North Face Masters finish in Kirkwood

Sasha Coben

Aaron Robinson and Ralph Backstrom smile about their first and second spots while Iris Lazzareschi gets a victory hug from her mom.

A foot of fresh powder and bluebird skies ushered in the final stop of The North Face Masters of Snowboarding this weekend at Kirkwood, California. Last year's tour champion, Aaron Robinson, not only took home the top spot of the day, but the 2011 overall NFM tour champion title again as well. Iris Lazzareschi took the first place win at Kirkwood with one of the most fluid lines of the day, but when the dust settled it was today's third-place finisher, Maria DeBari, whose first place finish at the Snowbird, Utah stop helped her take home the tour championship title. Ralph Backstrom and Andrew Irwin rounded out the podium in second and third, respectively, for the men. And in the DeBari/Lazzareschi sandwich for the day was Alyeska's Callan Chythlook-sifsof.

During the week of February 14 Kirkwood received the most snowfall in the world, almost 10 feet. Since then, the mountain has seen another five feet. Last week competitors at the North American Freeskiing Championships said it was the best snow they had ever skied on in a comp.

Even with all the snow that Kirkwood receives, the terrain of The Cirque, where the finals took place, is closed to the public. With huge, intimidating volcanic cliffs spills can be scary and very dangerous. It stands on Thimble Peak which, at 9,876 feet, is the tallest in the Lake Tahoe region. The athletes took big technical lines throughout the entire comp, while vewers, judges and riders that didn't make it to the finals watched with barely-contained jealousy over not being able to ride to forbidden zone in such epic conditions. "The snow was so good," said 2010 tour champion Shannon Yates. "There was so much of it."

Sasha Coben

The Katana Sword goes to the first place winners of each stop. Aaron Robinson and Iris Lazzareschi each have two from this season. Maria DeBari and Tim Carlson have the others.

Aaron Robinson stomped everything. He threw three big airs and didn't hesitate at all. "I showed up late, they were going to put me last," said Robinson. "I was totally out of breath but I went for it anyway. It didn't go as planned but it was fun."

Lazzareschi, who also won the Crystal Mountain stop in less than ideal conditions, had nice smooth turns, which she compared to to skating and dropping into a bowl. "I just seriously can't believe it," she said of her win. "Everyone is stepping it up so much! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!"

"It was so awesome," agreed Debari. "The girls have really pushed the level, and I feel like I'm riding at a 10".

Partially due to the tour meeting up with the Freeride World Tour during the Crystal Mountain stop, athletes from seven different countries competed in the series, including FWT point leaders Xavier de Le Rue and Flo Orley. Even though these riders have won competitions around the globe the competitors from the US dominated the top seats in each stop of the tour. Going into the Kirkwood event Johnathan Penfield led the men's field with 112 points and Laura Hadar lead the women with 162 points.

Debari gave big props to Iris for killing it on The Cirque. Of her tour title win, Nick Perata, snowboarding legend, and North Face Masters announcer, said, "Maria's run was just beautiful."

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