Words By Rachel Croft:

"When I hear the words "visual inspection," I'm immediately transported back to an area called "Dead End" at Crested Butte, where I found myself, mid-competition run, attempting to traverse across some Alaska-style spines. My tips were stabbed firmly into the spine ahead of me, my tails in the one behind, and under my feet, there was nothing but emptiness for what felt like hundreds of feet. Although I eventually found and stomped my intended line, the painfully slow traverse and nerves-induced hesitation put me in nearly last place.

Lucky for me, every freeride competition I've entered since then has allowed on-venue inspection, meaning all the athletes are allowed to enter the venue to take a look at what they will be skiing. Unlucky for me, the Freeride World Tour only allows visual inspection, keeping the athletes at a distance in order to preserve the snow for their competition runs. As I discovered that day in Dead End, visual inspection is not one of my strengths, so I decided that in order to survive my rookie season on the FWT I needed to do some practice during the off-season. In August I spent three weeks in Chile staring at potential venues, then trying to navigate through them. I'm proud to say that I no longer feel completely lost when I ski something for the first time after visually inspecting it, but I still have plenty to learn. Hoping for more snow soon so I can get out and practice!"


Tomorrow Rachel begins her competition season with day 1 of the first stop on this year's Freeride World Tour in Hakuba, Japan. We had a chance to ski with Rachel on the North Island of Hokkaido last week and we can't wait to see her take on the competition! Rachel earned her way onto the tour this yearby winning the Freeride World Qualifiers last year, super stoked and proud of her. Best of luck Rachel, we'll be watching! Tune in and watch the competition live this week at: www.freerideworldtour.com


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