“We’re looking for good results but it’s also a celebration of the year and the work the athletes put in to get there”
By Than Acuff
Six Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team (CBMST) freeride athletes and one local independent athlete tipped into the big pool of competitive freeride action at the IFSA North American Championships (NorAms) at Kicking Horse Ski Resort, Canada April 2-9 and came away with two podium results and two more top 10 finishes.
The NorAms are the ultimate showcase of up-and-coming winter sports talent, with kids ages 10-18 years old having to qualify for the event through their results from a season’s worth of regional and national events.
Conditions at the expansive venue were looking dubious the week prior to the event, but Mother Nature came through in a pinch blanketing the variety of venues for the event with eight inches of snow.
“Conditions were really good and they keep the venues closed for the competition,” says CBMST head freeride coach Mark Robbins. “They had different venues every day with a really progressive series of venues. Really cool terrain with everything from big, open airs to tight technical lines.”
The competition opened with the u12 age group Monday and Tuesday, April 3-4. Local independent skier Sol Hausdoerffer took immediate control of the u12 girls bracket, posting the top result on the qualifier day and then holding on through the finals on day two to take the 2023 North American title.
The 12-14 and 15-18-year-olds then took over NorAms on Wednesday for their qualifier runs, with Brooks Miller, Liam Hadley, Sam Anderson and Beckett Kidd in the 12-14 boys skier category, Teagan Turner in the 15-18 girls snowboard competition and Marin Gardner in the 15-18 boys skier class.
Five of the six CBMST athletes made it through their qualifier days to make the cut for finals. It started with the 12-14-year-olds qualifier day — Miller led the charge finishing the day in fourth, Anderson skied to an eighth-place result and Hadley took 21st place to make the finals cut, while a backslap by Kidd left him on the wrong side of the cut line.
“They all skied a similar line to incorporate the biggest feature and everyone stayed on their feet which is always great,” says Robbins. “It just takes a little more than that when you’re at NorAms.”
Gardner and Turner were then on stage the next day for the 15-18-year-old age class qualifier runs. Gardner made the cut placing 23rd, while Turner finished her qualifier round in third.
“Her qualifying run was incredible,” says CBMST snowboard coach Eddy Cohn. “Really impressive technical jump turns through a steep chute and two solid airs.”
“The depth of competition in the 15-18 group is through the roof,” adds Robbins.
Finals day was held on an entirely different venue, complete with a boot pack approach for the athletes to make the start gate at the top of a ridge. Mother Nature threw a curveball too as clouds were in and out all day with intermittent snow throughout.
While most of the local crew of kids lucked out with visibility, Miller dropped into his final run amidst a spate of bad weather and suffered accordingly to finish NorAms in 21st place.
Hadley had the top score amongst the CBMST skiers in the 12-14 age class and moved from 21st all the way up to ninth place in the end, while Anderson jumped from eighth to sixth place when all was said and done.
“Sam and Liam had great runs,” says Robbins.
Gardner finished NorAms in 23rd place while Turner held onto third place to step up onto the podium.
“She was up against some really impressive competition, including Mia Jones, Jeremy Jones’ daughter,” says Cohn. “Her finals run was a bit tougher. At the beginning of the year one of Teagan’s goals was to incorporate larger airs into her competition runs, and she certainly achieved that in her finals run. Even though her finals run didn’t go perfectly to plan, Teagan displayed top-notch riding, and really impressed me with her mental approach to the competition.”
Robbins points out that while NorAms are results focused, there’s more to it than that for their athletes.
“Only 7% of all of the athletes in North America make it to NorAms,” says Robbins. “We’re looking for good results but it’s also a celebration of the year and the work the athletes put in to get there.”
Looking ahead, the youth will be moving up through the age groups and Robbins looks forward to another exciting season next winter.
“Next year is a big year,” says Robbins. “We’ll have a bunch of kids moving into the older category. It’s super exciting and they’re ready for it. More and more kids are committing to the program, it’s a good healthy vibe.”