Angelica Sykes on what it means to be a competitive freerider
Recently I read on the Ski Club GB blog a post on “Big competitions to keep an eye on this summer”.
It touched on the Freeride World Tour by Swatch and The North Face, and made reference to some awesome British riders that are competing in these competitions, They’re really a great opportunity to showcase British talent, but are often shadowed by the big annual freestyle competitions that are ever-so popular in the mass media.
Regardless, and no matter what the sport, you always feel proud to brandish the GBR letters next to your name in the Qualifying Series, and freeriding will continue to grow as more snowsports athletes become passionate about big mountain riding.
Freeriding is a style of snowboarding, performed on natural, un-groomed, terrain, without a set course, goals or rules. It evolved throughout the sport’s formative early years as a contrary response to the highly regimented style of competitive snowsports – Wikipedia.
Competitive freeriding encompasses so much more than just turning up and competition, it’s about the thrill of the ride. And this ride cannot come without the training, avalanche and mountain awareness, the tiresome hikes, yet totally rewarding descents. It’s each and all of these elements that make the sport what it is today, and make it appealing whether you’re a recognized athlete or not.
I’ve always felt this way and have always loved the mountains and nature. I started doing winter seasons as a ski guide with a very well known and loved British tour operator. I remember on the first day off on that fateful winter nearly 6 years ago now, I tried snowboarding for the first time. And I hated it.
Why would anyone want to reduce their mobility to one fairly flimsy piece of equipment? I was and still am, very stubborn – but wanting to naturally impress one very handsome Italian instructor I persevered, and now am in love with the sport. A lot has changed since then, and I now focus my efforts on training and the up and coming winters.
My first real experiences with Freeride took me from Pila in the Valle D’Aosta that very first season to my new home of Cervinia. With the Matterhorn as a back drop and the Cervinia-Zermatt ski area as my play ground, I began to experience; the thrill, the freedom and the euphoria of backcountry riding.
To anyone who wants to try backcountry for the first time, even before you consider progressing, you must invest in the minimum of a: Transceiver, shovel and probe. This is exactly what I did, then armed with books and a lucky friendship with local guide, I began to understand how to read and navigate the mountains. I also rely on my friends being equally prepared, so that we can happily trust each other with our lives. This is also integral to freeriding, and within the sport I’ve made friends for life.
When I ride backcountry with my favourite riding buddies, I still look to them for guidance and support. That is another point so integral to Freeride; the friendships you develop here are ones that last, you trust your life to your friends and you happily take responsibility of theirs too.
Last winter was crazy with a full competition schedule, from Verbier to Morgins, from Chamonix to St Foy; every stop on the Qualifier Tour was an experience I will treasure. One I was lucky to share with some amazing British riders. These guys, like myself had just been tearing up the backcountry in these famed resorts for the powder and have decided to take a crack at this increasingly popular competition series. They inspired me to continue and aspire to be as good as (dare I say it), the Scandinavians.
Angelica’s Freeride World Qualifier Bio: http://freerideworldqualifier.com/riders/angelica-sykes-0
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/angelicasykesuk
Angelica will keep us informed of her progress over the 2015 – 2016 season, and provide you with updates on The Freeride World Qualifier Series and Tour, right here on the blog.