We take a look ahead at this year’s Freeride World Tour kicking off in Hakuba, Japan. It’s easy to see why the World Freeride Tour is taking place in Japan this year. The deep, tree lined powder fields of Hakuba have drawn skiiers and snowboarders to this land for decades.
Meanwhile the country has hosted the Winter Olympic Games not once, but twice; once in 1972, and then again in 1998. Out of the 5.3 million mountain users in Japan, the FWT discovered that only 5% of them actually ride off-piste, making the decision to run this years tour in Hakuba effortless.
Why Opening At Hakuba is A Big Deal
Only three years ago, there were no freeride events held in Japan at all. However, thanks to this years tour, there’ll now be nine events in total, and conditions are lining up nicely. Late last year news broke that Travis Rice is back to compete under a wild card entry.
Rice carries considerable clout in the world of backcountry riding and back in 2017 took first place with a line that took in a huge backside seven-twenty as well as a hefty frontside three-sixty, all in near flat-light conditions.
But the FWT is about more than impressive aerials and the judging criteria is what sets these events apart. Each run is judged on the following five categories: Difficulty of line, Control, Fluidity, Jumps, and Technique.
Where The Tour Goes From Here
Stop one takes place between the 19thand 26thJanuary in Hakuba, but moving into February, we see the tour landing in Kicking Horse between the 2ndand 8thof February, then Fieberbrunn, Austria on 22nd-28thFebruary.
Ordino Arcalis in Andora will stage the fourth stop of the tour in early March, with the final stop of this years FWT landing in Switzerland in the form of the legendary Xtreme Verbier.
On skis, the Italian Ariana Tricomi is the 26 year old female to keep your eyes on who had an incredible year on the tour last year winning most of her events as well as the tour.
Meanwhile in the snowboard category Sammy Leubke is the defending men’s champion with a strong Austrian contingency in his rear view mirror by way of Gigi Rüf and Thomas Feurstein. Add to that the fact that Travis Rice is back on the scene, and this year’s tour will be an interesting one to watch unfold.
With an insatiable thirst for travel, Nick Baines is a journalist based on the UK’s south coast. With more than 20 years experience in snow sports, he’s contributed features to publications all over the world.