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Drew Tabke Lands in Haines, America for the Freeride World Tour
Posted on March 16, 2015

Haines townsite photo: David Carlier

The Freeride World Tour has landed in Haines, Alaska for the fourth stop on this year’s tour and the venue in SEABA Heli’s tenure in the home turf of legendary AK guides such as Reggie Crist and Tom Wayes. The weather and stability-dependent competition will take place this week in steep, spine-riddled terrain and Eddie Bauer skier Drew Tabke and two-time world champ is currently in the mix,  awaiting today’s weather update. We tracked down Tabke between global freeride migrations for his take on AK, the FWT and on a challenging personal season, despite his podium finish in Chamonix. This is what the champ had to say. —LYA Editor

Haines Freeride World Tour venue map

Words by Drew Tabke, Images Courtesy of the Freeride World Tour/David Carlier

So far, three of the five competitions of the Freeride World Tour 2015 calendar have been completed. Next up, the historic event in Haines, Alaska. It’s been a wild year on the FWT, both for the tour at large, as well as for myself personally.

Freeride is a crazy-fickle competitive sport. Ultimately the goals are great snow, sunshine, held on a weekend, with all the riders having sick runs with no injuries, ultimately producing a great show at the host resort plus awesome photo and video content distributed worldwide. Achieving these lofty goals can be incredibly difficult. Snow and weather conditions year to year are massive factors. In 2013, when I won the Freeride World Tour, we had excellent conditions nearly everywhere we went. Last year was super-challenging, with thin snow and high avalanche risk at every stop from Chamonix to Revelstoke. 2015, so far, has been super-tough too. At stop one in Chamonix, we used a smaller face than normal, as all the other, larger venues had insufficient snow cover.

In Austria, we tried two times to run the event in different venues but were held off by thin snow and avalanche danger. (The event was later held and completed in Andorra.) In Vallnord-Arcalis, Andorra, we were unable to use any of the standard competition venues, as several days of 100 km/h winds had destroyed the snow on the higher peaks, leaving us with spring-conditions snow in a small venue. Now we head to Haines, Alaska, a region of the world that is also experiencing one of the warmest, driest years on record. Recently, though, the trend has switched to a snowier pattern, thus upping my hopes for a great event.


FWT Journal 2015 – EP19 – Silvia Moser by FreerideWorldTourTV

To say I’ve been through ups and downs this year would be a massive understatement. I lost one of my best friends, Liz Daley, in an avalanche accident in Argentina last summer. Heading into the winter and the 2015 FWT season, I felt very unsure if I would enjoy traveling or have the focus and drive necessary for the freeride competitions. In the end, I decided to travel and compete again for a few reasons. I’ve competed in freeride for a decade—the community around the sport is comprised of people who I feel extremely close to. Though we only see each other while on the road, these are some of my best friends. Furthermore, Liz had been living in Chamonix with her fiancé (and my dear friend) Davide Demasi for the past several seasons, and it was the place where we shared the majority of our mountain adventures, parties, and time together. Meaning I came to Chamonix as much to soak in the memories and connect with Liz’s and my mutual friends as I did to compete in the FWT.

That first competition in Chamonix was insane. I thought my brain might explode in the 20 minutes before my run. I was on top, contemplating the past years, the path I had taken, the circumstances of my life and that of my community, and the loss of Liz. It was hard to focus my concentration on the task at hand and the run I needed to do, but I sat down and meditated, and thought about the fact that Liz would want me to ski, to have fun, and to do as well as I could. I got my act together, calmed my breathing as I got in the start gate, and dropped in. The run went great, and though I wasn’t very aggressive or “extreme,” the playful line and tricks I incorporated were enough to land me in third place.


FWT Journal 2015 – EP16 – Welcome to Haines… by FreerideWorldTourTV

I spent some more time in Cham, hanging with friends and just marveling at the scenery, feeling more like a tourist than an extreme skier, like I had been in the past. Soon I hitched a ride with my friend and fellow competitor Reine Barkered to Austria, where the second stop of the tour was scheduled at Fieberbrunn. The following week was an organizer’s nightmare. The region had very thin snow until the week of the event, when a massive storm came through. Great, you’re thinking, powder! But no—the avalanche risk was too high on the high peaks, and after completing the ski women’s discipline in a smaller venue, the remaining disciplines were moved to another ski area, Kappl, to try and complete the event. The second rider of the day, Julien Lopez, triggered an avalanche, and though he was fine, the event was called off.

The whole show picked up and moved towards Andorra. In between, I had a few free days and stopped back in Chamonix, where Davide was arriving from the U.S. Most of the Chamonix gang was finally reunited, and we went to the Italian coast, a scant 3.5 hours from Chamonix, to celebrate Liz’s life during a long weekend. Finale Ligure was one of Liz and Davide’s favorite spots for its proximity to Cham, its great limestone climbing, cheap living and mild climate. Over the sunny, beautiful weekend, we surfed, hiked, danced, laughed and cried, before reluctantly returning to Chamonix.

I then joined up with friend and competitor Sam Smoothy for the long drive to Andorra. As I mentioned, Andorra had super-difficult conditions as well. I had a rough competition, crashing on a 360 attempt on my last air. Smoothy, on the other hand, had an incredible run, winning the event by perfectly executing a line no one else even considered possible. Later in the week, we competed again to make up for the postponed competition in Austria. We were blessed with fresh snow during the week, greatly improving conditions for the last event, though conditions were still difficult. There were some big, scary crashes on the tricky venue. I skied quite conservatively but did well enough to land a 6th place finish. After Andorra, most of the American competitors banded together and headed to Barcelona before flying home. We spent a few nice days checking out the city and hanging on the beach, a perfect decompression from a wild month in Europe.

After the first three events of 2015, I am currently in 8th place overall. After we compete in Alaska, our top three (of four total) results will be used to determine an overall ranking, and the top 12 ranked ski men qualify for the world finals in Verbier, Switzerland. Meaning that if I am able to nail another good result, I’ll solidify my spot.

Haines is going to be amazing! Eddie Bauer guides Tom Wayes, Reggie Crist, and Kent McBride all guide in Haines every year because it offers some of the best skiing on the planet. It has long been a dream of mine to participate in a helicopter-accessed freeride competition, and this week (with a little help from the weather) that dream will finally come true. Stay tuned: history is about to go down!

Watch Drew Tabke compete live this week at freerideworldtour.com and check back all week for daily updates on the Live Your Adventure blog and via @eddiebauer on instagram and twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: - Monday, March 16th, 2015
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