Evolution in action

Progression and change are a constant on the Freeride World Tour. But this year, that was more evident than ever. Due to the effects of climate change and unusually low snowpack, the organizers were forced to run the events on smaller venues, accelerating a shift already happening within the tour, moving away from big mountain towards more freestyle skiing and riding. Faced with this change, the tour community did what they do best––they adapted and improvised and found inspiration in limitations.

There are mixed opinions on tour as to whether the freestyle shift is good or bad. But for 2018 and 2021 tour champion, Kristofer Turdell, he sees this as the natural arch of progress, and one “you can’t stop”. His skiing is a statement on this change––a stunning melody of the two traditions, blending big mountain technical skiing with playful freestyle elements.

How progression moves forward, how the tour and athletes change and adapt––it all requires an improv spirit. It demands an ability to say Yes, and…. Skiers and riders riff off one another and are pushed to develop their own way to navigate the changes.

Freeride wizard Craig Murray has learned to view all the variables as an opportunity. He looks for features he is excited to ski, where he can express himself. Then he takes all the nervous energy and channels it into his focus, giving him the extra boost to try new things and not hold anything back. Craig explains:

“It’s hard to get into those focus states and progression mindsets
without the pressure of the competition.”

For tour veteran Hedvig Wessel, after years of experience and trying different strategies, she has learned that she skis her best when she plans less. The one constant she can trust, is to ski in the moment, attacking each stop as a standalone event and giving it her all every time she drops in.

Last weekend at the Xtreme Verbier finals, progression by way of adaptation was on full display. Kristofer and Craig had stellar runs, combining heavy big mountain lines with freestyle spins and flips. And Hedvig stayed light on her feet to put down a fast line through back-to-back deep drops, earning herself a silver medal for the day and second place on the tour overall (for the third year in a row!).

With so much in flux this year, one thing that stayed the same is the importance of the tour to this close-knit community of die-hard freeride skiers and snowboarders. The way they cheer each other on, inspire one another, and collectively push the tour forward­­––it’s an idea worth celebrating. In a sport built on evolution, this is something we can count on. Always the same, always changing.

Photos: Elias Lundh