The most important event for enthusiastic backcountry skiers, snowboarders, and snow sport lovers is easily the Tailgate Alaska World Freeride competition. Officially, this was the third year for the World Freeride Competition at the legendary Tailgate Alaska Festival, although backcountry enthusiasts have been swarming to this region of Valdez for decades. 2012 was also a record setting snow year in Valdez, which made for an extraordinary festival and one of the most exciting World Freeride Competitions to date. The best of the best in backcountry snowboarding showed up for a chance at the glory (and a $10,000 first place prize), and they did not disappoint.
The World Freeride Competition is the Tailgate Alaska Festival's Grand Finale, and consists of two days of documentary-worthy powder runs that are then scored by other Festival riders. By the time the Festival was over and it was time to judge the 2012 World Freeride Competition, the steep mountains of Valdez, Alaska had seen more than six hundred and fifty inches of powder. The contest is basically open to any experienced rider who wants to enter (some requirements must be met), but you'll be up against pros like Sammy Luebke, Rob Kingwill, and Mike Basich and experienced mountain riders. This year first place went to Brandon Reid, who put down an impressive run during last year's World Freeride Competition on "Bro Bowl" slope. Also referred to as King of the Hill, the Freeride Competition is one of the most exciting events in snowboarding to watch, as those who grow tired of riding half pipes and lifts venture out to the backcountry. Past Freeride Competition champions have included Travis Rice, Will Brommelsiek, Vera Janssen, and Holly Enderle. This year, Reid's winning run was incredibly fast and smooth, as he rode one of the steepest lines in the competition.
The competition has several classes; men's skis, women's skis, men's snowboard, and women's snowboard and every run, especially first, second, and third in each class is worthy of a snowboarding video. Last year, Dan Vandermuelen who took first place in the men's skis class, seemed to get caught in some impassible rocks in the middle of his high speed run until he went down an almost vertical drop with thick snow following him down. You can see it, along with Ross Baker's epic run with two incredible drops, and the rest of last year's Freeride Competition: here. Videos from this year's competition are few and far between right now, but clips are floating around and there certainly will be more to come.
The Festival's closing Freeride Competition is just a small part of what draws skiers and snowboarders to Valdez in late every year, and Tailgate Alaska should be on any serious rider's to-do list. With heli-skiing, snowmobiles, snow safety courses, and twelve days of tailgating, camping, and good company, it is like a snow lover's Woodstock. This year was also the inaugural Tailgate BC in Britich Columbia. Like its Alaska counterpart, Tailgate BC is meant to be like no other snowboarding or skiing event in North America. Tailgate BC comes a month before Valdez so you can experience both, but capacity is much smaller for this new festival. It includes resort access, unlike Valdez which is all backcountry with only helicopters, snowmobiles, and thick legs. Read more about the Tailgate Festival and be sure to plan to be there in 2013!
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