for food again before attending the next riders meeting to hear the results. I enjoyed some savory Bison in a burrito… when in Montana you know!! We got to the meeting a little late and saw the results list… I was ranked dead last place with under 5 points (out of 10)…  They clearly penalize crashing more in Europe, in the US the sick trick seems to be expected. Anna and Kofi didn’t make the cut either.
We bee-lined it for the hot tub back at the hotel. It wasn’t worth getting bothered about, time to concentrate on the vacation part of the trip. We enjoyed the hot bubbly water in the outdoor tub after the seriously windy and tiring day. Full and relaxed, we ended up spending the whole night back playing quiz games against each other, which was more entertaining than it sounds. The weather here is insane, one minute its bluebird and sunny and the next minute it would be snowing like hell was freezing over! We hoped that meant good conditions tomorrow. We will see!
April 5 17:00pm – It was actually kind of nice not setting an alarm to get up today, not having to worry about competing. There is something super gratifying about being lazy and slow in the morning, taking your sweet old time to have breakfast, check emails, stretch etc. The weather outside looked like a portion of gray in more gray again and there was snow on and off. We went up the mountain late morning as the guys needed to get some filming in. I tagged along for maybe 2 runs before waiting around got to be too boring and I ventured off on my own to try to find some snowy stashes in the trees. The sun started poking out here and there, maybe around 12:30 or so it went from bluebird to full on snow and clouds pretty much every run and chairlift I took… even though I’m from New England where we have the old saying “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change”, I still have never seen such comically fast full on weather changes like we had today. It kept putting a smile of disbelief onto my face. The temperature was rising quickly, noticeable only by the condition of the snow changing as the wind made it feel colder than it was. I wasn’t finding any good runs to speak of so I meandered around the riders village a little and ended up demoing a new 157 Lib Tech TRS. I think I’m going to go back tomorrow and take that puppy for another spin with some better (hopefully) conditions.

I met up with the guys back at… big surprise, Whiskey Jacks, where we had dinner before returning to the hotel for some emails and more importantly, hot tub soaking. Tonight will be the riders party which we are planning on going to (if the hot tub doesn’t get the best of us again of course!) That’s it for now… I hope the weather will be more stable tomorrow to get higher up. The snow down low is much too wet and sticky. Fingers crossed for that! That’s all she wrote for now… there’s a hot tub with my name on it. Catch you soon and more to follow tomorrow!

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