Words & Photos: Jeff Hawe
It was a sunny blue day after weeks of cloudy weather. Coincidentally it was also the first scheduled day for the King Of The Hill freeride competition on Thompson Pass Valdez, AK. It became a full speed go after the AM riders meeting. Snowmobiles were buzzing up and down the hill shuttling competitors to the venue, and the Tailgate camp was electric with nervous excitement. By noon the first riders were dropping the face of "Bro Bowl", the selected slope for the comp.
Each rider was allowed two runs, and the scores were combined to determine the winner. Snow on the slope was thin, and multiple close encounters with sharp rocks were had resulting in a few bloodied extremities and some close calls. The absence of the uber-pros like Rice and Lago allowed room for some new names to stand out in the comp. Will Brommelsiek and Holly Enderle went home with the King and Queen swords. Standouts included; Ross Baker on his first trip to AK, Mike Basich, Brandon Reid who stepped to a big double stage cliff, and Shinya Nakagawa with a fluid surf style imported from Japan. Ladies standouts included Iris Lazzareschi, Casey Lucas and Hana Beaman taking women's freeriding up a notch.
All said and done this event is like none other. It's held in a completely un-controlled environment, and composed of real heavy snowboarding on the ultimate proving grounds. Organized by snowboarders the vibe was friendly, like a large crew of friends riding together. The competitors fully put themselves out there, competing more against the mountain than each other. Big mountain riding is starting to take the forefront of the sport again, and King Of The Hill is the stage for this.