This year we welcomed the inaugural Women’s Slopestyle Tour, which gave ladies possibilities to compete in dirt jump, freeride and slopestyle events all through North America and permitted female riders to – for the very first time – earn points in the Freeride Mountain Biking Association (FMBA) worldwide ranking method. As element of the tour, Crankworx Whistler, one particular of the most celebrated mountain biking festivals, integrated women’s categories in its ‘Speed and Style’ and ‘Best Trick’ competitions, which had previously been open to just males.
Why now? Lisa Mason, organizer of the Women’s Freeride Movement, which hosts riding clinics and competitions, stated that ladies basically haven’t been prepared for this level of competitors till now. Mountain biking started as a male-dominated sport, which has kept a lot of ladies from participating. Now, thanks to women’s riding clinics, group rides and competitions, the sport is becoming additional inclusive.
“Every year there’s like a third additional ladies out riding,” Mason stated. “I consider at some point we’ll get away from the ‘ladies only,’ and it’ll be an ‘everybody, let’s party’ sort of point.”
I caught up with Mason at Crankworx, exactly where she cheered for all the riders and took notes on their Speed and Style runs. The competitors integrated components from racing and slopestyle, with competitors riding a course of rapidly berms, rollers and two large trick jumps. They rode against the clock, but have been also judged and provided time deductions primarily based on their tricks.
At events that have under no circumstances ahead of integrated ladies, competitors and occasion organizers alike face a understanding curve. The Speed and Style jumps have been so large that the ladies (and even some of the best males) struggled to clear them, generating it subsequent to not possible for them to show their greatest tricks.
Competitor Chelsea Kimball stated she wishes the Speed and Style course design and style had been additional realistic. Kimball can backflip her bike on the ideal jumps, but the challenging course meant that just generating it down the hill smoothly became a priority.
“It was a bit tougher than it looked,” Kimball stated. “It was super exciting, but you seriously had to rail the corners to make it what it need to be.”
Kat Sweet, who runs the Sweetlines coaching organization and puts on one particular of the Women’s Slopestyle Tour events, echoed Kimball’s opinion of the course.
“Between the jumps getting a tiny bit also gnarly and the headwind blowing on them, it didn’t showcase what they seriously can do,” Sweet stated. “The sport has progressed so a great deal, specially in jumping, and the ladies are seriously pushing. I would enjoy to be in a position to showcase that greater.”
Sweet acknowledges that ladies haven’t been involved in freeride for as extended as males have, and cannot be anticipated to skip the improvement phase.
“Every year, points get a tiny larger, and we haven’t fairly caught up however. If we constructed a course that would seriously show off what we’re performing, that would assist us elevate each the youngsters and the ladies,” Sweet stated. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”
But regardless of minor snags like the Crankworx course, 2019 can be regarded a milestone year for female freeriders.
Women’s Slopestyle Tour competitors are universally enthusiastic about the enhanced possibilities for ladies to test themselves in competitors.
“The slopestyle tour has been a blast,” stated Kimball, who is ranked fifth in the FMBA rankings. “I under no circumstances believed I’d be performing something like this, but I’ve had a seriously great time with it meeting additional ladies who are attempting to do the exact same point and just getting a great time.”
Sweet’s organization, Sweetlines, ran the Sugar Showdown, which was the very first occasion in the tour. The Sugar Showdown was very first held in 2012, but its new partnership with the FMBA, the official international freeride governing physique, permitted it to develop into anything larger than ever ahead of.
“Having it be a FMBA bronze-level occasion seriously created men and women push a tiny bit tougher, so it was seriously cool to be the very first quit in that,” Sweet explained. “It was sort of an honor to be the very first.”
As additional ladies pursue freeride, the sport’s image is becoming additional inclusive, generating it accessible for even additional ladies. And as perceptions of mountain biking shift, Mason, Sweet and Kimball agree that the bike market wants to retain up with the evolution by investing in female riders.
Mason stated that enhanced assistance from inside the bike globe would assist develop the scene, which would alter the sport’s image, which would involve additional ladies, in turn attracting however additional assistance.
“It’s an upward spiral,” she stated. “We need to have awareness. Awareness that ladies are performing these sorts of points and that it is okay and straightforward, and not just a ‘guys only’ sport.”
Sweet stated she’s excited to see what the subsequent generation of female riders can achieve. Recruiting and coaching young girls is an essential element of what organizations like Sweetlines and the Women’s Freeride Movement do, in addition to providing them competitors platforms, specially because ladies like Sweet and Mason can be the part models that a lot of of us didn’t have when we have been younger.
With all the enthusiasm for the Women’s Slopestyle Tour and its linked movement, it is protected to say that the important modifications are taking place – possibly gradually, but inevitably. I, personally, hope for a future in which tiny girls get the exact same encouragement to mountain bike as tiny boys do. That future appears to be coming, and it is vibrant.
Cover photo: Casey Brown throws a fashionable one particular-footer more than one particular of the Speed and Style trick jumps to claim 2nd location. Photo by Cailin Carrier