The first time I met Tanner Hall, the wind was whipping from three different directions in Breckenridge, Colo., home of the old Honda Tour (pre-Dew Tour days). Tanner was hunkered down in his jacket with the collar pulled up to his ears trying to stay warm as he was leaving for the day and I was peppering him with questions, doing web recaps for Powder magazine at the time. He looked like hell.
“I feel like shit,” he told me. “But everyone is throwing down so I gotta be out there.” Even as he was battling a gnarly cold, he was still unbelievably impressive to watch ski. There were so many events that year I don’t recall if he won in Breck but I know he made the podium, despite staving off pneumonia.
When halfpipe and slopestyle skiing finally made the Olympic card in 2014, it was disappointing that Tanner didn’t ever get to show off his breathtaking skills that had won him seven X Games golds on the most hyped stage in the world. Especially since it could be easily argued it was his work in bringing the spotlight to the sport that had gotten freeskiing into the Olympics in the first place.
That’s why I was completely amped this week when I heard the rumor that Tanner would be skiing next year in some capacity on the Freeride World Tour. He apparently received a wild card but it’s not clear if that’s for one event or the whole series (the FWT actually has a qualifying series as well). I confirmed the rumor with a source and when I contacted the FWT I was diverted to a PR affiliate for a quote as the tour is apparently hoping to release the news next week. I didn’t want to wait. Plus I nabbed this screen shot that showed up on Newschoolers.com from a story on Tanner’s Instagram page, a must-follow btw, if you value progressive freeriding.
For my money, the Freeride World Tour is the most relevant competitive game in the mountains today. Mostly because it’s so relateable. Let’s be honest, can any of us really see ourselves in a halfpipe or launching off a 60-foot slopestyle jump? But anyone who rides snow can definitely see themselves charging a big line in the mountains (if only in one’s dreams). Maybe throwing a spin into a powder landing. Or even a backflip if we get charged up enough (again, even if it’s just in our own minds)? While athletes on the FWT aren’t always afforded fantastic conditions because event windows don’t line up with weather, they’re showing the complete package: speed, power, flow and progression in big mountain situations.
I think Tanner’s riding will fit the game perfectly. In fact, I love it when any high-profile athletes, like Travis Rice or Candide Thovex, compete on the Freeride World Tour. It just makes the event even better. Tanner has the ability to make any competitive event he decides to enter more watchable. Which, in my mind, can’t be anything but a gigantic win for the Freeride World Tour.