After six months of nonstop training, Rebecca Gerber headed to Crystal Mountain to compete in her very first Freeride World Qualifier competition. Here, she describes the comp, the conditions, and her unwelcome insomnia. Find out whether or not she made the cut.
The butterflies in my stomach were boiling. There I was, standing in the starting gate on Northway, the Day 1 venue for the Crystal Mountain Freeride World Qualifier last Tuesday, and it was “go” time.
“Rebecca Gerber,” yelled the starting official into his walkie talkie, “Three, Two, One … Dropping.”
“Bec,” I whispered. “You love skiing. Just ski.”
I followed the exact line I’d planned to ski after Monday’s inspection. Fall line, through a narrow chute, and off a small air, barely even five feet. My goal: cross the finish line on two feet.
I felt great going into it, but hit a patch of ice halfway into the chute and hip checked the slope.
No time now to be angry or feel sorry for myself. I popped up and got back to it. Hit the air I planned. Stomped it. Survived the bumps through the remaining apron of the run and crossed the finish line on two feet.
One thing ties all the competitors together at the comps. We love skiing. Sure, we all hope to become sponsored athletes and make it to the world tour, but when it comes down to it, everyone is there because we all share the same love. Freeride comps push our skiing and make us face and overcome the fear of defeat or the potential danger that the competition involves.
When I crossed the finish line on Day 1, I was greeted with old friends, new friends, and complete strangers. Everyone was hugging me and congratulating me on my first competition run. I have never felt so supported in my life.
Looking back at her line with fellow competitor Morgan McGlashon.
Half the competitors fell the first day—including several favorites going in. Conditions were rough: firm hardpack for the majority of the run and a lower section filled with chunder and choppy snow that could trip up even the greatest skiers. And it did.
I wasn’t confident I’d made the cut for Day 2. When the Day 1 results were finally announced at 5 p.m., I was the last one to make the cut for the women. I would be skiing in the finals.
Being the last to make the cut meant I was the first to ski on Day 2.
The second venue was completely different than the first. Silver King was three times the length of Northway, had no lift access, and had a 45-minute side-step/hike in the FREEZING wind up to the summit and starting gate. This venue had more exposure, more features, and a heck of a lot more opportunity to get lost. I should have been even more nervous for the finals, but I was so excited. Silver King looked amazing!
Tuesday night before the finals I didn’t speak more than 20 words to the other competitors I was bunking with. In fact I think they thought I was a mute. I was too nervous. I stayed in bed studying the photos I’d taken of the next day’s venue, looking for my line—not something I’ve done before.
I finally settled on a conservative line I felt confident I could ski, with the option of a big air and limited potential for broken bones. It was my first comp. I wanted to cross the finish line. I wanted a second opportunity to compete. For that, you need points. For points, you need to finish on both skis.
I tossed and turned in bed for three hours before nodding off. I kept thinking about my line and trying to imagine every turn. I finally fell asleep at midnight, but I woke up at 3 a.m., again at 4 a.m., again at 5 a.m., 6 … and then at 7 it was time to wake up and get my ass in gear.
Wednesday morning. It was freezing. The wet kind of cold that puts ice on your eyelashes. High winds on Silver King delayed the start. Once we got word the comp was on I had about an hour and a half to hike to the summit, have one inspection run, and get myself back to the starting gate for my run. I booked it up to the summit, where I stood above what I hoped was my line. A few other competitors were nearby, and I compared photos and determined that I was in the right location. I was nervous just to drop in on an inspection run. I couldn’t even see past my first five turns. Shit. My nerves were back.
What I expected to be powder was hard pack. I took a slight slip, and then proceeded down the face making slow inspection turns. I made my way down, checking out potential airs and chutes to hit. At the bottom I had 45 minutes to get back to the summit or else I’d miss my start. I made my way up the two-person lift, across the icy traverse, and up the boot pack.
This time in the starting gate I was ready to get on with it. My feet were numb, I had to pee, and I was alternately swinging my arms and legs to the beat of Rhianna blasting in my headphones to drive warm blood down to my near frostbitten digits. Finally, after the fore-runners took off, it was “go” time again. Hearing the cheers of the few other competitors waiting with me, I took off toward my line and dropped in. It happened so fast I had no time to freak out. The first couple turns worked out my nerves, and my mind felt at ease while my body filled with excitement.
This is something I love. I had the first run on an almost untouched mountain face. I have first tracks and powder turns down low. Awesome. I skied up to the feature I planned to air, but it had been scraped off during inspection. Not wanting to risk it, I skied past and my run turned into a smooth, long ski in fresh snow. I was skiing faster and more fluidly than I think I ever have.
Near the bottom my left ski punched through. I put a hand down. Whoops. Just like Day 1, I popped back up, kept skiing, and crossed the finish line. I was one happy competitor.
Finish line support from fellow competitors Monica Purington and Morgan McGlashon.