The first stop of The North Face Masters has arrived at Crystal Mountain, Washington. With unfavorable snowfall for most of the country, the official first stop at Snowbird was postponed until April. But that didn't put a damper on things as riders arrived ready to put it all on the table.
It was business as usual as riders took Tuesday to inspect the course and scope out their runs for the Wednesday qualifier on Northway. With a steady dumping of snow for part of the inspection day, around a solid 6 inches, there were big smiles and great vibes as riders dropped cliffs, slashed pow and took to Crystal's notorious big mountain terrain.
Following a great day on the mountain we all settled into the base lodge for the rider meeting. Frankie Alisuag kicked off the event as usual bringing everyone together to celebrate the life of Aaron Robinson. A-Rob, as he is most well known, was a TNF Masters regular. Dominating the circuit over the past few years and claiming many podiums as well as the overall title for both 2010 and 2011. His style and demeanor were unmatched as he was well known on tour as a guy who would take the time to get to know pretty much everyone. Frankie made it clear that this should not be a time of sorrow but a time of celebration; because that's how Aaron would want it. This year's TNF Masters is in memory of A-Rob, even though it's not official, everyone knows it. He will be missed not only here on tour, but around the world.
With that in mind it was an early morning as riders, photographers, judges and fans made their way to Tramway to watch the men and women battle it out for a qualifying spot in the finals on Silver King. With perfect bluebird skies, mild temperatures, a light wind and a beaming sun above, the Masters kicked off with the women's one run qualifier.
Lara Dewey & Tim Carlson navigate the boney Northway face to qualify for finals
Photo: Abe Blair | Full gallery
Frankie Alisuag and Mark Sullivan kept it comical on the mic as they gave viewers the play by play on each and every run. Legend Tom Burt would once again take the demanding job of head judge along with Temple Cummins, Julie Zell and Andy Hetzel. Big props to these guys as they take on one of the hardest jobs in the game.
You could say that this year at Crystal surpassed last year as the snow quality was above par. Even though Northway was slightly tracked out it was a huge improvement from 2011. Good snow or not, the ladies were sending it. Last year's winner Iris Lazzareschi was back to defend her title. Even though she was injured she navigated the course beautifully to put down a run worthy of tenth place and a spot in the finals.
With a huge air at the top of the course, Crested Butte local and tour regular Marry Boddington would follow up with a high speed chute drop that sent the crowd into a frenzy. The no holds bar approach to her run and her willingness to put it all on the line landed her in the top qualifying spot. "Qualifying first feels awesome." Says Boddington. "It makes me a little nervous for finals as there's a lot of pressure going into the next day. But the run was really fun and that's what makes me ride at my best." Following Boddington would be Laura Dewey and Shannon Yates to round out the top three qualifying spots.
Roughly 11:00pm would mark the start time for the men as the weather warmed up a bit making Northway that much softer. Even though the sun would be shining from behind it wouldn't hinder the guys from taking their riding to the next level.
This qualifier felt more like a final as the men sent Northway's face like no other. From Kyle Clancy's cab 5 off the riders left cliff that landed him in the second qualifying spot to the perfect method of Jackson Hole's own John Rodosky. The guys never held back and it made for some intense viewing. The crowd was on their feet as 67 riders took their one run qualifier.
Tim Carlson & Ryland Bell look on as riders make their way down Northway
Photo: Abe Blair | Full gallery
Landing in the top qualifying spot was first time competitor Jamie Rizzuto from Fernie, BC. His resilience and skill took him on a run that dropped jaws. Without hesitation Rizzuto charged over cliffs, that most billy-goated, with grace like no other. There was no hesitation in his run. He stomped every landing with style, especially the waterfall that finished off a perfect run. "I'm really happy I stuck my line. That was the idea when I dropped in and to be on top is just amazing." Says Rizzuto. "I knew it was really boney at the top so I picked out a tree that would help me get through that section with ease and drop me into perfect position for the rest of my run. I had two airs to follow and white roomed on my second. Then I made it through the sketchy waterfall chute at the bottom and finished it off with a shit eating grin."
Check out the qualifying lists on The North Face Master's facebook page.
That's it from day one at The North Face Masters at Crystal Mountain. Tune in live tomorrow, February 16 at 10:30am PST to watch live as riders take to the legendary Silver King face. Visit us at snowboardmag.com/tnf-masters for live coverage.
Stay tuned tomorrow for full coverage from the one run final at the first stop of the TNF Masters. To get behind the scenes shots check us out on Instagram (SnowboardMag) as we will be posting photos straight from Silver King.