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2023 Is Going to Be the Year of the Rookie Challenger on the Freeride World Tour

The FWT just released its 2023 athlete roster. Here's who we have our eyes on.

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This morning, the Freeride World Tour raised the stoke levels a notch by announcing their list of 2023 competitors. The roster comprises FWT veterans and exciting newcomers, all set to shake up the battle for the 2023 title.

This season’s athlete list, in particular, illustrates a multi-year shift in rider demographics on the Tour. For years, career Tour athletes who stuck around for five or even 10 years dominated the podium and start list. A few seasons back, this status quo began to shift thanks to a new cadre of ripping up-and-comers. If you peek at the 2023 roster, you’ll notice that many riders are either newcomers or recent additions to the Tour.

During this season’s upcoming FWT, we’ll have a chance to witness these skilled young guns turned pros give it all they’ve got on the world stage; but don’t expect the old guard to go down easy. Here are the returning vets and new additions we’re most excited to watch this coming season.

Related: 2023 Freeride World Tour schedule

Reine Barkered

Category: Ski Men
Status: Veteran
Country: Sweden
Age: 40

I know I just said that the future of freeride is with the youth, but you can’t talk about the FWT without mentioning Reine Barkered. The man’s got absurd longevity. The 40-year-old made his first appearance on the FWT in 2008 (that’s 14 years ago for those who don’t want to do the math). Since then, he’s snapped up multiple titles and top-five finishes. His legacy is already apparent—an enormous cliff on the Verbier FWT venue bears his name.

Barkered’s been on the FWT for more than a decade, giving him accumulated wisdom absent in younger riders. He’s intimately familiar with each venue and will bring a calculated yet explosive style to every competition face. Anticipate Barkered showing the young guns how it’s done on more than one occasion.

Max Hitzig

Category: Ski Men
Status: Rookie
Country: Austria
Age: 20

In many ways, Max Hitzig is the polar opposite of Barkered. At 20 years old, Hitzig is half Barkered’s age. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Hitzig’s lack of experience presents a disadvantage, but you’d also be wrong. Hitzig combines the precision of a seasoned FWT rider with the tenacity of someone looking to make a name for himself.

On paper, Hitzig is a rookie as he’s never officially competed on the FWT. However, event organizers tossed him a wildcard slot last season for Fieberbrunn, an opportunity Hitzig took full advantage of by grabbing first place amidst a stacked field.

At Fieberbrunn, he displayed his complete suite of freeride talent: clean skiing, precise line selection, and a deep bag of tricks. While Hitzig doesn’t have a ton of experience under his belt (last season was his first time in the start gate), he’s already established himself as a contender for the FWT title.

Xander Guldman

Category: Ski Men
Status: Rookie
Country: U.S.
Age: 24

Xander Guldman followed a unique path to the FWT. As a junior, he competed on both the IFSA and JFT junior circuits, where he developed into an impressive freeride force known for technical lines and massive 360s. Then, after aging out of the juniors, he took a break from competing altogether.

Last season, on a whim, Guldman decided to throw his hat back in the ring, ultimately qualifying for the 2023 FWT. I’m thankful that Guldman opted to give the start gate another try, and as a viewer, I expect you’ll be, too. These days, the American is one part mountain goat and one part acrobat, peppering consequential terrain with quick tricks, making him uniquely prepared to find success on the FWT. Check out this video from last season, and you’ll know what I mean.

Manon Loschi

Category: Ski Women
Status: Rookie
Country: France
Age: 20

Manon Loschi proves that the women’s start list, like the men’s start list, is set to be rocked by a crew of newcomers. At 20 years old, Loschi’s already grabbed the attention of industry titans like K2 and Peak Performance. These sponsorships are well deserved, as evidenced by her equally fluid and aggressive style, which includes tweaked shiftys, smooth nose butters, and stomped backflips. As a fan of the FWT, I’ve long waited for the presence of riders who can mix old-school freeride know-how with new-school stunts. Loschi fits this bill and then some—stay tuned for aerial wizardry from the French rider.

Jess Hotter

Category: Ski Women
Status: Veteran
Country: New Zealand
Age: 29

Jess Hotter had a banner season last year, grabbing two first-place finishes, a second-place finish, and the overall title. Hotter’s success as a rookie during the 2022 FWT likely came as no surprise to those in the know. She cut her teeth on the qualifying circuit for years, and she’s from New Zealand, a country known for producing top-tier freeriders.

Hotter’s excellent line selection skills, impressive technique, and her hard-won experience last season means she everything she needs to defend her title this season. If her Instagram is any indication, Hotter intends to augment her extensive freeride skills with some tricks of her own, clearly taking advantage of that southern hemisphere winter to dial in an array of stunts.

Sybille Blanjean

Category: Ski Women
Status: Rookie
Country: Switzerland
Age: 22

Sybille Blanjean, like Manon Loschi, spent little time in the qualifiers. In 2018, she graduated from the junior circuit before spending a short three years on the FWQ. Starting last season, she was officially part of the big leagues. Many riders spend over five years on the FWQ before fighting their way onto the Tour. Not Blanjean.

Blanjean’s rookie season on the FWT was promising. She held her own throughout, stacking solid middle-of-the-pack runs, which led to her clinching a spot in the finals. However, things kicked into a different gear in Verbier, Switzerland, with Blanjean putting down a winning run in puckering steep terrain—a poetic conclusion to the season for the Swiss skier and an indicator that Blanjean’s ready to take a crack at the overall title in 2023.

Amidst this excitement of fresh faces and new challengers, you may notice that a few fan favorites won’t be returning. On the women’s side, Hedvig Wessel has opted to step away from the FWT this upcoming season to focus on personal projects. While her backflips will be sorely missed, the FWT reports that she may return for a one-off as a wildcard at one of this seasons events. On the men’s side, big sender Aymar Navarro unfortunately won’t appear in the start gate in 2023, unless he’s offered a wildcard.

We’re about three months from the FWT’s kick-off in 2023, which will be broadcast free on Youtube and the official FWT website. Stay tuned to SKI’s Competitions channel for more coverage as we inch closer to the first drop of the season.

Full 2023 Freeride World Tour Athlete Roster

Ski Women

  • Jess Hotter (NZL)
  • Olivia McNeill (CAN)
  • Lily Bradley (USA)
  • Sybille Blanjean (SUI)
  • Elisabeth Gerritzen (SUI)
  • Megane Betend (FRA)
  • Manon Loschi (FRA)
  • Addison Rafford (USA)
  • Delila Quinn (USA)

Ski Men

  • Maxime Chabloz (SUI)
  • Carl Regnér Eriksson (SWE)
  • Ross Tester (USA)
  • Kristofer Turdell (SWE)
  • Andrew Pollard (USA)
  • Jack Nichols (USA)
  • Abel Moga (ESP)
  • Léo Slemett (FRA)
  • Max Palm (SWE)
  • Craig Murray (NZL)
  • Jamesa Hampton (NZL)
  • Manu Barnard (NZL)
  • Simon Perraudin (SUI)
  • Max Hitzig (AUT)
  • Valentin Rainer (AUT)
  • Leif Mumma (USA)
  • Jedidiah Kravitz (USA)
  • Dillon Flinders (USA)
  • Xander Guldman (USA)
  • Reine Barkered (SWE)