This week, the best freeskiers in the world will head to Hakuba, Japan for the first stop of the 2019 Freeride World Tour (FWT19) season. For the first time, SKI Magazine is the official U.S.A. media partner for the FWT, so we thought it might be helpful to give a primer on how to watch the tour this season.

Freeride World Tour: How it Works

For FWT19, there are 20 male skiing competitors and 11 female skiers, and all of the athletes on the Freeride World Tour have earned their spot. They either qualified by working their way up with consistent performances during past FWT seasons, Freeride World Qualifier and Freeride Junior Tour events, and/or by being renown for their proven big mountain abilities. There are a number of Wild Cards that participate each season, most of which are invited for their very proven big mountain abilities.

See Who's Invited: FWT Wild Cards for 2019

At each stop, riders are allowed a visual inspection only. On a pre-determined venue, which is usually quite steep and littered with cliffs, there is no practice run and no on-course inspection. Riders are responsible for picking their lines after visual inspection and guesstimating the size of airs for tricks, etc., sometimes right before take off.

We hope the rotation was just perfect on this one.

We hope the rotation was timed just perfect on this one.

Once a skier drops in from the start gate, they are judged on five variables: Line, fluidity, control, technique, and air/style. The objective difficulty of a skier's line of descent is usually the most important factor. The more exposed, difficult, and steep a line is, the higher all of the other scores will likely be. Fluidity, control, and technique are all tied to each other, as the faster and smoother a skier descends a line, the higher all of these scores will be. 

The final variable, air/style, is certainly a crowd pleaser, and can lead to massive backflips, corked 720s, and, in the case of Italy's Markus Eder during last year's season finale, a nose-butter 360 off an impressively large cliff. Tricks are not mandatory, but they tend to separate those on the podium from everyone else. 

Stay on Topic: Freeride World Tour's 2019 Schedule

Markus Eder's 3rd Place Run Verbier Xtreme FWT2018

The first stop of FWT19 is scheduled to take place this weekend in Hakuba, Japan, with a competition weather window that runs from January 19-26th. You can watch the event teaser as well as highlights from the Freeride World Qualifier 3* event on the FWT website. 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. The event will live stream on FWT's YouTube channel.

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