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The North Face Masters: Part 2 - Inspection

by Utah Author February 15 2012 1 Comment

Ride Utah staffer, Josh Scheuerman, prepares for the North Face Masters series at age 33.  Armed with a huge beard and ambition to give it his best, here's to wishing Josh success at the Masters.  Josh weights in on the approaching comp.

In the shadow of the 14,000’ shadow that is Mt. Rainer, Crystal Mountain is a big mountain rider’s paradise. With a new gondola access to the top of Powder Pass to the old two-man lift High Campbell that accesses Silver Queen and finally Silver King. This would be the second venue for the 1st first stop of the Masters if I can get through qualifiers on Northslope.

At 9 am the North face Master's staff greeted us with the preliminary paperwork to sign and date acknowledgement, consent and emergency contact multiple times before being issued a bib number and athlete credential. We were than told we had one run down the course for inspection at noon and then followed the other riders out to Northway lift to do some warm up hikes and tree runs. However, curiosity got the better of us and we traveled over to Upper Northway to scope lines from the opposite bowl, picturing lines, which mostly turned out to be dead ends when viewed from above. After binocular inspection, athletes started dropping for inspection just as a storm wrapped up the top of Northslope in fog and snow.

I had ridden Crystal Mountain once previously ten years prior and had never ridden this particular peak, which looked very similar to every other peak at Crystal; steep and rocky. I had spotted a line from across the bowl that looked rideable down two cliffs, which turned out to be 20’ bigger than expected and a chute running in-between each. From the top and ridding down, I alternated my line and to include another rock feature, potential cornice and then one cliff to a long run out. Did I mention how steep it was? Speed was not going to be a problem coming off any cliff in the contest. Each year the rules about inspections and weather days change slightly and we were allowed two inspection runs with the cancellation of a morning inspection on qualifying day.

After our two runs and a lot more questioning our own lines to each other, we took the rest of the day to free-ride around Crystal, finding hidden pockets of powder and natural rollers. Silver King stood prominent over the valley, looking fresh and looming large, one run standing between my first stop on the Masters Tour and the real challenge.

After a meeting between riders in the parking lot over a few Rainer Beers, all competing athletes met in the Crystal Lodge to talk over important information about competition and raising a glass to Aaron Robinson, last year’s winner, who had passed away in Chile last summer. Tom Burt, the head judge, talked over rules and judging criteria, wished us all the best and closed out the meeting with enthusiastic cheers.

Athletes, both pro and amatuers broke up in separate talking circles discussing their lines, Alaska adventures past and future, world standings and potential sponsors. This is a major stop for athletes that need to show solidarity to sponsors and proof for each individual that they can still ride technical lines when it’s time to drop. When the start list finally dropped I ended in the dead middle of the men behind Kyle Clancy and Tim Carlson followed by Dave Trout and Brandon Reed. There are also twenty-three women competing to start the morning off at 9:30 and men dropping at 11:00. This must be the competition anxiety I’m feeling at the moment and trying to remember to keep my arms down and legs strong for one run, two jumps and one cliff. A total of two minutes on the mountain in hopes of having another run tomorrow morning in the real contest. 

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