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Professional big mountain skier Lexi duPont will stand in the start gate for the first time since 2012 when the Freeride World Tour kicks off at Baqueira Beret on Saturday, Jan. 22—a brand new stop for the Tour in the Spanish Pyrenees. As this year’s wildcard pick, duPont will join a stacked lineup of 46 skiers and riders vying to claim the title of the world’s best extreme freerider.
Earlier in the week, duPont was between laps at her home in Revelstoke, where she’s been training day after day before flying out to Spain. She says her pre-season routine doesn’t look much different than most years, except that when she hops on the chairlift, she studies each slope as if it were a comp day. “Every day I put my ski boots on I have to do a backflip and a 360,” she says.
While it’s been a decade since her last competition, duPont has a long history of competitive skiing. She raced on her high school team in Sun Valley, Idaho, before competing on the Freeride World Tour and on the Freesking World Tour while in college at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she earned first and third-place finishes at stops in Revelstoke and Telluride. Competing naturally tapered off when she started landing gigs with major ski movie production companies like Warren Miller and Poor Boyz Productions, and since then she’s worked on dozens of film projects, with a most recent appearance in Blank Collective’s “Tales from Cascadia.”
With her reentry to the FWT scene, duPont’s professional skiing career is now coming full circle. Her wildcard ride began last fall when she got an invitation from the Freeride World Tour to join the competition for the season. “It completely caught me off guard,” she said.
Each season, the Tour typically selects a few wildcard athletes to compete to keep things interesting. Wildcard entries typically go to exceptional skiers without established rankings, experienced pros who left the competition game but want to see how they still stack up, local riders, or athletes returning from injury. Tanner Hall joined the Tour as a wildcard in 2018 and delivered a few stylish airs but without any high-ranking results, whereas mogul skier Hedvig Vessel nabbed a wildcard spot the same year and has now become one of the top contenders on the international freeskiing circuit.
Learn more: Freeride World Tour Announces Big Changes for 2022
DuPont, who earned her pilot’s license in 2018, is no stranger to tackling new challenges head-on, for which she credits a deep-rooted curiosity that’s been a part of her since childhood. “Ever since I was a kid, I just wanted to try everything,” she says. “Some wildcards just show up to a few stops, but when I decided I’d do the Tour this fall I promised myself I’d go all in. The Freeride World Tour is my whole focus this year. I’m determined to make it to Verbier, and if for some reason I don’t, I’ll be there to cheer everyone else on.”
DuPont’s focus for the last decade has been squarely on filming, but the community aspect of competition is something she’s been missing for a while, she admits. “Hanging out with the mountain bike and snowboard communities, I realized how many progression events they have and how often they get to connect and see each other,” duPont says. DuPont attended Red Bull Formation as a digger last year, and watching the female riders rally around each other in the name of progression reminded her how much she missed the competitive ski scene. “Skiing has the X Games, Dew Tour, King’s and Queen’s [of Corbet’s], and the Freeride World Tour, but other than that there aren’t many options. I’ve really been craving that sense of community.” DuPont hinted that after this season of competing, she’d like to start a new progression event (like Formation) aimed at freeride skiers.
She’s also excited to try to bring some of the community support she’s felt while filming into the competition space. “There are definitely rumors that the Tour has gotten really hardcore and aggro, with everyone skiing without communicating where they’re gonna go,” she says. “When I’m out filming with Michelle Parker or Mckenna Peterson, we’re always encouraging each other and communicating about our lines. I hope to bring that attitude and collaboration to the Tour. I’m not going to take your line; I’m here to boost everyone up and bring more camaraderie to it.”
As for her skiing, duPont is excited to compete again after almost a decade of progression. With 12 spring ski seasons in Alaska under her belt, her relationship with fear has changed and she says she’s much more comfortable in steep, consequential terrain. “Skiing the biggest, steepest, most committing lines in Alaska has helped me practice getting familiar with fear, befriending it, and feeling confident in any terrain,” she says. “And I’ve got new tricks in the bag. I never threw tricks when competing before, so we’ll see if they come out this season.”
Tune into the first comp of the 2022 FWT via the live stream on the FWT website to see how duPont’s stacks up against the competition. The competition starts at 5 a.m. MST on Saturday, Jan. 22.