Athletes fiddled with the cuffs of their jackets and double checked zippers, their nerves were starting to show standing atop the face of Ozone. I spent a week in Golden BC leading up to competition day and had the opportunity to get to know a handful of these brave and talented skiers – no matter how calm the individual’s regular demeanor you could see the focus and jitters surface here. Words of encouragement were chanted before each athlete dropped from fellow competitors and cheers roared from the crowd below as they calculated their way down the technical face for a score. Spectator spirits were high, athletes adrenaline was contagious and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort felt alive.
MAKING THE FWT A CANADIAN REALITY, AGAIN.
This was what we had all been waiting for. This moment.
The moment when skiers and riders painted the mountain. The moment when the media crews were frothing over every click of the shutter or pan of the camera. The moment when the directors, planners, and managers could breathe because the event was flowing flawlessly. This was the moment when everyone’s preparation came to life in a single day. Unified by the success, the energy was high and happy.
Clearer than the bluebird sky hanging above our heads was the fact that it took a team, a community, a mountain and undoubtedly a crew of talented human beings to make this happen. This concept is worth celebrating, just as much as a podium.
IT TAKES A COMMUNITY
I think it’s fair to say that the residences of Golden BC are a force of nature. Big-hearted and strong, the community of Golden made hosting the Freeride World Tour look effortless.
Easily one of the biggest go-getters in Golden is Andy Brown. He is the Communications & Social Media Coordinator for Tourism Golden and is responsible for engaging with media and raising the profile of Golden in multiple media channels and influential press to tell the stories of Golden and surrounding area that will resonate with a larger audience. He also works with Social Media personalities and event organizers to help promote the wonders of Golden, BC to the masses. A world traveler and southern Ontario transplant, Andy moved to the mountains to ski, where he has quickly acquainted himself with the plethora of other mountain inspired sports.
As far as the FWT goes, Andy helped finalize the agreement with the Freeride World Tour in conjunction with Kicking Horse Mountain Resort including allocating accurate funding. Liaising with local businesses was also in Andy’s court. “We had local businesses become official partners (Whitetooth Brewing, Prestige Inn, Whitetooth Catering), they provided services in exchange for advertising, other businesses participated by providing discounts for staff and athletes, we set up school visits with athletes and the event village in Spirit Square that happened on the Saturday and Sunday.”
“Tourism Golden also worked on the marketing campaign for the event (print ads, digital ads, and other marketing collateral), we worked with the FWT to target media and bring them to the event and did all of the accommodation / hosting set up and of course the hosting, found and paid for the office space, created a hi-speed internet connection for them that now works as a Tourism Golden supported hot spot for visitors at the Civic Centre, organized the welcome reception, made the connections with local partners.”
While he refers to Tourism Golden doing all of these tasks its evident by how versed and passionate Andy is that most of that list was his personal “to-do.” The biggest task on his plate from my perspective was coordinating all of the athletes and media which he did with grace. From detailed itineraries to setting up shoots and coordinating interviews or showing someone a secret stash on the mountain to photograph, Andy made everything feel effortless.
A LOVE STORY: GOLDEN BC AND THE FREERIDE WORLD TOUR
The courtship likely began when Wrangle the Chute was turned into a 4-star FWQ event but the timeline is a bit murky. After a few visits from the FWT crew things finally got serious and a proposal was made – it has been two years and the relationship is solid. Let’s be honest, without Kicking Horse Mountain and the community’s support it wouldn’t have made it past the idea phase. Andy explains, “For a town of 3,700 people to host a major international event we need everyone to be onboard. It doesn’t only take the community’s support but it also takes all of the partners working together towards a common goal. Definitely a shout out to KHMR for partnering without outside of just the event venue. Magi Scallion for engaging the larger community and organizing the event village in Spirit square and the athlete visits to the local schools. The Freeride World Tour for bringing this international event to Golden and Destination British Columbia for their contributions to making this event possible. ”
ON MOUNTAIN PREPARATION
Logistically locked and loaded in town and officially on the calendar, it means it is time for Mike Rubenstein to take the reigns. Starting at KHMR 19 years ago as a senior ski patroller Mike has since done avalanche forecasting, been the safety manager and is currently General Manager of the Mountain. Prior to the grand “okay” for KHMR to host, Mike needed to sign off on concept and location, but once the paperwork was signed the task didn’t leave his mind. Preparing and maintaining the face of Ozone is no easy job. His background in safety provided a strong foundation for how Freeski events were executed. Spearheading the safety for the first ever Wrangle the Chute to present day, Mike has progressed his own skills, his team’s skills and has a solid understanding of what is needed both from the snowpack and terrain to greenlight these events. Over the course of the season, he’s been implementing plans to help tame Ozone prior to the event. This season Mike’s team of 40 patrollers, 19 of which are on the mountain daily, current forecaster and dispatch handle the mountains daily needs from rescue to snow safety and the maintenance needed for the appearance of the FWT. A large concern was a spooky lingering layer form the early season that was causing big avalanche results in nearby places. Utilizing ski cuts, heli bombs, and hand charges the team was able to properly shed the bad layer and rebuild a more trustworthy snowpack for the competition to proceed with confidence.
