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Five SSWSC Athletes Qualify for IFSA Junior Freeride Championships

Five SSWSC Athletes Qualify for IFSA Junior Freeride Championships
Five SSWSC athletes qualified for the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association (IFSA) Junior Freeride Championships to compete for the title of top junior skier or rider in North America. Three freeski athletes, Ellie Reynolds, Mason Stewart, and Oscar Dalzell, and two snowboard athletes, Riley McNew and Cooper Malia, will compete in the events on April 11-14, 2024, in Breckenridge, Colorado. Athletes will compete in a series of qualifying runs to make it to the finals. Snowboard qualifiers begin on April 8, with finals on April 9; freeski qualifiers on April 11 for U15 and April 12 for U19, with all finals on April 13.

An impressive 70 SSWSC freeski and snowboard athletes competed this season, and 165 competition starts. Of those competition starts, 28 were top-five finishes. Judging criteria for the IFSA Junior Freeride competitions include five categories: line choice, technique, fluidity, control, style, and energy. “Some call it Big Mountain, others call it Freeride, but the SSWSC freeski and snowboard athletes that competed this season call it fun and exciting, said Matti Hill, SSWSC Head Senior Freeski Coach. “They compete on the gnarliest runs all over North America and are judged on how they can overcome the terrain challenges and conditions to claim victory over the rest of the field.” Winners in Breckenridge will be invited to compete in the Junior Freeride World Championships in Kappl, Austria, in 2025.

For Reynolds, Stewart, Malia, and McNew, their competition season began with the hometown Steamboat event on East Face on Saturday, January 21, 2024. Reynolds, Malia, and McNew all walked away with gold medals in their categories—Reynolds won the U19 ski female competition, Malia won the U15 snowboard male competition, and McNew won the U19 snowboard female competition. In a very tight U15 ski male competition, Stewart was 5th. Dalzell claimed his first gold medal at the Powder Mountain event on February 4.

The 2024 IFSA Junior Freeride Championships will be the third for Reynolds. She attended the previous two years in Kicking Horse, British Colombia, in 2023, and Big Sky, Montana, in 2022. Other significant highlights for Reynolds include a 2nd place at Crested Butte on February 20 and 7th place at Copper Mountain on February 6. Both events included high-level athletes in the U19 female category. Reynolds is currently ranked 17th overall nationally for U19 female skiers.

Malia also received his second invite to the IFSA Junior Freeride Championships this year. He was invited to Kicking Horse last year but declined due to a conflict with the USASA National Championships. For Malia, this season, every event was a podium finish. In Crested Butte, he was 2nd, he won the Copper event, and at Snowbird on March 1, he was 3rd. Malia is currently ranked first place in a three-way tie with two other athletes for U15 male snowboarders.

McNew’s season was upset by a big crash in Crested Butte, where she ended up 4th. Recovering from the crash took her out of training and the remaining competitions of the season, but her 5th place earlier in the season at Copper and her win in Steamboat gave her enough points to receive an invite to the Junior Freeride Championships with one less result than the rest of her field. McNew is going into the championships ranked 18th U19 female snowboarder.

Stewart and Dalzell faced steep odds qualifying as the IFSA U15 maler skier field in North America has over 900 athletes, with about one-third right here in Colorado. Stewart crushed the field at Winter Park on March 2, winning the gold, and was 8th at Grand Targhee on February 1. Dalzell was on the podium in 2nd at Arapahoe Basin on March 11 and was 7th place at Aspen Highlands on March 14. Dalzell is competing for the first season in IFSA competitions, and this is Stewart’s second season. Stewart ranks 53rd overall in North America, and Dalzell is 63rd.

Breckenridge, the site of the 2024 IFSA Junior Freeride Championships, is a regular stop on the IFSA tour each year. During this event, the best skiers and riders across North America will compete for a chance to be invited to Junior Worlds. This year, athletes face a strong competitive field, similar to the Professional Freeride World Tour, to which many of the athletes aspire.

“With gold medal finishes this season and an invite to the Junior Worlds at stake, Ellie Reynolds, Mason Steward, Oscar Dalzell, Riley McNew, and Cooper Malia are ready to show SSWSC athletes are top-tier, grade-A shred machines,” said Hill.

1. Ellie Reynolds
2. Mason Stewart
3. Riley McNew
4. Oscar Dalzell
5. Cooper Malia