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Mike Basich is far from a newcomer to this venue. Having guys like him around is great testament to the connection and longevity one can find in big mountains.

Words & Photos: Jeff Hawe

It was a sunny blue day after weeks of cloudy weather. Coincidentally it was also the first scheduled day for the King Of The Hill freeride competition on Thompson Pass Valdez, AK. It became a full speed go after the AM riders meeting. Snowmobiles were buzzing up and down the hill shuttling competitors to the venue, and the Tailgate camp was electric with nervous excitement. By noon the first riders were dropping the face of "Bro Bowl", the selected slope for the comp.

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Queen of the hill Holly Enderle. Committed in the white room at a crucial section.

Each rider was allowed two runs, and the scores were combined to determine the winner. Snow on the slope was thin, and multiple close encounters with sharp rocks were had resulting in a few bloodied extremities and some close calls. The absence of the uber-pros like Rice and Lago allowed room for some new names to stand out in the comp. Will Brommelsiek and Holly Enderle went home with the King and Queen swords. Standouts included; Ross Baker on his first trip to AK, Mike Basich, Brandon Reid who stepped to a big double stage cliff, and Shinya Nakagawa with a fluid surf style imported from Japan. Ladies standouts included Iris Lazzareschi, Casey Lucas and Hana Beaman taking women's freeriding up a notch.

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King of the hill Will Brommelsiek. Backing up his claim of 'give me a steep landing with good snow and I will land anything'.

All said and done this event is like none other. It's held in a completely un-controlled environment, and composed of real heavy snowboarding on the ultimate proving grounds. Organized by snowboarders the vibe was friendly, like a large crew of friends riding together. The competitors fully put themselves out there, competing more against the mountain than each other. Big mountain riding is starting to take the forefront of the sport again, and King Of The Hill is the stage for this.

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Ross Baker expressed his dis-content with competing in half pipes anymore. It was clear his competitive drive and skills on the board have found a new stoke in the mountains of AK.

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Taxi to the top. It's a non-stop action experience; hang on a sled climbing to the top and hang on to your junk descending to the bottom.

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Iris Lazzareschi is a known name on the freeride circuit. Her riding keeps getting better, and her smile stays big as ever.

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Iris Lazzareschi and Vera Janssen decompress a little after their runs. The friendships formed around here can be lifelong.

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Casey Lucas had a rough day on the hill due to some serious close encounters with rock. She still managed to finish near the front of the pack with fluid powerful turns like this one.

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Hana Beaman almost missed her run because she was out freeriding behind the venue. On a sunny day in AK you gotta get as much as you can, good on ya Hana.

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The crowd of riders below knew when Will rode away from his second line he was the new King. And in true KOTH style rushed and congratulated him at the bottom.