“They’re all at the top of their game”
by Than Acuff
Remarkably, the first competition for four Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team (CBMST) freeride athletes for the 2020 season is the biggest competition of the 2020 season. Kye Matlock, Avery Bernholtz, Dagan Schwartz and Holden Bradford, along with CBMST coaches Will Dujardin and Josh Gallen, are headed to Europe in two weeks for the Freeride Junior World Championships at Kappl, Austria January 25 to February 1. It’s the third year in a row CBMST athletes have qualified for the prestigious event.
Bradford punched his ticket to the championships finishing the 2019 season ranked 15th on the IFSA (International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association) tour. Schwartz finished the 2019 season ranked third overall for snowboarders, while Matlock and Bernholtz closed out the season ranked second overall in their respective classes. Both won the title at the North American Championships in Canada last spring.
It’s Schwartz’ second trip to the world championships. He qualified last year along with skiers JC Patterson and Carson Hildebrandt and had the top result among the CBMST crew, finishing in third.
This year is different though, as the Austrian event was pushed up in the schedule from March to the end of January, and with the competition circuit in the United States not started yet.
“It’s a little nerve-racking being the first comp of the season,” says Dujardin.
With snow, and therefore terrain, somewhat limited for the CBMST athletes here in Crested Butte, Dujardin, Matlock, Schwartz and Bernholtz did some storm chasing and headed southwest on the heels of a big storm at the end of December.
“We were able to go to Wolf Creek and ski two to four feet of pow on their 100 percent open terrain so they got a little exposure to some steeper terrain,” says Dujardin.
“It was the deepest snow ever and we were able to huck some cliffs and work on our visual inspection skills to prepare ourselves,” adds Schwartz.
In the meantime, the coaches and athletes have been able to continue training on Crested Butte Mountain.
“We work on fundamentals and technical skills but also we know the mountain and there are plenty of features to hit on the available terrain,” says Dujardin. “We’re doing our best with what we’ve got and the terrain park just opened so that’s another bonus.”
In addition, Dujardin has been to the venue at Kappl before and believes that it is not anything the athletes need to fear or be intimidated by.
“Most of these guys have been competing for almost seven years and, in terms of venues, it’s not anything they haven’t seen at other competitions,” says Dujardin. “It’s not going to completely blow them away.”
Schwartz feels that with one year under his belt, he may be able to share some additional knowledge with his friends and teammates when the time comes.
“I don’t really have anything for them now but I definitely think once we get there, I will know some things they don’t and be able to point stuff out,” says Schwartz.
Then, there’s the extensive library of information from the actual competition since this will be the third year it will be held at Kappl.
“We feel we can do a pretty good job preparing them,” says Dujardin. “They have a lot of videos and pictures to draw from.”
The coaches and athletes plan to head over to Austria for a couple of days before the competition to get some days of riding in, either at Kappl or down the road at Ishagl.
“Depending on conditions, we might go there for a day before the comp,” says Dujardin.
In the end though, what ultimately happens will come down to the athletes themselves. Dujardin is confident they all have the ability to bring their best to the competition and their best is enough to win.
“They’re all at the top of their game,” says Dujardin. “We can do a good job here preparing them athletically and physically. It’s just about making sure they’re in a good mental place. I don’t want to jinx it but they all could win.”
Dujardin adds that there is more to it than just results.
“It’s also a chance to gain experience for them and future competitions on the adult tour,” says Dujardin. “It’s exciting that they have the opportunity to do this.”