Tucker Andrews and Cal Hill stomp onto podium at CBMR

Challenger Tour continues for two local athletes

By Than Acuff 

Tucker Andrews got a “wild card” spot and Cal Hill earned the last spot on the qualifier list and both made the most of their shot at the adult Freeride World Tour Challenger Series event in Crested Butte on Friday, March 15. Andrews ended up winning the men’s snowboard division while Hill took third in the men’s ski division.

The Challenger Series is a pipeline to the adult Freeride World Tour next year and is a series of three stops that started in Crested Butte. Athletes have a handful of ways to make it in the series. They can qualify based on results from competitions throughout the winter. They get picked as standout athletes from former world tours or junior freeride champions or they get a “wild card” spot left open by tour organizers for local athletes at each stop.

 “The single event wildcards are some of the local legends who the community knows and engages the town and resort,” explains Freeride World Tour executive director Brennan Metzler. “It makes for a more fun, connected local event.”

Hill is a Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team (CBMST) coach and a Western Mountain Sports Team athlete. He has been competing on the qualifier tour all winter taking fourth place in 3* qualifier comps at Copper and Breckenridge and then a seventh place finish at a 4* qualifier event in Taos. His results earned him enough points to get the 20th of 20 available spots at the Challenger Series and he stepped up to the plate on his home hill.

The venue was Spellbound/High Life which can make for a difficult decision for athletes. While High Life provides a high line score with technical, high consequence moves, the main Spellbound side has opportunities for high-speed moves and massive air. Oftentimes it’s either one way or the other.

Hill managed to mix in both by opening his run by spinning a three (that’s a helicopter to us older folks) off the top to drop into Toilet Bowl. Hill then skied up onto the handrail portion of Toilet Bowl and once he was done greasing the technical parts, he shot out skier’s right into the open area of the venue to throw a backflip off one feature and then lined up one last massive air to throw another backflip over Wylie’s before crossing the finish line.

“There’s really two sides to the venue and it’s tough,” says Hill. “I wanted to highlight both sides of the venue and show I can ski both. Find that balance, it’s a tough balance.”

Andrews hasn’t competed in an event like this since 2012 but after some coaxing by Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team (CBMST) director Eddy Cohn, he decided to jump in.

“He was at the Breadery where I work and he kept asking me to jump in,” says Andrews. “It took a little convincing by him.”

Andrews’s plan was to go for the highest line score possible in High Life and to keep it moving and add in a little flair near the bottom.

“I wanted the most fluid way to get down and to go fast and scoped out a couple bumps at the bottom,” explains Andrews. “Technical then ‘freestyley’ putting two and two together.”

It was enough to catapult Andrews to the top spot and now the two local athletes look ahead to the next stop in the Challenger Series in Silverton March 25-27.

“I’m waiting to hear if I got a spot at Silverton,” says Andrews. “If they’ve got room for me, I’m definitely going to try to make it. I’d be stoked.”

Hill has more coaching to do with the CBMST and will feed off that to continue following his passion.

“I’m looking forward to getting stoke from the groms,” says Hill. “I do it for fun and my love of skiing.”

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