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Mike explains that “Ozone meets the requirements of 300m vertical while being extremely aesthetic. It’s filled with features and technical characteristics.” With safety being his number one concern for the competitors and his team he felt confident that Ozone would be good to go for the competition as the timeline drew closer. Bringing on an extra forecaster to help align the perfect weather window for stability and visibility for the broadcast is a delicate sport in the mountains but undoubtedly they nailed it. Watch the live stream from the event here.
THE FUEL STOKERS
Hype men and women, these humans made a significant difference during the FWT. Whether they donated their time, skills or stoke they sincerely added to the magic that makes up FWT. You may or may not have heard their names before, either way, this is our personal high-five to these shredful souls.
Drew Wittstock: Here’s what you need to know about Drew: he’s hilarious, he skis beautifully, he coaches freeskiing in the Rockies, and his Instagram captions will make you laugh out loud. Drew needs a digital high five because he foreran the course for the athletes and emceed the event on location, but he also shares his love of KHMR all winter long. He’s the frothy guy skiing big lines and giving you the most fomo – he’s the reason freeskiers pursue this place. Also his hair it’s great. On that note cheers to hair, hucking and humor – I mean Drew.
Audree Duclos Pare: What didn’t Audree do is the real question. She managed the Public Relations for the event, set up a Calgary media tour, secured event media and hosting to name just a few things. I think that anyone on the organizational side of the event would agree that the event wouldn’t have happened without her. What makes Audree so special is that she is delightfully sincere and kind-hearted in all of her conversations and planning. She is meticulous, never misses a beat and is graciously accommodating to all. Bless this lady, she’s a gem!
Tyson Newell: Your on mountain man – Tyson works for KHMR and was the guy sharing it with you from behind the keyboard. Never skipping a beat Tyson made the world feel like they were right on the mountain all week long. To be real with you, he did a lot in the pre and post event world that is far too long for you to read but just know that you know about the FWT and Kicking Horse because of his cat-like reflexes, engaging posts and time clocked behind the computer.
Cole Barbieri: From snowboarding down the mountain with liters of coffee and event tables Cole is the KHMR events guy that doesn’t think any job is below him. While keeping his focus big picture, Cole executed all the little and not so little things all week long. This guy needs a high five and a week of sleep. Hope you’re recovered Cole!
Derek Foose: Where to begin. Honestly, you should probably just read this article about Decoding Derek Foose if you want to learn about this influential man, but the reason he’s slotted here is because he crushed the live broadcast for the FWT. He also beamed energy into everyone around him whether on the mountain or in town in the days leading up to and chasing the main event – Foose is the man.
Rachel Croft: Recognize this FWT athlete name? Why she’s on our stoke list is easy. This girl is not quite her regular shredding self this season after a recent knee surgery but it hasn’t stopped her from keeping the spirit alive. Chasing the events and cheering on her FWT family Rachel is a ball of sunshine with a dose of party and mischief. She keeps things fun, thanks for sharing your sunshine even on weather days Rachel!
Kent Donaldson: He’s not one to ask for attention but he deserves a round of applause! Not only did he share his sacred brewing space with the FWT for meetups at Whitetooth Brewing (Kent’s brewery) but for stoking the event on a community level. Celebrating Nicole Kelly a Golden-based FWT competitor, Kent brewed a custom beer in collaboration with White Frontier showcasing Nicole as the graphic and named it the Drop In Brut IPA. It’s people like Kent that make the FWT feel flawlessly integrated into the community and also to share the community back with the FWT. We can’t say Whitetooth Brewing and not mention Kent’s angelic shredder daughter Brenna Donaldson. It’s a family affair and Brenna brings just as much community stoke and love to the town whether she’s pouring drinks at the brewery or slashing big bold lines into KHMR.
WHEN IT ALL COMES TOGETHER
The right humans, the right place, the right time. It’s no easy task to make an FWT happen and as a Canadian publication, we’re delighted that Tourism Golden and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort made a stop in the homeland possible. Keep up to date on the tour stops by checking out the schedule here, or follow the FWT on Instagram or Facebook for constant updates. Congrats to all of those that made the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort FWT stop in Golden BC happen, cheers!