For the first time in over 15 years, racers charged down the iconic Saudan Couloir on Saturday, April 14.
Taking a course that saw them zigzag down the face of the couloir, onto Blowdown, and into Jersey Cream, participants ended the race near the entrance of the Jersey Cream Express.
Finishing the race at an impressive two minutes, 16.36 seconds (2:16.36), Whistler product Stan Rey took home top spot in the men's pro division. The runner-up, Jordy Norris, was 0.96 seconds back and third place went to Hayden Sidey-Phillips, who was just over five seconds off the pace.
"I've never raced it. I always wanted to when I was a kid, but I never had a chance to. And now that it's back, I was stoked to be able to be a part of it," said Rey, who raced on a brand-new pair of 193 giant slalom skis.
As the 18th racer down the course, by the time Rey dropped in, the berms were already massive.
A freeskier with a racing pedigree, Rey drew on his ski-cross background to rally through them.
"You kind of had to come up the berm and dive into the turn and ride it like a luge track until you got on the groomed stuff," said Rey.
The legendary race saw its fair share of carnage, with many going down at the top.
A few of the pro men, however, tumbled near the bottom, as they tried shave seconds off their times.
Robbie Dixon, a recently retired World Cup competitor who was a favourite in the competition, blew out within sight of the finish line.
"I guess I still got the heat—but my legs and my belly can't keep up apparently," he said, drawing a big laugh.
"I have to go back the gym, less Kokanees!"
On the women's side, Marie-Pier Préfontaine took top spot in the pro category, finishing the course in 2:24.46, ahead of second-place finisher Brynne Benbow, who finished in 2:37.09. Jane Emerick, meanwhile, took third.
"It was really fun. It's a fun event and people are super stoked," said Préfontaine.
Having spent 10 years on the national ski team, Préfontaine said that once racers got through the top—the "sketch" part—the course was a lot like a giant slalom race.
"It's really similar. Onto the flats and towards the end, it's pretty much the same thing," she said.
Featuring over 150 participants and a wide range of ages, the race was declared a great success, with many first-timers saying it was something they'd always dreamed of crossing off their bucket list.
Legendary Swiss* extreme skier Sylvain Saudan—the namesake of the race and run—was on hand for the event, greeting early racers atop the couloir personally.
"The ambience is great," he said. "We got lucky because the snow is very good."
On a personal level, Saudan said he was touched by the reception he's received.
"It's been great to be here. People are incredibly nice and open. This is great day in my life."
Full results are available at www.wssf.com.
Stay tuned for more in the upcoming issue of Pique.
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Sylvain Saudan is French. He is originally from Switzerland, and now resides in Chamonix, France.