There are certain events that demand our attention – either because of the people taking part or the places they’re held (the best have both elements). The Super Bowl can be worth a watch: the athletes, the halftime show wardrobe malfunctions. But the host city of the biggest football game on Earth is usually nondescript, the festivities displayed in some cement stadium in whichever warm-weather town won the NFL bid.
So events held at ho-hum locales are just that, I guess. Meh. That’s why, to me, the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, on one of the most famous inbounds couloirs in the country, is must-see web TV.
First, you have a crazy mix of uber-pros (Travis Rice won last year) with hometown heroes throwing themselves into the meat of one of the most famous extreme lines in America (there was actually a guy who went by the moniker Dr. Huckinstuff competing in 2018). Granite walls encase a thin strip of snow while an off-angled landing awaits with each competitor getting two runs. And the tricks: Rice won on a switch 540 last year, dropping 20-30 feet to the snow while other competitors chose to throw gigantic backflips or actually ride the vertical granite wall before chucking front flips into the meat. Save for maybe the Banzai Pipeline, there is no better mix of talent and setting, making for an excellent webcast to ease your office boredom.
“It’s such an iconic run,” says two-time winner Caite Zeliff (above). “It’s so blind, when you take off the whole world just falls away from you. It’s actually kind of shocking. The first time I dropped in I felt like a cat being thrown out of a window. Just to find success, it’s really important to prepare yourself for that blind takeoff.”
Zeliff is looking for the three-peat at this year’s contest and really personifies the feel of Kings and Queens. Talent in the snow world is vast and Kings and Queens allows for lesser-known riders to showcase their enviable skills right alongside more well-known athletes. Zeliff, a New Hampshire ski racing vet who now lives in Jackson, nearly gave up the sport. But her move to Wyoming, and her wins in Corbet’s have (in part) helped reinvigorate the 25-year-old’s career.
“I really like the authenticity of the event,” she said. “Jackson pulls out all the stops for this competition. They want all their athletes to be as comfortable as possible, there’s ridiculous amounts of media, all these incredible camera angles. And it’s peer judged, which I think helps progress the sport. We know what we want to see and what it takes. Plus the energy on top at the start, it’s so rad, everyone discussing lines, pulling for each other.”
It’s an interesting mix indeed, not to mention it’s one of the only events in the country where snowboarders and skiers are judged as one group. Where have you seen that before?
“It’s different, definitely not common, but it’s cool and really such a different sport when we do actually compete against each other,” says local Cam Fitzpatrick (above), who at 27, was a snowboarding understudy to riders like Rice and Bryan Iguchi within the super-deep Jackson Hole snowboarding scene. “It’s cool being part of it and squashing the beef, (laughing), even though that’s never been a factor for me. I ride with skiers all the time. The judging seems to work ,though, and it seems like everything is fair.”
No, this isn’t your dad’s Powder 8 event (another legendary Jackson comp). This is as new school as it gets. And as gnarly. Fitzpatrick, who filmed with Rice for The Fourth Phase and is putting the finishing touches on his own flick set to come out next fall, is the son of a Jackson Hole Ski patrolman so he has insight into how the old guard feels about the kids chucking themselves into one of the gnarliest lift accessed lines in North America.
“It’s pretty funny – there’s all these old guys that are a little crusty about Kings and Queens, but at the same time they’re always really excited to see what goes down,” he said. “And the conditions are the best they’ve been for the event.”
So many layers that really make Kings and Queens so lovely to watch. For my money, the best web TV you’ll find on the internet this week.
The Kings and Queens of Corbet’s contest window is February 10-15. When conditions are optimal, it will run live on The Inertia Facebook page, Jacksonhole.com and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Facebook Page. You can find updates and more information about the official call from event organizers, here.