FIS Freestyle 2017/18 Nor-Am Cup recap
With the end of the 2017/18 FIS Freestyle competition season it’s time to take a look back at the major happenings on the northern hemisphere’s Continental Cups, where some of the next crop of World Cup competitors were making waves on the Europa and Nor-Am tours.
Today we’ll take a look at the top athletes from this past Nor-Am Cup season, which saw full calendars in five of six FIS Freestyle events. And remember, this season’s overall winners of each event earn themselves a guaranteed personal spot on the World Cup tour next season, making this rundown something of a “Ones to Watch” list for next season…
Ski Cross ladies
Canada’s Tiana Gairns made a huge splash on the ski cross world in 2017/18, making her way to the small final in two of the first three World Cup competitions of her career.
However, her biggest successes came on the Nor-Am circuit, where the 19-year-old scored podiums in eight of nine competitions to earn 670 points and a guaranteed spot on next year’s Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup tour where she seems set to make an instant impact.
Gairns’ teammates Abby McEwen and Zoe Chore finished the season in second and third, respectively, as Canada took four of the top five spots on the standings.
Ski cross men
After a second-overall finish in 2016/17, 19-year-old Reece Howden (CAN) took it up a notch this season, earning 610 points on the strength of four victories and six total podiums in seven competitions, while also getting his first taste of World Cup action in a race on home soil at Nakiska and claiming the Canadian national championship title against some stiff World Cup competition.
As with the ladies’ tour, Canada swept the top of the men’s ski cross Nor-Am final rankings as well, with Howden’s teammates Zack Belczyk in second and Jared Schmidt in third rounding out the podium.
The USA exhibited the strength of their development team by sweeping the top three spots of the ladies’ Nor-Am Cup moguls rankings in 2017/18, with Avital Shimko and her 560 points leading the way.
Steadily improving over the past five seasons, Shimko stepped it up bigtime this past winter with three victories and six podiums in seven events, putting her well ahead of teammates Ali Kariotis and Elizabeth O’Connell, who finished second and third, respectively.
A veteran of 53 World Cup competitions and a two-time World Cup podium athlete, it was no surprise that the USA’s Dylan Walczyk would finish as the most dominant man on the Nor-Am Cup tour this season once it became his predominant focus. With three victories and three third-place results on the season, Walczyk earned 585 points and the third Nor-Am moguls title of his career.
Behind Walczyk finished Hunter Bailey (USA) in second and Gabriel Dufresne (CAN) in third.
The breakout story of the year on the Nor-Am Cup tour came courtesy of the USA’s Kaila Kuhn, as she claimed three victories and a runner-up result for 461 points in six competitions to take the ladies’ aerials Nor-Am title in her first season of international competition - all at the incredible age of just 14.
Behind Kuhn were her teammates Madison Varmette, who earned Nor-Am second overall in a season when she also earned World Cup "Rookie of the Year" honours, and Kareena Elliott in third.
It was another US sweep over on the men’s side of the 2017/18 Nor-Am aerials season, with 19-year-old Justin Schoenefeld and his three victories on the season earning top spot with 399 points. Second overall went to Jasper Holcomb, while Wesley Perry finished the year in third.
A halfpipe, big air, and slopestyle triple threat, 17-year-old Marin Hamill of the USA took the Nor-Am slopestyle title in 2017/18 with two wins and a runner-up result in four competitions to finish the season with a total score of 325 points, while also finishing ranked eighth in the halfpipe standings.
Behind Hamill was Canada’s Elena Ann Paskevich in second, with the USA’s Rell Harwood rounding out the season’s top three in third.
17-year-old US ripper Mac Forehand had himself a strong year from start to finish, scoring three World Cup big air top-10s while also earning the men’s Nor-Am slopestyle title in a closely-fought battle. With two runner-up results in the season’s final two competitions, Forehand was able to claw his way up the board to 213 points, finishing just three points ahead of second-place Philipp Langevin of Canada. Langevin’s teammate Etienne Geoffroy Gagnon would end the season in third overall.
In her two seasons on the Nor-Am halfpipe competition tour, 16-year-old Svea Irving has never finished outside the top-10, while scoring podiums in eight of 11 competitions in that time. While two seasons ago the rising US athlete finished second overall, in 2017/18 Irving was able to step it up to top spot and earn herself a place on the World Cup alongside some impressive freeski compatriots.
Second and third on the season went to Irving’s US teammates Abigaile Hansen and Carly Marguilies, respectively, both of whom are already veterans of more than 10 World Cup competitions.
And, in one of the cooler subplots of the 2017/18 Nor-Am Cup season, it was a family affair at the top of the halfpipe rankings, as the USA’s Birk Irving matched the performance of his sister Svea to claim top spot for men’s halfpipe on the season and guarantee a World Cup berth in 2017/18.
Like Svea, Birk finished 2016/17 ranked second overall, and was able to improve upon that in 2017/18, scoring victories in three of three competitions entered to finish the season with 300 points, even.
Throw in a fifth-overall finish on the 2017/18 World Cup standings, where he had top-10 finishes in all five competitions entered, and you see that Birk Irving served notice of his intentions to be a major player in halfpipe skiing moving forward.
Second on the Nor-Am halfpipe rankings went to 16-year-old Dylan Ladd, while Hunter Hess claimed third.