Susan Mol wins overall title in Freeride World Tour

Battles against Europe’s best

It all started for Susan Mol right here in Crested Butte. When Mol won the North Face Snowboarding Masters event in Crested Butte in February, she automatically qualified for the Nissan Freeride World Tour event at Squaw Valley on March 6. Then Mol won in Squaw Valley and thus began her European tour; the win in Squaw Valley gained her a last-minute bid to the third stop of the Nissan Freeride World Tour in Tignes, France March 8-14.
“I had three days to get my stuff together,” says Mol.
While Mol was busy packing and traveling, her competition was at the venue getting a jump on their venue inspection.
Fortunately for Mol, a storm rolled through Tignes, delaying the day of the competition and changing the venue.
“I was kind of the late one to the party,” says Mol. “In a way, though, I got to rest up and got an even slate with everyone else.”
The course was set for the Grand Balme above Tignes.
“It was big, powdery, high alpine with no trees anywhere in sight,” describes Mol.
Unlike similar events in the U.S., competitors were prohibited from inspection runs on the venue. As a result, Mol had to rely on visual inspection from below, photos and information from the local ski patrol. In addition, riders got only one run.
“Not getting to ride it made it a lot more challenging,” says Mol. “One day, one run.”
Mol had three or four options to enter the pitch and cut her decision down to one with a course of action in mind.
“I wanted to pick something that was not billy-goating, keep it simple with only two cruxes,” says Mol. “Look for the powder because above all you got to have fun.”
As Mol prepared to drop in, some last-minute information forced her to change her mind as she found out her entrance had been stripped of all the snow.
“I actually changed my mind last-second,” says Mol.
Mol adjusted accordingly and rode to a second-place finish to remain in the top spot in the overall points series, earning her a spot in the fourth and final stop of the tour in Verbier, Switzerland, March 20-29.
Mol headed to Verbier, immersing herself in the entire European freeride scene.
“Freeriders are respected more as serious athletes in Europe than in the states,” says Mol. “There were helicopters flying around and autograph signings and the event is scheduled for the weekend so the press can all get there.”
Verbier first hosted a freeride tour event in 1996 and the venue, the Bec des Rosses, is a north face with 55-degree sheer slopes complete with steep and narrow couloirs and high rock cliffs.
“If you mess up, you have a pretty good chance of dying,” says Mol. “It reminded me of Moosehead, times 50.”
Although the venue was closed off for 40 days prior to the competition, winds raked through the face presenting a variety of conditions with every move.
“In one turn there would be three different conditions of snow,” says Mol.
Again, competitors were limited to visual inspection, including hiking up the ridgelines adjacent to the course to figure out the right line.
“Inspection was like a four-hour process,” says Mol. “There were no direct couloirs down, it was pretty much pick and choose your way down.”
Again, Mol changed her mind at the last second when she realized her first entrance had turned rock hard. Mol opted for a milder entrance, dropped a cliff and landed it and then went for one more drop before crossing the finish.
“I was like—here it is, here and now,” says Mol. “I definitely didn’t want to fall.”
Mol finished the day in third place, enough to win the overall points series and earn an automatic invitation to the Freeride World Tour next year.
“It was exciting and I have a major sense of accomplishment,” says Mol. “I’m really the only one that showed up from a regular job and threw down. If I can figure out how to make it work next year, I’m going to do it.”
Still, Mol maintains a sense of humility.
“I’m by no means the best woman snowboarder in the world,” says Mol. “I just had a good year of competition.”

Check Also

Six Titans headed to 2A state track championships

“They’ve had their eyes on this prize” By Than Acuff The Crested Butte Titans track …