FREERIDE WORLD TOUR HAKUBA PREVIEW
Snow is stacking up by the metre in the world’s powder mecca and the first stop of the 2020 Freeride World Tour...
Skiers and snowboarders looking to enter one of the most storied pain caves in racing, take your marks. 2,500 vertical feet of thigh-burning hell await this April as the Saudan Couloir Race Extreme presented by Kokanee returns.
It’s been billed as the steepest ski race in the world – a race
lovingly described as one that will “tighten your sphincter.” Racers
tackle 41 gates over 3300 meters from the top of the Saudan Couloir to
the bottom of Jersey Cream, at times at a 42 degree angle. It’s a true
test of fitness, skill, fortitude, and valor on snow.
The race will once again take place during Whistler’s World Ski & Snowboard Festival
(WSSF), and is set for Saturday, April 13 (with a possibility of
running Friday, April 12 as course setters look for the best conditions
Race details and registration can be found here: https://bit.ly/2Me6A3w
The Legend Continues
The Couloir race returned to WSSF in 2018 after a 16-year hiatus (last run in 2001). Olympians, racers, icons, and amateurs all lined the entrance of the double-black Saudan Couloir on Blackcomb Mountain, dubbed one of the “9 Most Terrifying Ski Slopes in the World.” Whistler local Stan Rey and two-time Olympian Marie-Pier Préfontaine charged their way to the top step of the Pro podium, ushering the race into a new era.
First to drop their name in the hat for 2019? Freestyle skier and Whistler local Simon d’Artois. Gauntlet, thrown.
If this is any indication, the competition to get a spot at the start gate is likely to be as tight as the racing.
“In the past people would physically line up before daylight to register in person and secure a spot in this race,” says Darren Kinnaird, Festival Director of WSSF. “It sold out really quickly when we brought it back in 2018, and the race absolutely went off. The feedback I heard at the after-party was: you’re going to have to fight to get in for 2019. It was that good. I think it’s a sign of what this race means to people – it’s history, sport, challenge, and community, all in one. Plus, we’re taking things one further this year, adding some categories we’re really excited about. It’s going to be one heck of a race.”
New Titles On the Line
Snowboarders will be joining the winner’s circle in 2019. Separate
categories will be added, including Pro and Amateur Men’s and Women’s
While the race began in 1987, a snowboard category wasn’t added until 1993.
Phil Stiel took home the first hardware in the Pro Snowboard
category. Later, OIympians Ross Rebagliati (1994) and Darren Chalmers
(1995-1998 and 2000), among others, would add their names to the trophy.
“My favourite year, they had a time trap,” reminisces Chalmers. “Rob
Boyd was in it too. He was clocked at 117 [km/h] and I was at 109 on a
He says in the mid-90’s, to have the opportunity to line up at the storied start gate was big.
“For all of us who were racing, we were super excited. Racing down
the Saudan was the craziest race you could possibly do. It was one of
those iconic races we’d watched the skiers do for years, and we were
ready. I’m glad it’s back in there [for snowboarders]. It’s important to
have a category for everyone to race. Makes for an even playing field
through all the snow sports.”
A Pro Women’s Snowboard class was never created, meaning a historic first-ever victory is on the line this year.
The full list of classes for the 2019 Saudan Couloir Race Extreme presented by Kokanee includes:
Pro Ski | MEN
Pro Ski | WOMEN
Pro SnowB | MEN
Pro SnowB | WOMEN
Amateur Ski | MEN 19-34
Amateur Ski | MEN 35-49
Amateur Ski | MEN 50+
Amateur Ski | WOMEN 19-49
Amateur Ski | WOMEN 50+
Amateur SnowB | MEN 19-34
Amateur SnowB | MEN 35+
Amateur SnowB | WOMEN 19+
* Age is as of April 12, 2019
2019 Poster Coming Soon
Racers and fans will also be excited to hear that this year’s poster design is set to be unveiled in the coming weeks.
Every year during the race’s first iteration, limited edition posters
were made available to participants, becoming highly sought-after
collector’s items. Copies of the originals, designed by artist Brent
Lynch, can be found in the Whistler Museum and closely-guarded personal
In 2018, the torch was passed to Morgan Jeske, who tapped into the
spirit of the originals, putting a new spin on the iconic poster.
Jeske’s 2019 design will be revealed in the coming weeks, adding to the
momentum and hype as race day approaches.
As part of their race entry, each racer will receive a copy of the
poster, along with an exclusive race T-shirt and a ticket to the
mountain-top after-party. Tickets will also be available for purchase
for those wishing to get in on the celebration.
Excitement is building as the clock counts down to the biggest party of the winter season in Whistler, B.C. For details on the on all the happenings at this year’s World Ski & Snowboard Festival, stay tuned to wssf.com.