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Freeride World Tour

Why Mogul Skiers Keep Winning Freeride World Tour Competitions

Former Olympic mogul champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe just won her first FWT competition, but it's not likely to be her last.

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From bumps to the big mountain, ex-Olympic mogul skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe just proved that skiing’s specific disciplines are mere suggestions. This week, the French-Canadian athlete took first place during the Freeride World Tour’s second stop in Ordino-Arcalis, Andorra, with a run demonstrating superb big mountain technique.

It’s easy for freeride fans to dismiss mogul skiing as an outdated discipline—how can zipper-lining down a perfectly manicured bump run with perfectly angled kickers compare to charging down gnarly, ungroomed mountain faces? But athletes like Dufour-Lapointe highlight how similar the two actually are. 

Watch: Justine Dufour-Lapointe Winning Run – FWT23 Ordino Arcalís Pro

Mogul skiing was, after all, the first “freestyle” event ever to grace the Olympics. Similarly, it absorbed a bit of new school flair when Jonny Moseley launched a groundbreaking “dinner roll” —an off-axis spinning flip, known today as a cork 720—during the mogul event at the 2002 Olympics. Yet, the competitive niche has more rules and textbook tendencies than the Freeride World Tour, involving manicured courses, timers, and rigorous judging guidelines.

On the Freeride World Tour, athletes ski off-piste big mountain faces, laying down technical lines and tricks in high-consequence terrain. The “free” in freeride is vital, as there are few rules during Tour events—no clock is ticking, riders can ski down the venue wherever they damn well please, and do whatever tricks they like. As the FWT itself advertises: “There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run-down wins.”

Plunging into this free-for-all competition format could be daunting for someone used to more structure, but to Dufour-Lapointe, her mogul skiing history isn’t a liability, it’s an asset. 

“I think mogul skiing is such a strong base that I have,” she said. “It’s not only the technical part, the skiing part, the jump part, but also the experience I’ve gained competing at such a high-stress level.”

And Dufour-Lapointe isn’t just any mogul skier, she’s an Olympic mogul skier. She first won a World Cup title at age 16, eventually grabbing both gold and silver Olympic medals. In addition to her Olympic hardware, Dufour-Lapointe has collected over 40 World Cup podium finishes. When Dufour-Lapointe’s mogul skiing journey ended in 2022 after the Beijing Olympics, she decided it was time for something new. Later that year, she signed up for the Freeride World Tour Qualifier series before receiving a wildcard invite to the Freeride World Tour itself.

“I think for me, I was ready for a new challenge,” she said. “I think that’s something I learned in the past few years that I love to learn, and I love to grow. And that’s what struck me the most and challenged me the most about going into freeride. I felt like I had so much room to grow.”

Dufour-Lapointe’s arrival and ensuing success on the Freeride World Tour probably isn’t surprising to die-hard freeride fans. For years, the Tour’s female category was dominated by pro skier Hedvig Wessel from Norway. What do Wessel and Dufour-Lapointe have in common?

Mogul skiing. 

Before Wessel was a freerider, she too was an Olympic mogul skier.  It turns out the combination of bomber fundamentals and freestyle know-how (mogul skiers tend to have killer backflips) lends itself well to competing on the Freeride World Tour. Wessel and Dufour-Lapointe’s success indicates that the Tour, like moguls, is a total skiing litmus test—to win, an athlete needs to fire on all cylinders, from tricks to technique. 

Winning one stop was originally the only item on Dufour-Lapointe’s Freeride World Tour bucket list. Now that she’s ticked that one off, she’s focused on larger goals.

“My next goal is for sure to do the whole season, which is to qualify myself for the final like Fieberbrunn and Verbier,” said Dufour-Lapointe. “Right now, I’m second in the world. But I need another good result to get there.”

And if the Tour’s second stop at Ordino-Arcalís is any indication, Dufour-Lapointe can’t rest on her laurels. Athletes are throwing enormous cork 720s, somewhat reckless cliff drops, and heavy straight-lines in both the men’s and women’s categories, making fans wonder: How much bigger can, or will, these riders go for their shot at the podium?

The 2023 FWT next stops in Kicking Horse, B.C., between Feb. 17-22. After this third stop, only the top riders from each category will move onto the final two stops in Fieberbrunn, Austria and Verbier, Switzerland. 

Watch: Full Replay of FWT23 Ordino Arcalís