For the first Freeride World Tour stop of 2019 (FWT19), the men were treated to blue skies, calm winds, and some playful terrain in Hakuba, Japan. Last year, the Japan stop was moved to Canada after relentless snow pummeled the Japanese Alps. This season, the riders and event organizers were pleased to find optimal conditions for the first stop of FWT19.
Yu Sasaki, of Japan, qualified for the competition through a previous Freeride World Qualifier event, and dropped fifth. He threw a massive 360 on the top air, but put a hand down on the landing. The rest of his run was very fluid and fast, earning a score of 78.33 and the leader’s chair.
That changed when Italy’s Markus Eder dropped in after three other riders. The Italian is one of the best freeride skiers in the world right now, and he proved that with a massive flat-360 at the top, followed by another huge 360 mid-course. He demonstrated a fluidity level that was well above all of the previous riders throughout his entire run, and took Sasaki out of the top spot with a sore of 86.60.
Tanner Hall, who joined the FWT this year as a Wild Card, dropped one rider after Eder. He opened his run with a cork 360 off the same first air as Eder, and then followed it with a slightly over-rotated backflip. He added one more 360 before attacking the bottom of the course. Hall’s signature muted style lacked the energy of Eder’s run, and the judges awarded the SKI BOSS with a second-place score of 81.00.
“First comp run on the big mountain scene and I’m stoked,” Hall wrote in an Instagram post. “Def just warming up and battling some knee and ankle issues but still got a run down and some confidence back in the body today. One run format makes things interesting for sure… Stoke for more to come!”
The second-to-last skier on the men’s side, FWT rookie Tom Peiffer of Canada, took a different approach to the top air most of the other riders started with, and hucked a massive 360 off the nose of the cliff and landed clean. His high energy run had a tiny hiccup before the bottom pillow section of the course when he put two hands down, but the judges must have missed it as they gave him a score of 79.67, which would be good enough to end the day in third place.
“After last year’s struggle we finally had a good start in Japan with perfect snow and crazy stacked field of riders,” said Eder after the final rider, American Grifen Moller, crashed on his top air. “I’m super stoked!”
One under-the-radar performance from the FWT19 Hakuba stop was American Berkeley Patterson, who started with a huge straight air and then went right into a flat-360 on the next feature. He put a hand down on the landing, but attacked the rest of the course with high-energy, fluid fall line skiing that was clean throughout. He finished with a score of 67.00, demonstrating the judges desire to see perfect landings on tricks over high-energy skiing, at least for this particular venue.
You can rewatch the entire FWT19 Hakuba stop here. FWT19 continues to the second stop of the season at Kicking Horse, B.C. next month, with a competition weather window from February 2-8, 2019. Keep up-to-date with all of the FWT19 action on SKImag.com’s FWT page, as well as SKI Magazine’s Facebook and Twitter channels, and the FWT Website.