Ruari MacFarlane and Iris Lazzareschi win 4-star North Face Masters at Squaw Valley
Photos: Abe Blair
After the merger of the Freeride World Tour this past summer, the first 4-star TNF Masters qualifier was held at Squaw Valley despite the bulletproof conditions the field of 16 females and 53 males had to deal with.
At first look, most riders would cower at the idea of taking a run down the Light Towers/C2 Bowl competition venue. But the athletes at The North Face Masters aren’t your average rider. These are some of the best big-mountain riders in the world, and they all showed some big cajones when it was their turn to drop in.
The women kicked off the Squaw stop first and all 16 riders showed confidence in their runs. But it would be Iris Lazzareschi who would take home first place with her incredible run down the gut of Light Towers. Right out of the start she hit what was later dubbed by the announcers as “Iris’ Cliff,” as she was the first competitor to hit it. After landing a perfect air, and missing a bomb hole, she flew down the center of the course with three huge airs, the last one with a solid tail grab which obviously impressed the judges.
Her entire run was fluid, fast paced and controlled, which scored her an 85, a score 10 points above second place finisher Casey Lucas who scored a solid 75. Rounding out the women’s podium was Marissa Krawczak and Rosemarie Diak who tied for third with a 71.
“Iris really stomped her run top to bottom with solid airs on the top and consistency the whole way through,” said judge Andy Finch. “She really showed control in challenging conditions.”
After an impressive run by the ladies, and a quick comercial break for the live webcast, the men dropped in. Like I mentioned earlier, the snow pack was not ideal. More suited for a mogul competition, the men didn’t hold back. It was as if 2-feet of powder dropped the night before. The whole field brought their A-game in hopes to score enough qualifying points to make it into next year’s Freeride World Tour.
It would be Ruari McFarlane from New Zealand, who drove down from British Columbia with no money and no place to stay to later couch surf and wonder how he would get home, who took first place and plenty of money to buy a ticket back home. His run was flawless as he dropped to lookers left and set himself up to throw a BS 360. After a long traverse to rider’s right, Ruari weaved his way to the bottom cliffs where he dropped a huge double line to everyone’s amazement. The spectators and riders watching went wild. Who was this kid from down under who just took first place out of no where?
After a quick deliberation by the judges, Ruary scored a 89.33, 4.33 points higher than Sammy Luebke’s amazing run that consisted of a huge FS 360 at the top, ninja-like moves and fluidity through the middle gut of the course and a huge BS 360 off the lower cliff. It was a truly amazing run that only Ruari’s huge double could beat.
Rounding out the podium was Hans Mindich, a regular in the park and pipe contests, who threw down one of the more impressive runs. Dropping in switch, Hans threw a huge switch BS 180 off of “Iris’ Cliff” and flowed flawlessly through the course to the lookers left hand cliff, the same one Ruari doubled, and put down another BS 180 landing switch and straight-lining through the hairy bottom section to the finish line.
Besides snagging third at his frist-ever TNF Masters, Hans was awarded the coveted Young Gun Award, given to an athlete under 21 who demonstrates raw talent, an innovative riding style and exemplifies true sportsmanship and passion for the mountains.
“Today was impressive because there was so much hard charging on really tough conditions,” said Masters Head Judge Jim Zellers. “The riders really exceeded our expectations. They played it smart and rode some lines I honestly did not think could be done today.”
About The North Face Masters
The North Face Masters is part of the Freeride World Qualifier system. FWQs are rated on a 1 to 4-star scale with competitors earning more or less points at events according to venue difficulty and scale, competitive pool and other factors. The Masters is the top-level qualifier event and a pivotal step for athletes hoping to advance to the SWATCH Freeride World Tour by The North Face.
The North Face Masters of Snowboarding is presented by PrimaLoft and supported by Subaru of America, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Mountain Sports International, Snowboard magazine, Clif Bar, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.