Scotty Lago and Emily Weer qualify first in Flow World Freeride Championships
Words: Graham Mueller
Photo: Aaron Gotthardt
The Flow World Freeride Championships preliminary round engulfed Tailgate Alaska in a freeride firestorm not to be witnessed anywhere outside the Bro Bowl contest venue at Thompson Pass. A convoy of snowmobiles took riders, staff and the assembled masses about twenty minutes into the Chugach backcountry to the base of the sunny, calm venue. Once there, the snow safety team briefed competitors on the snow before their runs.
The staff’s decision to wait for a snowstorm to pass made for a snowpack that was a factor in the contest. Some areas held around a foot of fresh, but the whole arena was classified as a moderate avalanche danger. Prominent avy crowns zig-zagged their way across much of the venue, silently stating their warning. This is an uncontrolled, backcountry contest. No bombs, no cornice cuts and no bamboo sticks. Competitors got two runs using a combined score to discourage hucking. Judging is based on line selection, freestyle and fluidity. What are they riding for? Besides the fun of it, 10-grand and some heli time. Send it!
The ladies were first to drop and let everyone know they were not second-class. The Czech Republic’s Sarka Pancochova had a rough time. After tomahawking to end her first run, she dropped a big cornice on her second, only to slide down the mountain in an avalanche when the landing ripped. She rode away unharmed. Swiss rider Nathalie Zenklusen also had her line altered by an avy. After starting out with some big pow turns on a spine, she dropped a cliff and started the slide. Rather than get swept over the next cliff she had intended to jump, she changed courses and straight-lined it to the finish. The top two women, who qualified for the finals would be Yoko Nakamura and Emily Weer. Yoko’s impressive second run featured turns for life along a cliff band in the center of the venue, followed by a pinner chute, but the judges rewarded Emily’s line and power with the top qualifying spot.
When the men dropped in, nobody was messing around, except for Rob Kingwill’s post-run buttering display. Brandon Reid slashed some huge, spraying turns near critical exposure and rode top to bottom fall line on the ‘Triple Scoop’ side. Mikey Marohn threw a 360, a backside rodeo to butt check and a big method in one run. Defending champ Will Bromliesiek had a couple good runs on the ‘Triple Scoop’ side, looker’s right. One featured a double line, the other brought him to speeds high enough to make him look blurry coming out. He would just miss the cut for the finals. Speaking of high speeds, Andy Bergin-Sperry dropped the big cornice far looker’s left, uncorked one and by the end of his run, he looked to be levitating on the tail of his board. The resulting crash was gnarly enough to accidentally set off his avalanche airbag. The unquestionable number one qualifier was Scotty Lago. His first run was a huge cornice-drop method followed by another huge one off a spine. To follow it up, he boosted a 3 off the top and straight-lined the rest of the run.
The top eight men and two women will come back on Wednesday to a still undisclosed, heli-in location. Rumors are flying, but nothing is yet official. Check back for coverage and results from the 2012 Flow World Freeride Championships.
*Riders who move on to finals