Headline image: The Mad River Glen freeski team at Kicking Horse Resort in British Columbia.
Pictured below: One of many scenes from inspection this past week at the IFSA North American Junior Championships. The things I saw these kids do at this competition was mind blowing. The future of freeskiing couldn’t be in better hands.
This article was originally posted on skiessentials.com and was written by Mad River Glen freeski team coach Matt McGinnis.
Hello, and welcome to Top Five Fridays, the April 14, 2023 edition! If you tuned in last week, you might’ve noticed two things: I was referred to as an “esteemed colleague” for the first (and likely last) time in my life, and also, I was missing. As Jeff explained in the video recap, I was drawn away from my desk, along with ski reviewer extraordinaire, Emily Crofton, as we traveled with our athletes from the Mad River Glen Freeski team who were competing in the 2023 IFSA North American Junior Championships (NorAms). As such, it only feels right to start this week with a recap of what went down between April 2 – 9th at Kicking Horse, British Columbia.
To get this highlight underway, let me first establish what exactly the IFSA is, as well as how the NorAms play into the bigger picture of freeskiing. Founded by the legendary Shane McConkey in 1996, the IFSA is the organization that runs and hosts freeride competitions here in North and South America. Working in conjunction with the Freeride World Tour (FWT), the IFSA provides a pathway for athletes to climb the rankings and find themselves on the FWT when the time comes. In other words, IFSA athletes often become the skiers and riders representing America, Canada, and South American countries on the Freeride World Tour.
This past week, at Kicking Horse, the IFSA hosted their 2023 NorAms event – an invite only competition in which athletes are selected based on points they earned from competing throughout the season. In addition to Mad River Glen’s 18(!) invited athletes, skiers and boarders from a plethora of other resorts converged on Kicking Horse to compete amongst the top athletes in their division. Amongst the resorts in attendance were names like Whistler, Palisades Tahoe, Aspen, Aleyska, Altabird – you name it. All the big players were there.
Now, this was my first trip to NorAms, and while I knew the venues would be large, I wasn’t quite ready for the terrain or talent that I encountered. Across the week, there were a total of four venues to accommodate the different age and ability levels, and each one would rank amongst the steepest terrain I’ve ever skied. The finals venue, for example, was in the same bowl as the Freeride World Tour venue. This was serious terrain.
Prior to competing, athletes and coaches would inspect the venue, giving us the chance to identify lines, features, hazards, and landings in order to piece together a full run. During these inspection runs, there were countless moments where I’d be talking to an athlete whose plan sounded wildly ambitious, but as their coach, my job wasn’t necessarily to dissuade them, it was to talk them through it. As a result, myself and everyone else in attendance witnessed some absolutely mind blowing skiing. Big airs, high consequence landings, technical skiing- these athletes did it all. While it’s safe to say that at least a few of the skiers and riders in attendance last week will be on the Freeride World Tour someday, it’s impossible to say who it will be as there were countless athletes who showed clear potential.
On a closing note, while I’m clearly a bit biased, I do want to shout out a handful of Mad River athletes who showed up and showed out at the biggest event of the season, proving that the East Coast can hang with the absolute best on big mountain terrain. On the women’s side of the sport, shout out to Ava Killian for making finals in the 15-18 division, as well as Hazel Harris who qualified in first place thanks to what many coaches called the biggest air they’ve ever seen from a female athlete in competition. If you’ve never seen someone stomp a cliff so hard that their lenses fall out, I recommend checking it out on Instagram. Finally, huge congratulations are in order for Lynsey Nagle, who took home 4th place in finals, and who finished the season in 3rd place overall. From here, Lynsey will almost certainly be invited to Worlds where she’ll compete with the top athletes in her division on a global level.
On the men’s side, I want to congratulate Dylan Karpinski for making the cut to finals and skiing an excellent, technical line in finals, as well as Seamus O’Neill who also made finals in his first year competing. Remember what I was saying earlier about ambitious runs? Well, Seamus was on that list, and he stomped the hell out of it. Finally, credit is also due to Luke Miele, who finished in 7th at NorAms and 3rd overall on the season. Out of any athlete I watched last week, Luke exhibited some of the smoothest, most controlled skiing, making big maneuvers look easy. The way he finessed himself down gnarly terrain was simply jaw dropping. As a result of his efforts, Luke will also almost definitely be invited to Worlds.
With that, I just want to say, congratulations to all of the athletes who were invited, and a huge thank you to the team at the IFSA for making this event happen. Bearing witness to such an event was an amazing experience and has left me feeling confident that the future of freeskiing is in excellent hands.
Pictured here are freeski team members Luke Miele (to the left) and Lynsey Nagle (to the right) who both took home 3rd place finishes in the 2023 overall standings.
The Mad River Glen Freeski Team had the most invited athletes of any program represented at NorAms with 18 in total. It’s an incredible accomplishment to be awarded a invitation to compete on such a prestigious stage but we’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the final results of our boys and girls who competed.
U12 Boys: Casey Wygmans in 21st place with 52.70 points and Ben Killian in 26th place with 45.40 points.
U12 Girls: Annabelle Mahmouzian in 12th place with 52.46 points and Quinn Killian in 13th place 51.20 points.
12-14 Boys: Seamus O’Neill in 17th with 65.36 points, Dylan Karpinski finshed in 20th with 65.06 points, Warren Feldman in 36th with 30.37 points, Bridger Lillard in 38th with 30.20 points, Jack Lacey in 44th with 29.50 points, Zach Haskell in 45th 29.20 points, Wyatt Babic in 46th with 20.43 points and Ryan Lacey unfortunately receiving a DNF after losing his ski in a crash following a massive cliff drop during his qualifying run.
12-14 Girls: Maddie Liberman in 19th with 27.67 points and Tara Nagle in 20th with 27.47 points
15-18 Boys: Luke Miele in 7th with 68.70 points and both Jack Guy and Robbie Burton receiving DNFs after they each had their skis come off in crashes during their respective qualifying runs.
15-18 Girls: Lynsey Nagle in 4th with 62.43 points, Hazel Harris in 9th with 55.30 points, Ava Killian in 11th with 30.00 points, Libby Schiffmann in 14th with 28.97 points and Sophia Bisbee in 16th with 28.50 points.
Just as in previous Eastern Region IFSA regional and national events, full results for both NorAms and the U12 Championships can be found on LiveHeats using the provided links.