In high-pressure conditions Wednesday at Crystal Mountain, Stevens Pass local Tim Carlson earned serious respect and recognition by topping a stacked field of big mountain heavyweights to win The North Face Masters and take home the Katana sword. The seasoned Washington rider beat forty-two rulers from marquee big-mountain epicenters such as Jackson, Snowbird, Baker, Tahoe and La Grave with the strongest line of the day on Crystal’s consequential Silver King backcountry venue.
On a finals day marked by unlimited aerial views and coral reef conditions, Carlson’s impressively sketchy, but super smooth, line earned a high score of 86, elevating him above the likes of big-name, big-mountain pros such as Xavier De Le Rue, Lucas Debari, Ross Baker and last year’s series winner Aaron Robinson.
Carlson, who qualified second on Tuesday with a score of 83 at Crystal’s inbounds Northway venue, picked a challenging, original line on The King with two upper airs and a fully committed, billygoat entry into a burly lower chute. Then he rode from start gate to finish area with fast, fluid style.
“It was fun actually, I enjoyed myself and was happy that I took my line and pulled it,” said Carlson. “I’d like to do it with more snow and a little better pow, but all in all it made me happy. I’m stoked.”
Whistler rider and Vancouver-based grad student Jonathan Penfield took second in a solidly supported, rider-focused contest that pitted working-class shreds against some of the most respected pros in the business.
The second stop of this season’s TNF Masters tour, which was produced Mountain Sports International and hosted by Washington’s largest ski area, was the first TNF Masters event to attract marquee riders from Europe’s Freeride World Tour. Five FWT riders traveled from as far away as Austria, Chamonix and La Grave to compete at Crystal, stepping up the pressure on participants.
The one-run finals took place in idyllic bluebird weather at a backcountry venue backdropped by panoramic Cascadian views Mt. Rainer, Mt. Adams and Glacier Peak.
Snow conditions, however, were a less than ideal with five inches of fresh windblown dust barely concealing coral reef on the exposed, rocky venue. Each line was judged for flow, speed, air, style and exposure by big mountain icons Tom Burt, Temple Cummins, Julie Zell and Andy Hetzel.
Xavier De Le Rue placed sixth with a fast, fluid, freeride line and Austrian Flo Orley nabbed fifth, while homegrown Lib Tech riders Blair Habernicht and Forrest Burki took fourth and third respectively with clean runs and creative line choices. Habernicht picked the most local line of the competition smoothly snaking into a hairball cliff chute few knew existed but Burki received the unofficial nonconformist award from the spectators by straight-running an icy chute direct to the finish area in nineteen seconds flat.
“One I got up there I knew I had to do it. The decision was pretty simple, it was just stepping up to it,” Burki said. “It was definitely the fastest I’ve gone. It was fast. I don’t know if I would have done it in a non-contest situation. At the top it was all ice, but it was just like bombing a hill on a skateboard.”
On the women’s side Squaw Valley’s Iris lazzareschi took first with a score of 84. Snowbird’s Laura Hadar took second with what she classified as a ‘fun line’ and Kirkwood’s Casey Lucas earned the final spot on the women’s podium.
“I was just trying to have some fun because the conditions were not that awesome. So that immediately ruled out all the technical lines for me,” said Hadar. “It’s smart to pick a line where you can look like you’re actually having fun because nobody wants to watch someone just hairball around even if they are doing super technical stuff.”
For the second consecutive year, The North Face, Mountain Sports International and Crystal Mountain pulled off a stellar rider-focused event in extremely challenging conditions. And, besides the copious amount of product provided by event sponsor Sierra Nevada, the event was notable for the chill, supportive vibe that felt more like a friendly local’s session than a televised extravaganza.
“That’s the great thing about this contest anybody can come out, like Tim Carlson, he’s a guy who has been riding hard and pushing it for a number of years and it showed,” Burki summarized.
“That’s the beauty of these contests, with the FWT its really exclusive, you can’t just have a local guy come in and win it. Here, everybody’s got a chance and it’s bringing people out of the woodwork who wouldn’t normally ride in contests.”