By David MacKinnon, photos by Jeremy Bernard

The Kicking Horse stop of the Freeride World Tour started off with a bang. Austria’s Manuela Mandl, the first rider on the course, kicked off the women’s snowboard division with a massive air mid-run. Under sunny skies, she showed the field what they needed to know. Snow’s good– do anything.

Sammy Luebke

Though Manuela won in Golden last year, at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort’s inaugural Freeride World Tour event, trouble with the landing of her showcase air meant settling for third. Control is one of five elements the judges score, along with line, fluidity, air & style, and technique. Marion Haerty scored well in all categories and took the win. With her third last month at the tour’s Hakuba stop, this gives her the lead in overall tour rank. Wakana Hama took second, landing a solid 20-foot air in the main guts of the face.

Victor De La Rue won the men’s snowboard category. A wild card on the tour this year, Victor had something to prove after a seventh place finish in Hakuba. He started his run high on the ridge, trending slightly off fall line to take a committing air early on. He continued with a cross-court three, and worked his way quickly to a clean 20-foot air near the bottom of the face. Sammy Luebke took second, flowing a three off the cornice into a double line from the high point of a spine. Blake Hamm had a similar if less technical line, a half-cab off the cornice into a double stager. He finished with a traverse to another air and took third.

Victor De La Rue

Canadian Nicole Kelly had trouble with her run and ended up in fifth. This is her debut season on the tour, after qualifying through the Freeride World Qualifier circuit last winter. “The Freeride World Tour family has been so welcoming, they’re keeping my confidence up and teaching me so much,” said the Golden local. An air of family was certainly present at the finish gate, with riders relaxed and happy in each other’s company. Though they embrace the competitive spirit of the tour, the riders share a desire to see their friends excel and their sport progress.

Wakana Hama, Marion Haerty, Manuela Mandl

Click here for full results and replays from Golden. The Freeride World Tour’s next stop is in Fieberbrunn, Austria. The face is conducive to freestyle riding, with rolls and lips throughout its lower section. The competition window begins February 22nd– stay tuned to SBC and the FWT to see it unfold.