The Northface Masters: Big Lines in Little Cottonwood

photos courtesy of MSI

For the second consecutive season, the North Face Masters Contest Series kicked off at Snowbird Resort. This year's event, which took place between Jan. 29 and Feb. 1, saw a few improvements over the previous, most noticeably the change of mountain location and more big name riders. In all, about one hundred competitors hiked out towards North Baldy in search of the sketchiest terrain to earn themselves a piece of the 50k purse. The event kicked off bright and early Friday morning as the field was narrowed down to the top twelve women and thirty-five men. On Saturday, the remaining riders were given one run for their chance to make it into the super final. Being lazy by nature, I showed up to the hike zone just in time to see the last two riders of the semi-final take their runs.

When up top, the conditions looked poor at best, which was surprising because a large storm had just passed through the area four days before. You would think with this kind of competition, the powers that be would keep the area closed to preserve some of the snow. This didn’t stop many riders from hucking themselves off, over and on to every cliff, rock, tree and powder pocket they could find. After navigating my way down the course, I perched up below the last cliff line in order to observe the finals. For the next two hours, the remaining six women and sixteen men battled it out for the win. If you want to see what happened in the finals you can look it up on Internet, but here are some of the highlights I saw. All the women charged it and dropped some decent cliffs. It’s pretty cool to see the ladies stepping it up every year. A few local riders killed their runs, including Tyler Anderson’s huge back three. Travis Rice showed up and spun off of one of the biggest cliffs (he fell), as some photo guy behind me screamed and giggled over a “smart run!”

In the end, the “smart run” took him the top spot for the men. I was a little disappointed to see that freestyle tricks weren’t scored as high as “billy-goating”(yeah if I hear that term again I’m going to punch someone if the face, glasses and all). Then I remembered it’s a big mountain competition and not slopestyle, so the ability to get yourself into and out of dangerous shit is respectable (but it’s a lot more fun to watch riders do tricks in those spots).

1st Matt Annets
2nd Ralph Backstrom
3rd Rob Kingwell

1st Shannon Yates
2nd Michele Locke