First of all, for the first time in the last five years, none of the World Tour title holders were from Whistler.
Stranger still, Les Arcs in France, one of the top extreme skiing venues in the world, didn’t have enough snow after a wind storm to host the World Tour Finals at the end of February.
As a result the World Tour event was moved to Kirkwood, California, to be run alongside the North American Freeskiing Tour Finals, and was held almost five weeks later than originally planned. Some of the athletes couldn’t make it on the revised date, including some of the top contenders.
Still, the show must go on.
Whistler’s Shane Carmichael was third in the qualifier, which was good enough to advance into day one of the competition. Whistler’s Victoria Cole managed to finish first in the women’s qualifier and advance.
In the first real day of competition, on April 2, the conditions were a mix of hard-pack and ice. As usual, none of the skiers seemed to noticed and proceeded to drop cliffs, ski exposed chutes, and mix terrain park tricks into their runs.
Brady Smedrud of the U.S. won the first day with a run that included a fast ski into a double-drop, followed by a jump to an uphill landing. He earned 37 points for his efforts.
Second place went to Aurelien Ducroz of Chamonix, France who started his run with a 360, skied a narrow chute, and finished with a front flip off a wind lip.
From Whistler, James Heim was third, Mike Stevenson 15 th , Brett Crabtree and Shane Carmichael tied for 23 rd , and Dana Flahr was 27 th . Panorama’s Ian McIntosh was seventh.
Lilly Bittner and Kelly Holland of Snowbird, Utah were the top women, followed by Lynn Kennen of Tahoe City. Victoria Cole made the top-12 cutoff in 11 th place, while Holly Walker just missed in 14 th position.
Day two was even wilder with The Cirque area finally opening to the public.
The best run of the day went to Shane Carmichael, the first skier to cleanly drop the centre chute and cleanly land the air at the bottom. His score of 35 for the run moved him from 23 rd into eighth place.
Another Whistler skier, Mike Stevenson, was impressive in winning the Sickbird Award for his backflip off a 30-foot cliff with a 40-foot drop. He ran into trouble near the bottom of the course which brought his score down.
Aurelien Ducroz matched Carmichael’s score, moving him into first place after two days of competition. Ian McIntosh also jumped into second overall with another solid run down the centre chute. Smedsrund couldn’t hold onto his day one lead, but did well enough to land on the podium in third.
Libby Bittner and Kelly Holland held onto their leads in the women’s competition and Lynn Kennen of Alpine Meadows, California moved into third.
Whistler’s Victoria Cole moved up one spot into 10 th overall.
With a fifth place finish, Manu Gaidet of France held onto his lead in the overall standings and was crowned the 2004 Tour champion.
The overall tour standings will be released this week at www.freeskiers.org.